Parenting is often a thankless job. It’s also considered a labor of love, but it should be a paid position, and every parent—especially mothers—should be compensated for their work. Depending on who you ask, the financial value of being a stay-at-home-mom varies, but everyone agrees that moms (and the dads who do it too) hold more worth than they are given credit for. Salary.com reported that a mother’s salary should be $162,581. Insure.com determined a mom should earn $93,920 for the multiple jobs she does throughout the day. Other reports indicate that accountants would pay mothers $31,207 a year while economists place a market value of $15,463 a year on stay-at-home moms.
Guess how much money moms actually get? Right: Zero.
Guess who needs the most help? Exactly: Moms.
Oh yeah, and guess who has been most impacted by the pandemic and who have been forced out of the workplace in disproportionate numbers without assistance? Yup: Women and mothers, mainly Black and Latinx women.
This is why Reshma Saujani, Founder and CEO of Girls Who Code, is calling on Biden to create a Marshall Plan for Moms. 50 prominent female actors, activists, and CEOs signed a letter that was published in the New York Times urging Biden to address the fact that “two million of us have left the workforce, at a rate of four times that of men in September alone. Millions more have been forced to cut back our hours or work around the clock to keep our jobs and be full-time caregivers.”
Named after an economic aid package that was provided to Europeans after WWII, the Marshall Plan for Moms asks that every mother receive a $2,400 stipend for their unpaid labor and losses because of the pandemic. The plan would offer short-term monthly payments based on need. Saujani told Fast Company, “We’re in a national crisis for mothers. This crisis has exposed the undue burden we place on mothers. The labor participation of mothers is what it was in the 1980s. Think about how much we’ve lost in the last year.”
We can’t claim the fact that COVID-19 has hit the economy hard without acknowledging that this is tied directly to the impact the pandemic has had on women and mothers—specifically Black women and POC. One report estimates that when mothers leave the work force and reduce work hours in order to assume caretaking responsibilities, $64.5 billion per year is lost in wages and economic activity.
This is because women are more likely to work in jobs that were forced to shut down first and stay shut down—places like retail, hospitality, healthcare, schools, and daycares. Add the loss of jobs at schools and daycares with the loss of safe places for their kids to be during the day, and you have mothers drowning in not only the tasks of being all of the things to all of the people in their care, but also in the fear or reality of not making financial ends meet. Women are more likely to be caretakers for their parents and in-laws as well.
In an interview with Scary Mommy regarding the Marshall Plan, Saujani said, “This country does not value women. Our entire economy has been built on the undervalued labor of people of color, on the unpaid labor of moms. It’s unjust and it needs to end. The labor of moms has been ‘free’ for so long, that we literally don’t even know how valuable it is. If all moms stopped mothering for a week, stopped working for a week – I think this economy would collapse. And if we don’t step up to support them soon, it may.”
It’s important to note that men and nonbinary folks have been impacted by COVID-19 too. Queer folks are also left out of the parenting conversation; when it comes to providing financial relief to mothers, we need to make sure the umbrella covers caregivers of all genders and sexualities who have had to give up jobs in order to stay home. The numbers, though, capture gender in the binary. Mothers with children 12 years old and younger lost 2.2 million jobs compared to the 870,000 jobs lost by fathers between February and August of 2020. 6.4 % of Black mothers have had to leave the workforce at higher rates than white women (2.4%).
The Marshall Plan is an economic band-aid, and also asks Biden to put policies into place that provide pay equity, paid leave, and affordable child care. The United States needs to establish an economic floor for people which is a guaranteed income all people start their lives with in order to provide a more equitable start. When folks are born into generational wealth vs. poverty, the disparity between privilege remains and opportunities are not equitable. There is infrastructure in place with the child tax credit and Democrats have proposed expanding and changing this credit to place more money in the pockets of parents who need it. Their proposal would cut childhood poverty in half.
The United States is the only developed country that doesn’t provide a monthly child stipend that helps parents raise kids. The United States also lacks paid parental leave. Yet, the narrative is to get married, have babies, and live happily ever after. But do it in a straight, cisgender way and don’t even think about aborting any fetuses, and don’t you dare ask for help, lest you want to be called a mooch or a bad parent. Instead, struggle in the stigma of poverty and housing and food insecurity while gender inequality and sexism force women out of the workforce and into even more vulnerable situations. Work harder. Save more. But go forth and prosper!
Mothers are at their breaking point. The idea that women can do it all is patronizing. Of course they can because women and mothers are badass superheroes. But that doesn’t mean they should be expected to do it all. Men can have careers, a family, house, etc. because there is a woman holding up his pillars, and her own, while society supports the pillars of the patriarchy. Mothers need emotional and financial support to be able to do it all, even if “doing it all” looks like staying home and raising kids in a safe and loving home. But if mothers also want to work, go back to school, or do anything else outside of parenting, that needs to be celebrated and supported too.
Pay women and mothers to do the jobs men don’t do but get credit and money for. Pay mothers–and all primary caregivers–for their seen and unseen labor. The pace at which mothers in particular are expected to keep isn’t sustainable for them, their children, or the economy. If mothers sink the whole damn ship goes under; throw them a lifeline now.