When I was informed of something called “The Mother’s Day Index” that calculates “Mom’s value” based on that of common household tasks, my initial reaction was pretty predictable.
A firm called Insure.com takes time, does math and types up the results all to place a dollar value on mothers … essentially based on the fact that they are menial labor for the household?
Why didn’t Insure.com save itself time and just type up an awful joke about why women can’t ski instead?
The more I thought about it, though, the less sure I was that I should be upset or offended. Because while breaking out how much time women spend cooking, cleaning and child-rearing — and how much they are “worth” as a result — might seem like a reinforcement of negative gender stereotypes, it’s also an unfortunate reflection of reality.
Insure.com surveyed 500 women who averaged 14 hours per week cooking, another 40 hours a week taking care of kids, 10 cleaning up, 10 helping with homework and so on. All that labor added up to a whopping $59,682 — down slightly from $60,182 in 2012, which itself was down from $61,436 in 2011 — based on wage data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics.
And no, these were not all stay-at-home housewives.
Think about what that means for a moment. Women, even if they work 40-hour weeks (some more, some less), are expected — although no one admits it directly — to still shoulder most of the housework. It’s not men actually telling women to “make them a sandwich” anymore … but it’s still often assumed that women likely will, even after a 9-to-5 workday.
This is a feminist complaint as old as time. Well, as old as Arlie Russell Hochschild’s book The Second Shift, at least … which was released before I was even born.
As the book describes, even as more women have entered the work force and created dual-career households, the females also are responsible for far more unpaid domestic labor thanks to traditional gender roles so ingrained in society that most of us don’t blink an eye at them.
This also has been revisited in Sheryl Sandberg’s book Lean In, where she urges a more equal division of such household labor.
All the “Mother’s Day Index” really does is quantify the issue … thereby inherently illustrating the fact that, without a doubt, it still is an issue.
Even women underestimate just how much all the household tasks they do are worth — I would guess as a result of the fact that they simply don’t realize just how demanding (and unfair) their second shift is. Just more than half of women thought their time and labor around the house was worth less than $40,000 a year — nearly a third of the actual average.
And don’t get me started on men.
More than 60% of men lowballed their estimates, with around 16% valuing women’s at-home work at less than $10,000 a year. Either these men are already taking up much more of the workload … or they also don’t realize just how much time and effort it takes to drive Billy to and from soccer practice, cook him dinner and help him with his homework.
My guess is that it’s the latter. Why? Because while men and women in the survey both replied that spending extra time with the family was the top thing moms would do if they didn’t have so much housework, men expected that the next most-desired activity-of-choice would be — you guessed it — shopping.
Women didn’t even mention shopping, by the way. Instead, exercise, as well as visiting museums, parks and historical sites, were two popular alternatives.
All in all, the “Mother’s Day Index” is just a small snippet of the gender dynamic in society. While it might seem to reinforce stereotypes at first glance, it really just illustrates that we (sadly) still hold these stereotypes to be true.