$$ value of a SAHM’s labour
Charts such as these which assign $$$ value to Stay At Home Mums’ work abound the modern American debate- from feminist blogs to Mommy blogs to conservative blogs to general controversy mongering headlines.
What would be the Indian counterpart to this chart? Especially since labour in India is pretty cheap vis-a-vis United States ( ask Devyani Khobragade), how would this chart look like in Indian context?
This particular chart is hugely problematic because it compares salaries of professionals with SAHM who is clearly not executing these duties on that scale of professionalism. When you assign salaries for skills, there is an assumption that you execute them in a professional environment, have a financial goal associated with your performance which is appraised in financial terms.
Emotional feelings of all-powerfulness of mother aside, we can not take professional salaries and assign them to SAHMs without these parameters then.
So what are SAHMs truly worth, in hardcore financial terms? ( We had this debate a year and half ago when a bill was going to be proposed that would ensure housewives get a salary. )
Related to this and more important perhaps is to ask what of financial security for SAHMS in Indian context? Especially today, when financial dynamics practically dictates social and family life.
I know that many women ( I will not say ‘parents’ because the number of male parents who stay at home to look after their kids is too minuscule to consider here) do not stay home just as a replacement of paid child care, but to ensure that their children grow in healthy ( mental, intellectual, physical) manner. Many have no support system of parents/ grandparents to look after their child. Many do not want paid care to raise children because it might be unsafe or unsatisfactory. Many leave their salaried jobs for emotional satisfaction of being with their children.
So, how can we put price on what these women bring on the table? While you can not assign market value to everything, especially emotions and relationships, I firmly believe that financial security is paramount to Indian women. And if they are spending their prime years working hard, it should be recognised- in real terms and not Bollywood songs.
So let us not only sentimentalise about priceless experience of child-rearing, but also try to look at it from financial perspective.
Fair Labour and wage laws are sign of an evolved society and logic that some work is ‘outside’ these laws is dangerous to the people who do the said work.
I want to puke when people offer sentimental lip service about how women are sacrificing their lives for building the nation. The same people then leave these builders of nation to the mercy of their earning husbands and a vague notion of moral responsibility.
I am not even talking about the choice that women make to stay at home because they miss their kids. In absence of gender equality in parenting, we can not call something a choice when it is overwhelmingly expected of one gender. More often than not, society, culture and economic need expects women to be the primary parent and ‘choose’ between career and childrearing.
So, what about hardcore monetary security?
If something goes wrong in the marriage and the woman wants to leave her husband, the non-working-for-salary woman gets a pretty raw deal even when it comes to the same kids she spent her live raising. A cousin undergoing divorce is finding it tough to retain custody of her kids since she has no property in her name. In real life, the welfare of kids would require financial security which is not compatible with our divorce laws.
Tougher is the life of a woman who might not want to look after her kids anymore, and do something of her own in late stage of her life.
And what about women whose kids have grown up and do not require their mums as much as they did? What would be the financial worth of these women then?
And how is the performance to be appraised? What if an excellent mother’s kid turns out to be a thug? Whose parenting will be under scanner then? ( Rhetorical question this. For centuries people have blamed mothers for ill doings of their offsprings.)
While alimony, child-support and joint- investments exist , most women would find themselves in tough corner, especially middle-age onwards, if they do not have financial security that they can call their own.
When we say that the family- husband, parents, kids – would ensure that the woman who devoted her life for their comfort, we are putting the woman in dependent position. Because familial relationships may or may not be based on objectivity and fairness, how to ensure that the women get their due?
For this, we need to know what is their due in financial terms.
In absence of the same, the woman is dependent on her spouse to ‘recognise’ her work- both in terms of quality and quantity.
I am not writing this as yet another ‘mommy-war ke aag mein tel’ provocation. Women who work outside home do many of these tasks as well, and the ‘double shift’ is topic of another post.
For the first time in my life, I have formed acquaintance with SAHMs, thanks to the kids and babies who are attracted to Puppyjaan and want to talk/touch/play with him. As the babies coo, gurgle and wave their hands while Puppyjaan stands like a patient tiger; the mum and me usually chat with each other. I go to lunches with them sometime and this very new group experience always forces me to think about the tremendous financial punt these women are taking by leaving their jobs and looking after their kid full time.
I really do not understand how to put value to the work of women who choose to stay home. I also do not understand why 100% of stay-at-home-parents in my 21st century, Mumbai housing society are women. I do not understand how to make sure that child-rearing is seen as a specialised job that requires special privileges.
What do you think?