Sunday, December 10, 2006

Does the gender wage gap begin at home?

Cross posted from

If we want to understand the wage gap between mothers and others, we might need to start by looking at the way we treat our kids. A new University of Michigan study, as reported in the Wall Street Journal, reports that boys ages 10 to 18 are more likely than girls to be paid for doing housework, even though boys spend an average of 30% less time doing chores.

According to the WSJ, Professor Frank Stafford, who headed the resrarch, speculates that "Boys may be handling more of the kinds of chores that are regarded as a job that should be paid, such as lawnmowing. Chores such as dishwashing or cooking, often regarded as routine and done free, may fall more often to girls."

That hits me right in the gut. There is a path here that connects the personal to the political. As the author of Mojo Mom, I have been telling families for years that when it comes to housework and family care, we need to "Make the invisible work visible and divide it fairly." Professor Stafford's new research underscores the societal implications for doing this. Traditional women's work is truly invisible and consequently devalued. Family caregiving is not counted as work--Moms are "Unemployed". This work is not rewarded with Social Security. Raising children incurs a tremendous cost to mothers across their entire work lifespan.

Empoyment that mirrors traditional women's work is similarly devalued and taken for granted in our society. How many of us spend much time wondering whether the workers that clean our offices at night--unseen--are being paid a living wage?

MomsRising creates the vehicle to change this situation. Awareness is the first step. We are still at the phase where people really don't believe that there is job discrimination against mothers, or an economic penalty for raising children. We need to get our issues on the radar of our political leaders, who, we should remember, are still primarily men who have benefited from the invisible labor of supportive wives.

We know that family caregiving is vital, important work. I must admit that it is frustrating to know that after four decades of feminism, that message still hasn't gotten through to our societal power structure. Through MomsRising we must seize the opportunity to bring this message home, to not only our sons and daughters but to the House and the Senate.


Blogger A. Lin said...

My 4 year old informed me tonight that the girls in his preschool class will not let him play with the pretend kitchen because it is a girl toy.

8:49 PM  
Blogger MojoMom said...

Motherhood is a real wake-up call that shows that we have a long way to go on the road to gender equality--much longer than I ever would have expected, growing up as part of the "Free to Be You and Me" generation.

Even at our house, we had the following conversation at dinner a few nights ago. I was questioning my daughter:

Q: Who takes care of kids?
A: Moms.

Q: Who works?
A: Dads.

Q: What do Dads do all day?
A: Work.

Q: What do Moms do all day?
A: Um....nothing!

It was like the "No Comment" section of Ms. Magazine coming to life at my dinner table.

I was actually glad my husband was there to witness it. Neither of us could believe what we were hearing.

10:09 AM  

Post a Comment

<< Home