Why do we keep talking about non-working mothers? They are like unicorns, they do not exist. If there was such a thing as a non-working mother, “working” mothers wouldn’t have to pay someone to do their (non) job in order for them to go to work. They’d just leave the kids on the shelf at home.
This (non) job in question has an economic value which you can find out by typing the word “childcare” into Google, followed by your local area. This job only has an economic value if the person doing the job is a relative stranger to the child. That’s not to say it’s a highly-regarded career choice, when of course it should be. But the point is, it’s the SAME job, no matter who is doing it. The only difference is, one person gets a detailed job description, a salary and holidays. The other doesn’t.
Parents who stay at home aren’t a blubbery, economically useless void. A parent at home undertakes a series of daily tasks THAT SOMEONE HAS TO DO. That parent can either go to work and get paid to do something else while they pay someone to look after their child or they can look after their child themselves. Often this depends on their individual financial and personal needs and desires, as it should. We are all different.
One of the daily tasks in childcare happens to be love. The rest, the stuff that takes up 99% of their waking time, are routine, sometimes laborious, often sticky tasks that keep a child alive and healthy. Yes, I check Facebook. Occasionally I get half an hour to write or pay my bills online or eat my lunch sitting down. Every now and then I meet some friends for lunch, which we spend cajoling, feeding, cleaning and running after our children that we can’t just leave at home to do their own beans on toast.
Every minute of the day is spent working, whether it’s with a smile on my face or sitting rocking in a corner. This day starts at 6.30am (on a good day) and ends around 9pm (on a good day) giving me approximately an hour to myself before I need to go to bed.
Small children don’t cook their own meals, fetch their own things, go to the toilet alone, shop for food and clothes, amuse themselves, clean themselves, wash themselves, fetch their own toys, put their toys away, clean spaghetti from the walls, take themselves out and about, socialise with other humans, take themselves to bed or learn to do ANY of those things by themselves. They don’t get it instantly. They learn with the intensive help of one or more able adults over the course of a few years. Not just by watching, but by having it done for them, day in day out, and then by being shown how to do it themselves. This is a full time job, for a parent or for a childcare professional. It is truly exhausting. But all that really matters is that it’s done with care and love and that can happen at home or in a childcare setting.
What lucky, lucky children they are in our part of the world, having food, water, warmth, toys and love. So why do I keep reading articles bickering over who is doing it? We’re all picking up the same sh*t here. Someone is doing it and, by and large, we get a generation of functioning human beings at the end of it. That’s all that matters.
Why is it only considered a job if these tasks are performed by a stranger rather than a parent, or more specifically, a mother? You don’t hear many stay-at-home-Dads referred to as non-working fathers. They are demi-gods who have sacrificed much and are rushed off their feet.
Which is what I consider every non-working AND working mother I know to be.