Equal pay for mothers? No one could afford it.

Mother/child/on the phone

Our culture views the job of parenting as ordinary everyday nothing. Billions of women do it, it is required for the continuation of the culture and yet society doesn’t value it, pay for it, or even offer a tax break for full time parenting. Nor is there instruction or training. The workforce entails some form of working oneself up the ladder with internships, staff development, on-the-job training, and certification hours to maintain a level of proficiency, not to mention the years of schooling required prior to entering the workforce. But parenting? What’s there to know?


Let’s look at the job description for mothers:

  • On duty 24 hours a day. For the first several years, possible sleep breaks only in 2-3 hour segments with no guarantee of which hours—must be ready for work at all times.
  • No breaks available, no vacations—actually the workload is more intense during holidays.
  • Must be physically strong and mobile. The job requires a high level of physical stamina—constant standing, walking, running, lifting, being climbed on, kicked and punched.
  • Mental stamina must remain calm, accepting, and positive in the face of possible chaos and explosive reactions at any moment.
  • Extraordinary negotiation and interpersonal skills—ability to see life through the eyes of someone at a much different developmental level.
  • Little to no peer support, constructive supervision, or positive feedback—but must be ready and able to give positive feedback continually.
  • No awards, pay, pats on the back, “good job”s
  • Experience in medicine, nutrition, culinary arts, physical therapy, and social work is helpful if not required.
  • Availability through thick and thin. Option to quit is unavailable.
  • For mothers who work outside the home—all of the above plus your job.
  • For single mothers—all of the above—alone.
  • For mothers of special needs children—all of the above plus knowledge of available research and training in the special care required.

Imagine being paid for this job. Now imagine being paid equally to a man in this position. Consider yourself a billionaire. In reality, all that mothers have is job satisfaction. How do you measure up in that category?

Here’s a self-assessment questionnaire:

  • How do you feel about yourself as a parent most of the time?
  • Where do you view job satisfaction on a scale from highly satisfying to barely doable. What would it take to move closer to highly satisfying? (different kids are not an option)
  • On a scale of 1-10, how much of the time do you spend in self-criticism?
  • How much time in a week is spent on doing something for yourself?
  • On a scale of 1-10, how do you stack up as your child’s role model?
  • How would your kids rate you as a parent? (hint: better than you would)

When was the last time someone said to you, “You are such a great mother. I really appreciate the time and energy that you are devoting to raising good citizens”?

Remember thinking when you began this job, Nobody ever told me it would be like this? That’s because we’re expected to know how to deal with whatever hand we’re dealt, and alone. Long gone are the days of the extended family with built-in help, experience and wisdom to guide a new mother. Even a nuclear family is new at this business. No wonder we pass on the same old patterns from generation to generation. We don’t have time to learn new ways nor money to get the necessary help. We should have subsidized on-the-job training for the most important job there is. Imagine that passing in Congress!

Self-motivation is all we’ve got to go on. And that is often in short supply.

So give yourself a break when you can’t handle it all the time. Stop pushing yourself to do it all, to get it right, forcing your children to get it right, and make sure you do something for yourself every day—okay, every other day.

What kind of mother do you want your children to have as a role model? A mother who is stressed, angry, rushed, and spent at the end of every day? A perfect mother? Or a mother who is loving, flawed and quirky, makes mistakes and learns from them? Which do you think your children would pick?

Get off your back, your child’s back and enjoy your relationship with these wondrous beings. The immense satisfaction and fulfillment that can come with the job is worth its weight in gold.

Congratulations to all you moms on a job well done. You deserve to be pampered on your Mother’s Day. Give yourself and every mother you know a HUGE pat on the back and ask them what they think their job is worth.

Disclaimer: The only reason I didn’t include fathers is because this is for Mother’s Day. I extend Kudos to the fathers who tackle the same job description. And for those of you who don’t, I encourage you to step in and help out.


Enter to win a year of nurturing and self-care with Renee Trudeau – http://reneetrudeau.com/2014-year-self-care-mothers-day-giveaway. To enter, simply post your comment about “What self-care means to me”. I will pick a comment using a random finder tool on Mother’s Day and the winner will be contacted by Monday, May 12.


16 thoughts on “Equal pay for mothers? No one could afford it.

  1. “…a mother who is loving, flawed and quirky, makes mistakes and learns from them” – that’s the kind of mother I want to be.
    Thank you for the affirmation and encouragement.

  2. For me, it is one thing to take time for myself, yoga, meditation, and so on, but the critical piece is making sure I don’t feel guilty about it after word. It is saying to myself , “I am worth it and it makes me a better mother.”

  3. For me, self care means letting myself off the hook when I’m not a perfect mother. I can let go of not being perfect in other areas of my life (although I tend that way everywhere), but I have to work really hard to feel OK when I make mistakes as a parent (ie, yell at my kids). I have to tell myself we are all figuring this out together.

  4. I try to end the day in a good place with my kids (by spending some quality time with them before bed and having a do-over if it’s needed) and with myself (by easing up on myself for making mistakes). When I wake up the next morning, I try to look at the day as a clean slate and let go of the worries that were on my mind the day before. It helps if I can squeeze in some yoga before the baby wakes up!

  5. Your Blog speaks volumes. Thank you for reminding parents how important their job is. For me self care is looking at my children and how wonderful they are and how fortunate I am to have them to walk the path of life together. To know I am doing the very best I can and each day brings opportunity to grow together and enjoy them growing up.

  6. Parenting as the second shift for which there is no training and where is the village it takes to raise a child? Grateful for Bonnie Harris and others like her,as I try to move from parent as manager to parent as connector, and to learn to give myself a break, “get off my back and my children’s back” and go easy on my expectations of myself as a mother. The self-assessment questions are sobering and a good reminder. Thank you for this post and all others!

  7. If I don’t replenish the “bank,” soon there will be nothing to withdraw…

  8. self care to me means allowing my own needs to be on equal ground as my children’s and my husband’s

  9. Self Care means having a life outside of motherhood, even if that means something as simple as planning and cooking a meal I want to try, or taking a bath with the door locked.

  10. Self care means making myself a priority and filling my own cup so that I can in turn care for my family in a meaningful way.

  11. To me, self care means that I give myself the same care and love that I give to my family. It means celebrating who I am, not only as a wife, mother and care-giver, but who I am as a woman and an individual.

  12. For me, self care is being honest about what I need to be a good parent and partner and not expecting those around me to guess!! Thanks for all you do to support parents, Bonnie!

  13. Deep and profound, thankyou! Self care to me is acknowledging and thett hen allowing myself things notrelated to parenting and then having the courage to ask for what I want to persue,trusting that my needs will be met someway and not beating myself up if It’s not possible then,just finding a different wayand thinking outside the box.

  14. This is a great reminder..
    Self-care gets drilled in as critical to my job performance as a Social Worker in my community, and starts to feel like another task or demand I cant seem to accomplish or do well enough. Sure, I’d love to do all the things that nurture me every day, but I have it so ingrained in me that it’s imperative that I care for my kids first.
    I am starting to look for ways I can take care of us all – at the same time, with the same tenderness and compassion, with the same fierce advocacy, with the same determination. Instead of asking “who comes first? “, I can ask “what do we need?” And then look for creative ways to get those needs met.
    I am also learning to leave room for mistakes and repair.
    good enough parenting is really good enough. Like you said, Bonnie – trying for flawless mothering is not going to get me where I want to be. I’d rather get off my back and off my kid’s back and model being an imperfect human who loves.
    Thanks Bonnie for all your wise words.

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