Further musings on this piece from the New York Times by Catherine Mueller
The patriarchy depends on the domestication of women (Rachel Spencer Hewitt). The value of my work raising my son in my home is not remunerated in the marketplace and therefore considered irrelevant work when compared to the economic contributions of others as evaluated by society, as explained to me directly and indirectly by many since I began performing this kind of work. Furthermore, its lack of compensation is easily weaponized when mothers seek work outside the home, experience divorce, illness, or a myriad of other circumstances. I know its value intuitively/inherently, but did not anticipate needing to justify/defend its value constantly, nor the internalized messages received about how much you earn being synonymous with your worth causing such pushback. The third shift, mental load, and emotional labor are REAL. That women/caregivers are not paid for this work mostly renders it invisible.
My mother stayed at home with her three children until I was in about 7th grade. Then began work as an elementary school music teacher and earned her Masters Degree in Music Education, all while continuing to raise three creative/precocious/obnoxious adolescents. My mother staying home with us was a choice borne from a certain kind of privilege but it also came with sacrifice. My family never accrued wealth, never had a new car, designer clothes, fancy vacations, matching furniture — all the materialistic trappings of American culture. We were thrifty, to put it lightly. We did have numerous cultural experiences, many thanks to my mother, and those clearly shaped who my brothers and I are as adults. That my father worked outside the home enabled my mother to stay with us, to teach us to read and eat and poop in a potty, to dress ourselves and sing and not run in the street with our toys, to play and listen and clean up after ourselves. But my mother’s staying home and doing these things also enabled my father the time and focus to excel at his work outside the home, as he did not have to consider what was for dinner, if anyone’s shoes ever fit, and who got what grade on which paper. He was interested in these things, of course, but he did not have to supervise them.
I have often expressed gratitude to my parents, especially now that I am one, for the values we received in our home growing up. But now I so clearly see that my mother’s work was possible because of my father’s and that his was also equally possible because of hers. That her work was/is seen as less than, as mine is now, is the root of the patriarchy’s hold on all who participate in its progress. It can only continue to thrive in inequity if it continues to convince us that this inequity is acceptable.
It is not.
HAPPY MOTHER’S DAY TO ALL WHO DO THIS WORK.