Scripture attests that the contributions of motherhood to our society extend far beyond the home.
As Mother’s Day rolls around again, so do the memes and articles trying to calculate the value of the work that mothers do.
In 2021, for example, Salary.com estimated the median annual salary of a stay-at-home mom to be $184,820, tracking “real-time market prices of all the jobs that moms perform.” Among these jobs, analysts identified roles like chief financial officer, logistics analyst, facilities manager, nutrition director, server, and event planner.
Of course, the irony is that should a mother wish to import these same skills onto her professional résumé, they would be meaningless in the public sector. Even attempting to quantify her domestic work this way would very likely lead to her being deemed an “unserious person.” Like an NFT or cryptocurrency, motherhood has value only for those who already value it.
Part of the reason that the work of motherhood doesn’t easily transfer to the marketplace is because we tend to view it as a private vocation, the extension of our personal lives. In our culture, motherhood is (as debates around abortion imply) a matter of personal choice. It is inherently private and personal.
Consider something as innocuous as where we place the apostrophe in Mother’s Day greetings. This Sunday, we are not celebrating all mothers or the idea of motherhood (“Mothers’ Day”); we’re each celebrating our own individual mother (“Mother’s Day”).
This privatization of motherhood shapes the way that we relate to mothers when they do enter the public sphere. And ironically enough, viewing motherhood as primarily a private vocation may actually lead to our devaluing it.
It hasn’t …