Being a mother is a job – One some can’t afford to pay for

Published: May 10, 2015

Stay-at-home mothers – with all their services for the house and family – should make $73, 960 a year, something that he cannot afford to pay his wife with his income. PHOTO: TWITTER (@kelliethewriter)

Being a mother is the toughest job in the world. It requires immense patience, diligence and courage, in the course of moulding young souls into responsible individuals who will be capable of obtaining a livelihood one fine day.

While the importance and due respect of any job shouldn’t be suppressed, we as a society are at a consistent risk of undermining – or worse ignoring – the role of mothers in our lives.

“How do you kill time, staying at home all day?”

This is the most frequently posed question to any mother who doesn’t pursue a career. The words fully serve the purpose of devaluing everything a mother does for her home and children every day. This disparaging attitude is now highly prevalent in developing countries like Pakistan, where many women are nowadays joining the workforce, compared to a few years ago. Therefore, mothers who wish to remain housewives, face unjust statements and comparisons with working mothers.

No matter how much religious scholars preach the esteemed importance of motherhood in every religion, we fail to incorporate in us the encouragement and appreciation that every mother is worthy of. Even events like Mother’s Day fail to make up for the lack of acknowledgement and condescending attitude of the larger society. As children, we are mostly unaware of all the good our mothers are doing for us. In that sense, Mother’s Day helps us in expressing due love and appreciation to our respective moms, but it does not help eradicate perceptions like the above, that are now frequently tossed upon any stay-at-home mother by her friends or even relatives.

In the past few months, there has been a huge emergence of articles and blogs on the internet that laud the services of mothers, compare stay-at-home moms with working moms, praise the contributions of a woman towards her home, and most of all, recognise motherhood as a real job. Though most of the writers of such pieces are women, men have joined the writing spree as well and actively advocate the hard work of their children’s mothers through such articles. The number of all such writings highlighting the significance of a mother’s role is only increasing with time. The society’s disrespectful attitude toward home-makers explains the sudden need to do so.

recent blog written by a Texas-based husband, Steven Nelms, has gained a lot of popularity on social media websites in the past few days, on account of its catchy title:

“Husband says he can’t afford his wife as a stay-at-home mum and his reasoning adds up. Big time.”

Nelms’s long essay, lauding his wife’s efforts as a mom, has grabbed over 10.2 million views since it was first published online on April 4th. Just reading the title, one might think that Nelms is trying to devalue mothers who stay at home. But the perception is removed midway through the essay when he describes all the chores  laundry, cooking,  paying bills, buying groceries, cleaning, and the likes – that his wife is doing for free, while mentioning the respective monthly salaries of those tasks alongside. He then does the math, and figures that stay-at-home mothers – with all their services for the house and family – should make $73,960 a year, something that he cannot afford to pay his wife with his income.

The ever-increasing need to campaign and emphasise the importance of a mother’s job is provoked by derogatory remarks from a certain segment of the society, worldwide and increasingly in Pakistan, where a particular group quotes “sitting home” as highly unproductive, coupling it with the use of phrases like:

 “Women are not baby-producing machines.”

The latter, in particular, undermines the efforts and sacrifices of Pakistani grandmothers and great grandmothers, who raised large families staying at home, and devoted all their lives wholeheartedly towards that significant cause. They never felt the need to prove the importance of their “job”; rather they took pride in it. This was because in the olden days, women in Pakistan were duly acknowledged for their role at home. Marriage and motherhood were a well-revered identity for them. Now, many women are seeking that identity outside the home, amidst societal pressures like the quest for appreciation, or simply meeting the financial needs of their households.

Of course, there are many ambitious women who have a passion for excelling in their fields of choice and gaining true fulfilment from the whole process. This inspires them to pursue a particular career and work outside the home. Today, the independence and support granted to such women is a pleasant change. They enjoy a much higher level of freedom than women of the past, many of whom couldn’t pursue their dreams, on account of the social and cultural norms, especially prevalent in developing countries.

In Pakistan, many of these constraints are still present, and even mothers in educated families don’t get the permission or the support to work outside home. On the contrary, those women who wish to stay at home and focus solely on their children are being hit by condescending remarks of not being sufficiently productive for the family. Their method of seeking fulfilment solely through childcare is not admired in the way it used to be in the yesteryears.

While the increased freedom and encouragement granted to working mothers is commendable, it should not inject in us the societal norm of castigating stay-at-home mothers for their single role at home. This single role in its entirety marks the foundation of our next generation’s values and moral principles. It is therefore a colossal job, one whose importance shouldn’t require frequent reminders to us through the social media.

Real freedom is the one that comes with making independent choices. The same should be the rule here. There shouldn’t be one social definition of considering a mother as more or less productive. We need to be less judgemental about the efforts of others and refrain from passing rude remarks at the cost of demoralising the prestigious duty of motherhood. The need to recognise a mother’s devotion will always be there. But we must remember that respect and recognition entail much more action than just tribute-filled blogs.

Isha Fahad

Isha Fahad

The author is a former Editor-in-Chief of The Ravi and the former news editor of The Tufts Daily. She is the mother of one, and is currently a graduate of Child Development from Tufts University, Massachusetts. She tweets as @IshaFahad1 (twitter.com/IshaFahad1)

The views expressed by the writer and the reader comments do not necessarily reflect the views and policies of The Express Tribune.

  • Shafiq Rehman

    Dear Isha, there is a fine line between a job and a duty, being a mother is duty not a job. Mother has highest regard in our society and relegion because it is a duty as of now, as soon as it becomes a job like western society the rank of a mother will fall apart. Father as well has a duty in helping the whole family and both parents deserve huge appreciation for that, mother definitely more than a father. But please do not change the meaning of being a mother. Thank you.Recommend

  • Um Irfan

    There is a reason behind this.Yes stay at home mothers can be brilliant but that does not mean all of them are.My mother was a homemaker and I have tremendous respect for not only all she did but because she was a;ways there.However many of my friends did not have a similar experience.There mothers were also apparently homemakers but they were never at home.They were raised by ayahs and all household chores were done by maids.The mothers would spend that time socializing or shopping.Many times my friends who came from well to do homes had to be given lunch and uniforms by the school because there mother just did not care.This was not a minority.In contrast many of friend with working mothers also had very positive experience.In parenting like all relationships it is easy to try and measure love by the amount of hours spent but it is the quality of those hours that truly matter.Recommend

  • Isha Fahad

    Hi,
    Thanks for commenting on my blog.
    @us_na:disqus : While your analysis is correct, there could be a similar one by someone portraying the number of hours wasted by working women in offices on Facebook, and not giving quality time to their children once they return home. This however, does not justify the condescending attitude of the larger society towards some mothers. P.S.: The above piece is definitely not against working woman. There is a very strong paragraph up there in their support too. It is just an effort to make us all respect stay at home mothers (as well), for the choice they make.

    @disqus_PPhRHWkhzA:disqus Thanks for your feedback Sir.I respect your views in that matter and hold similar sentiments. Just a clarification: the term “job” wasn’t intended to demean the prestigious duty of motherhood. It is the exact same word that some people in our society use in order to differentiate the dignified from the not-so-dignified. Therefore, I opted for “job”, since it entails the acknowledgement and due praise for most people. Hope that makes sense.Recommend

  • Jehanzeb Mahar

    The society has become so materialistic that earning is the only accomplishment in its eyesRecommend

  • sana

    I wish more and more people in our society understand how hard it is to stay at home and raise kids. I am a working mother, and I am not ashamed to admit that I love to work. I also feel guilty of not spending enough time with my kids. I chose to work partly because of the attitude of our society towards stay at home mums. i could have spent atleast 2-3 years at home when my kids were little, but I realized that it will be very difficult for me since I wil get tremendous house work pressure from my husband’s family. My mother in law clearly said that if a woman is not working, she should take all the houswork responsibilites, what is she good for then. I was not up for this kind of degradation, it is unfair. This attitude needs to be changed!Recommend