A Mother’s Love Is Priceless
Even though the numbers declined slightly in 2012 compared to last year, the fact remains, according to numbers from the Bureau of Labor Statistics, that hiring the equivalent professionals to do what one mother, even if she also works outside the home, does in the course of a year, adds up to $60,182.
Some of Mom’s duties are hard to put a price tag on. A cook, for example, who put in a 14-hour week for 52 weeks at $9.08 an hour would cost a family approximately $6,600. That does not count all the snacks, sudden irrational (but nevertheless genuine to the child) food preferences that fade away almost as soon as they crop up and the last-minute emergencies (“Mom! It’s my turn to bring cupcakes for my class tomorrow!” at 10 p.m., which is when mom finds she needs eggs or vanilla extract and has to make a fast trip to the store). The 64 hours a year that would pay a professional party planner $1,427 do not include Mom seeing that all the guests get the same kind of party favor, have their tears dried after being the last person standing at the conclusion of Musical Chairs or are safely extricated after locking themselves in the bathroom (hopefully there is only one of these incidents per event). Hiring teachers and other instructors to help with homework at $18.48 per hour for 10 hours a week for the 40 weeks of an academic year comes to $7,390—and doesn’t count the tissues for drying the tears after a two-hour tutoring session ends with the student still having trouble grasping long division.
The intangibles are even costlier. A childcare worker hired to handle the extremely wide-ranging category of taking care of the kids at $9.58 an hour for 40 hours a week over the 52 weeks that make up a year would pull down $19,926, which does not begin to cover all the little things like expressing unbridled joy when presented with a bouquet of wilted dandelions or conducting appropriate funeral rites when the goldfish is found floating belly up in a bowl of murky water. As for the private detectives and investigators that would cost $869 at $21.73 an hour for 40 hours a year to find out what the kids are up to, mothers are on top of what their children are doing 24-hours a day, 365 days a year, all without the assistance of surveillance cameras and listening devices. How they do it is a mystery that may never be adequately explained.
Mere numbers do not begin to capture the essence of being a mother. The effort and work involved in taking a newborn infant through its early, most impressionable years, through long days of playing educational games (even pattycake and peek-a-boo teach interpersonal skills and coordination), reading to it, fostering the elements of human interaction (“say ‘please’”, “write a thankyou note ”, “say you’re sorry for knocking down your sister’s block tower”, “don’t make Georgie feel bad because you hit a home run and he did not”), working with him, praying over her, lying awake nights hoping to have said the right thing at the right time until one day a decent, law-abiding, polite, considerate human being stands poised to take its place as a full fledged adult in the world is overwhelming. Nor can motherhood adequately be expressed in dollar-per-hour figures. Yet since bipeds first began truly mothering their offspring, uncounted billions of women have undertaken this task. Since some seven billion of us share this planet today, it is reasonable to postulate that they succeeded.
Some of those charged with mothering have succeeded at their task with sometimes only the slimmest biological or emotional ties to the child or children in their care. Older siblings, aunts, grandmothers, cousins, teachers and neighbors have all contributed their efforts to raise children not theirs by birth. Millions of adoptive mothers have created a nurturing bond that makes them closer to their children than even the ties of biology. Motherhood has many different faces and forms, but all have the loving and raising of children to be good, useful, citizens who are a credit to the parents who raised them as their goal.
This Sunday, May 13, children throughout the United States will celebrate their mothers and the women who serve in their mothers’ stead, in many different ways. Whether it be breakfast in bed, dinner at a four-star restaurant, jewelry, candy, flowers, a crayoned card declaring “Happy Mothers Day” with many misspellings or a bouquet carefully placed next to a headstone, all the ways we celebrate our mothers will have one thing in common—our profound desire at least for one day to try to reciprocate in some small way the love, devotion and self-sacrifice that made us what we are.
Whether we are mothers or the recipients of a mother’s love and care, Happy Mother’s Day 2012 to all.