If you're a mother, you've probably heard this. Salary.com has figured out a mother's earning power: that is, how much we would make if we were paid cash for the jobs we perform. When I read the dollar figure of $112,962, I said "Wow." And then I said, "Really? That's all?"
Don't get me wrong -- it's really nice of Salary.com to acknowledge the important work that mothers do. For the most part, I take it as a compliment -- the analysis they did. To calculate the would-be salary, they looked at the 10 most common jobs a mom performs on a daily basis: laundry machine operator, janitor, cook, driver, housekeeper, computer operator, facilities manager, day care center teacher, psychologist, and CEO.
I know Salary.com means well. I wouldn't refuse an income like this if someone showed up with a check. But, should anyone ask for my resume, I thought I should prepare a more accurate description of the work I truly do.
Correct, I do operate a laundry machine. I also sort, fold and put away all of the laundry. On most days, I find a fair share of that clean folded laundry on the floor in a heap in the corner after my girls have tried on five different outfits. On other days I have to wrestle my toddler into the socks I so thoughtfully cleaned by pinning him to the floor, sitting on top of him and forcing his kicking foot into the tiny little garment. Of course, there are other times when, before I can use the washing machine, I must first use a hose to spray off vomit or diarrhea or globs of paint, glitter and glue. No matter -- I guess this all still goes under the heading of laundry machine operator.
I'm also a janitor. I fix all kinds of things: broken toilets, clogged sinks, beaten up furniture, old toys, you name it. I also change light bulbs, swap batteries, hang pictures and shelving, sweep cobwebs, sew buttons, fix hems. Occasionally, I exterminate too. I set mouse traps to keep the vermin out. And I once found a raccoon in my chimney.
That's not all I fix. I patch up boo-boos, clean out cuts and work as an ambulance dispatcher when things get really bloody. But the better part of my job includes mending things that no one else can, like broken hearts and bruised psyches. So yes, I'm a little like a psychologist -- except I don't have special training, which makes it all the harder. I also teach my children about faith and God and how to be kind, compassionate citizens. I might not be ordained, but I feel a bit like a minister on occasion.
Then there's the cooking. Of course, I also do the grocery shopping and grow a garden. I prepare the meals, serve the food, and clear the dishes. Most miraculous of all, I can feed another human being with my own body. I can sustain and support the entire existence of another person entirely on my own. I'm pretty sure you can't place a value on that.
I'm a driver too. I shuffle the children to school, doctor appointments, parties and playgrounds. Sometimes I do it while the kids scream and throw things at each other in the backseat. Furthermore, I not only operate a vehicle safely, but I can install a car seat all on my own -- without sweating or swearing -- which deserves its own special award.
Let's tackle the job of housekeeper. There's the normal stuff: I vacuum, mop, sweep, spray and scrub all day long. Unfortunately, the minute I clean something, a small person comes along and messes it right up again. I also clean noses, butts and on special occasions I clean and comb lice-infested scalps, which leads to lots more housekeeping like laundry (see paragraph four) and changing sheets.
There's also the job of computer operator. I organize schedules, monitor internet usage, and police unsafe content. I also referee all the fighting over who gets to use the computer next. Speaking of fighting, I'm not only a referee but a peacekeeper and mediator as well. In fact, some days that's all I do.
I can't forget the role of teacher. I've taught all three of my children how to speak without any training at all! I help with homework, art and science projects, and I answer the question "why" about 10,000 times a day. I also administer medication when my children are sick. I know CPR and the Heimlich though thankfully I've never had to put those skills to use. I can diagnose an ear infection, treat poison ivy, and accurately identify a deer tick. In this way, I'm a bit like a nurse.
I'm also a serious multi-tasker. I can cook dinner and talk on the phone and fish a toy out of the bathroom drain all at once. I can rock a baby, zip a coat jacket and let the dog out in one motion. I once even nursed my daughter and put on a pair of panty hose at the same time.
What it all boils down to is: I'm a CEO, and not only for 5.5 hours a week. Some people will argue mothering is nothing like running an organization. I agree. Mothering is way harder. The decisions I make effect the very heart and soul of who my children will become.
I'm not complaining, because I don't do any of this on my own. I have a partner, my husband, and lots of "assistants," my family and friends. I have a church and community and even a tribe of blogging mothers I don't know but admire from a distance because we are bound by the work we do.
I get to claim the title of mother, which means I'm doing sacred, holy work that amounts to a whole lot more than $112,962. I get paid with amazing, crazy, wonderful love. I get to wake up everyday and know that I have the hardest, but most important role in the world. And I don't need a single penny to make it worth my time and effort.