My wife’s chosen profession is and will continue to be a blessing to our family. This article’s purpose is to re-frame one of the most important and oldest professions in a new light. My wife has not chosen to become a “stay-at-home mom.” She has not “given up her career.” She would never say that she “doesn’t work.” And regardless of what the IRS says on April 15, she wouldn’t call herself a “dependent.” She has chosen career motherhood. And I want to sing her praises for it.
Why Read This Article?
Perhaps you might think ‘Why would I read an article written by a guy on the subject of motherhood?’ Well, I reject the notion that just because I am not (and never will be) a mother or a woman, my opinion is invalid. It is crucial for our society to learn to listen to one another, and especially to opinions formed through thoughtful observation and diligent collection of data. Men are half the population, and for every mother of a child, there is a father whether he is involved or not. I think the more we men speak up on these matters, the more respect we will gain for having a role in parenthood. I have no intention of shaming mothers who have not chosen career motherhood. I simply want to celebrate what I consider to be among the most important professions on the planet, and maybe change the way we think about motherhood.
A True Career
“What do you want to be when you grow up?” It is a question we routinely ask everyone over the age of 3. The youngest ones may answer nonsensically, but as children get older, their answers become a reflection of the values of the culture around them. My wife has worked with elementary-school-aged children for over a decade, and she expresses concern over what she sees as a growing trend. She has seen it in the media, among her own friends, and among her students. There is a disrespect and sometimes even a disdain for motherhood.
If a child were to answer “I want to be a mom,” she might be asked, “Okay, but what else do you want to be?” Indeed, it seems society has asked women that question for decades now. I am certainly not about to argue that women should not be “in the workplace.” Rather, I am arguing that “the workplace” includes the home. And I don’t mean in an office with a laptop taking conference calls. I mean that the home itself is a “workplace” and that being a mother can be a career. Perhaps one of the most challenging, fulfilling, noble, important careers society has ever known.
What does a career mother make? It’s something everyone needs to know when selecting a profession. What am I going to make? Will it be enough to survive? Will I have the lifestyle I want? At least, these are questions everyone should ask before choosing their profession (for a side-trip, check out my article on why we shouldn’t “follow our heart”). So what should the aspiring career mother expect? Every family’s finances look different, so it is probably not as useful to attempt to guesstimate a “salary” as it is to inform those who marry career mothers exactly what value a career mother adds to the household. After all, part of my motivation for writing this article is because I am blown away by the incalculable blessings my wife has brought to our home.
Salary.com put together an estimate in 2018 that a career mother would make $162,581 if they were paid for all of the labors they perform in the job market. Additionally, they put in an average of 96 hours per week. Some of the jobs they selected as part of their estimate include: public school teacher, logistics analyst, art director, accountant, event planner, marketing manager, interior designer, senior janitor, tailor, dietician, CEO, coach, buyer, and judge/magistrate.
I was raised by a career mother, and in my opinion, this is a gross underestimate of the true market value a career mother adds to the home. However, I know that I can’t afford to hire someone for $162,581 per year to do all of these things for my family. The mere fact that my wife does these things and many more is reason enough to rejoice. But she does not do these things for “free.”
I am not suggesting that I “pay” my wife in a portion of my salary. She does not receive an “allowance.” Rather, she and I have a weekly budget meeting where we determine our needs and wants and it is she, not I, who acts as primary accountant. So what is her pay? She will see it gradually come to her from now and through the eternities. Her pay is joy.
The Joy of Career Motherhood
“I bet a lot of people think I’m being forced into this,” my wife said to me once. We were having dinner, and discussing a conversation we had with some peers about her choice to “stay at home.” The conversation was sparked by an article where we read about societal disdain for a mother’s choice to pursue a career in motherhood and leave behind another established career. The social media lynch mob had gone after both that particular father for being such a misogynist, and that particular mother for “giving up her potential.” Some implored someone out there to give the woman a job offer. Others made fun of her. Some suggested she was being coerced, and kindly explained to her that it was the 21st century and she was free to make her own choices! I’m sure she so appreciated their “help.” My wife had enough outrage about it for the both of us. And even more disappointing was that some of our peers seemed to agree with the mob.
“All my life I have wanted to be a mother. It’s what I’m made for.” If ‘mother’ had been replaced with any other career choice, my wife’s words would be respected and lauded. But she doesn’t want to be an astronaut, or a surgeon, or an engineer. She wants to devote her entire career–actually, her entire life–to motherhood. She intends to work long hours (probably more than 96 per week) in this field. She will take her work with her frequently on vacations, it will interrupt her free time, and she will take calls overnight. She never intends to retire. If she had this attitude about any other career, people might call her a workaholic. But this is not an unhealthy addiction to work. This is a passion. As someone who works long hours that interrupt my free time and never intends to retire, I understand her completely! When you find something you are made for, it ceases to be a job, and begins to be a joy. Even when, in some moments, it is not so joyful, you gain a sense of fulfillment that fills your spirit later on.
Uniquely, career motherhood allows one to devote oneself wholly to another person and watch him grow, and then see the product of one’s work not just in this life, but in the next as well. I cannot think of another career that offers the same level of joy as that. It is eternal in nature.
Blessings of Career Motherhood
Most motherhood starts out with pregnancy (adoption is, of course, a notable exception, and there are others). These mothers begin their career by devoting a part of themselves for a 9 month commitment while another human being grows to be independent enough to live in the outside world. Then, this trend continues as career mothers spend nearly every waking moment with this little human. He will keep developing to be independent enough to spend less and less time with her. But her role shifts. He may require less of her physically, but she will continue to be invested in his mental and emotional growth. A career mother counsels her children on all that they need to enter the world as functional adults. As she spends all day with the child, he watches her and emulates her. He models his mannerisms, speech, opinions, and essentially his entire life on what she teaches him. An exhaustive list of things my wife will teach our children could not fit in this article! But among the things I am most grateful for, and feel will be the greatest blessing to our family, are the following:
- Personalized education – reading, writing, math, science, and practical life skills
And the single greatest blessing to our family? Spiritual instruction.
Those who are members of our church are familiar with the story of the Stripling Warriors – young, scrawny men (probably 14-15 years old), who marched into battle in the place of their fathers at a time of great need, as recorded in the Book of Mormon. These young men volunteered for what could have been death.
“Now they never had fought, yet they did not fear death; and they did think more upon the liberty of their fathers than they did upon their lives; yea, they had been taught by their mothers, that if they did not doubt, God would deliver them. And they rehearsed unto me the words of their mothers, saying: We do not doubt our mothers knew it.” (Alma 56:47-48)
Our children will face unique challenges and dangers in the world. Some will ostracize them for our lifestyle – a lifestyle of faith in the Lord Jesus Christ, His Restored Church, and His Prophet. Some will target them for our beliefs, political or religious. They may fall prey to random acts of violence, illnesses, or personal struggles. They will eventually have to leave the sanctuary of our home and make their own way. My wife’s chosen career will give them what the Stripling Warriors had. The strongest foundation in faith possible. It will be their best armor against all they will have to battle.
Career Motherhood is Eternal
“Full-time mom,” seems to me to be a silly phrase. It implies there are “part-time moms,” and regardless of whether one is a career mother or not, I doubt many mothers out there would call themselves “part-time moms.”
In my opinion, we should also cease referring to career mothers as “stay-at-home moms.” Why? Because staying at home with the child is only part of what a career mother does. If you were to refer to yourself as a “stay-at-home accountant,” would that mean anything other than you happen to work out of your home? Of course not. The term just doesn’t do career motherhood justice! A career mother does tend to stay at home with the child, but simply being present in the home is not what career motherhood is all about. It is about devotion of one’s time to the development of this little human. It is about an eternal goal.
In the end, we believe, we will all be together for eternity, able to use the experiences we gained here to continue learning and growing. As a family, our new career will be to do Heavenly Father’s work in the eternities. Can you think of any other career that would bring as much joy? Can you think of any other career that involves the total devotion of one’s time, talents, and efforts? Can you think of a career that brings so much joy that it carries on through the eternities? I can think of one that comes close. Motherhood.
Thank you to Megan, and my mom, for choosing career motherhood!