Last night in a fit of insomnia I was online and stumbled across an article about one of those charts that appears every so often when someone sticks his head up his ass (or hers, but probably not) and tries to assign a monetary value to the job of being a SAHM. This particular one figured on a salary of $113K for the average SAHM, and this was based on the professional equivalent of the various tasks performed throughout the day, things like "CEO of the household" (presumably because the SAHM tells everyone what to do?), "chef," "chauffeur," "nurse," and so forth. It even included "psychologist," I suppose based on the assumption that a SAHM provides emotional support to her children. Stay-at-home-dads were not part of this chart because apparently they aren't relevant? Don't really exist? Or something.

These charts are at best well-intended and at worst patronizing.

(I'm not providing a link here, by the way, because I think the whole thing was up as a cheap shot just to get more traffic on this particular site and I don't want to encourage more of that. I found the comment thread particularly upsetting. Ever since Justin Bieber got that DUI it's old news anyway!)

The writer of the article in question, which was responding to the chart, argued that the comparisons are in no way fair because the professional counterpart to most of those things requires years of training, and in some cases, advanced degrees. I'm not going to argue with that. I cook dinner every night, but there is no way that makes me the same as a professional chef. I can put on a band-aid and give my kids Tylenol, but that is a far cry from being a certified nurse; if I tried to draw blood from anyone I would probably faint dead away before getting too far. And as for psychologist? If my kid needed actual psychological help, you can bet I'll be taking him or her to an actual psychologist with actual qualifications, not just sitting down on the couch with some hot cocoa and saying, "There, there. Tell me all about it."

It's not that I disagreed entirely with what the author wrote about drawing unfair comparisons with the day-to-day job of parenting and highly skilled professions. But I still felt totally shitty after reading it. I think this is because both the chart and the author's reaction to it totally missed the point.

Parenting is a helluva lot of work and totally draining, both physically and emotionally. It pays nothing. Everyone (parents and non-parents alike) seems to have an judgement opinion on the right and wrong way to do it. And those chores that anyone who isn't a slob or doesn't have maid service has to take care of, like laundry and cooking and cleaning and calling the plumber when the water heater kicks the bucket are all magnified by about 100 when you add children to the household.

Here is my point: All of this is true whether you spend some hours of the week in a wage-earning job or not. 

So let's stop baiting people in these polarizing arguments, shall we? Most of us parents are doing our best, whether we work for wages or not. A good many of us are somewhere in between, entering/leaving the workforce as it becomes appropriate in our lives as parents, or working part time to try and earn some grocery money while we manage all that chef-ing and chauffeuring that has to happen, whether we're professionally trained to do so or not.


Jessi said…
Hear, hear. Those charts always upset me.

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