This year I finally figured out what, exactly, was my problem with these "statistics": I think my time as a mom is worth zero, monetarily speaking.
I have tried every sub-genre of the working mom life: freelancing work that allows me lots of time to spend with my three little boys and around the house; working from home in a demanding corporate job that required lots of travel; traditional office work (when I had only one baby); and coming soon, as an Army wife with deployed husband.
So I feel I have a pretty good idea of the many different ways mothers can occupy their time. And reading this economist's take on a mother's value (which was generous in spirit, but argued moms weren't really worth nearly as much, due to the inflated hours reported in the survey on which the PR figure is based) gave me more perspective.
Here's the thing: being a mother is unquantifiable and shouldn't be expressed in dollar figures.
Being a mother should never be considered through the prism of money; through valuing mothering, a woman is either building a case of resentment against her family (her spouse, her children, or both) for robbing her of those shoulda-coulda-woulda earned dollars, or creating a needlessly financial comparison between herself and other women who work outside the home. Do I think my work as an investment banker was worth more than the work of the elementary school teacher who I befriended right out of college? I was paid twice what she was! It's clearly ludicrous.
What's more, the main "jobs" valued by these surveys are duties that are typically done both by childless individuals (whether they work a day job or not) and those whose children have grown. Singling out moms for special attention for their laundry and sandwich making shifts when everyone has to do these things doesn't make sense. Is a grandmother's laundry, or that of a college student, worth nothing? And how about gardening and cooking for oneself; should we monetize those, too, so everyone knows how much they're "worth" when they eat their own lettuces in a salad, or bake a loaf of bread? If we all did this for each activity we're involved with, we'd either spend our life in resentment or decide that nothing, done for oneself, is worthwhile (after all, this salad I'm eating right now "cost" me $25 in materials, labor, and overhead, and what should I pay my husband for the "childcare" while I washed the greens?).
Let's officially put the value of living, whether mothers, fathers, or stewards of the planet (I'm looking at you, neighbor who I saw lovingly planting honeybee-friendly herbs yesterday, hands and knees in the dirt for hours), at $0. And just do it for love.