What Do I Want This Mother’s Day?

By Women Love Tech
on 10 May 2024

Erica Hatfield, Hummingbird Careers, talks about what she wants this Mother’s Day.

I want support for the marathon, not flag-waving at the end of a sprint.

Now that’s not to say that flowers and breakfast in bed for that one day aren’t lovely, they are, but what I really want to see is full recognition and appreciation of the true worth of everything that mothers do on the other 364 days per year. 

Because it’s a lot. 

I genuinely believe society would cease to function if mothers withdrew their labour. So why is it unpaid, undervalued and taken for granted?

Why is the job of caring not seen and appreciated for what it is? Damn hard work that requires a lot of resilience, commitment and a huge variety of skill sets that are painfully learnt through on-the-job trial and error. 

And yes, it is learnt, it’s not a ‘natural’ undertaking for anyone. It’s expertise developed over time.

So what’s a mother’s worth?

Have you ever thought about why some roles are paid more or less than others? 

We need to truly think about the way we value and recognise the contributions of mothers to society. Let’s talk about remuneration. I’d say mothering rates highly in terms of required skill set, commitment, number of working hours, level of stress, etc. 

Yet typically the work associated with motherhood is assigned a zero-dollar value. It’s literally worthless in a capitalist society that rewards citizens’ contributions (ie work) with money.

Interestingly, if that same work is outsourced from the home, then suddenly it has worth (which anyone looking for a babysitter will appreciate). Unfortunately, even that worth is still minimal as highly feminised jobs/industries such as childcare (where the workforce is 96% female) attract low median wages[1].

So how do we value work?

Well, here’s what I learnt from the recent work value case within the aged care industry which was determined earlier this year by the Fair Work Commission (FWC).

Firstly, the FWC had to consider the fact that feminised care work had been historically undervalued because of assumptions based on gender – which included wages for industries dominated by men being based on cost of living models which assumed the worker was a man with a dependent wife and children. Decision [2024] FWCFB 150

Secondly, the FWC had to consider the nature of the work, the level of skill or responsibility involved in doing the work, and the conditions under which the work is done[2].

Let’s consider the work undertaken by mums:

  • The nature of the work requires a broad skill set that is built at speed and continuously grown for a lifetime. Unlike other jobs where you are allowed to develop expertise and sit comfortably in your niche, mothering requires you to constantly be outside your comfort zone as some new and creative challenge will regularly pop up – usually right when you think you’ve got the hang of this mothering gig. I like to think it helps to keep us humble, but honestly, it’s just exhausting.
  • The level of skill/responsibility is huge – people’s lives are literally at stake here!
  • The (unrelenting) work conditions – continual sleep deprivation, recovering from the birth (I had a c-section so it was difficult to move without pain those first few weeks), then after they get older it continues. If you’re sick and they’re sick you still have to show up and do the job every single day. You’re dealing with constant negotiations with a very skilled and persuasive pint-sized sales person, navigating the judgement and criticism of bystanders… I could go on.

This isn’t to say mothers don’t enjoy being parents or caring for their children, but the relentless failure to value our worth is starting to wear thin.

So how much is all of this worth?

Well, collectively there has been a figure put on the value of unpaid care work in Australia: $650.1 bn or 50.6% of the national GDP[3].

Interestingly, for a bit of perspective/contrast, the market size of the finance industry in Australia was measured at $360.6bn in 2023[4].

Just for fun on yet another sleepless night with a newborn all those years ago, I decided to calculate the worth of my individual contributions to the family. Which at that point I felt was zero, as I wasn’t making any money.

So I looked up the national minimum wage and multiplied that by 24 hours (yes it was round the clock work!) and then multiplied that by 365 days to get an annualised rate. If I did the same sums today it would add up to $203,494.80. That’s executive level salary!

So this Mother’s Day, let’s fully appreciate everything that mums bring to the table.

[1] https://www.unsw.edu.au/newsroom/news/2023/11/australia_s-labour-market-remains-highly-segregated–unsw-report#:~:text=The%20report%20found%20Australia’s%20most,are%20at%20least%2096%25%20female

[2] https://www.fwc.gov.au/hearings-decisions/major-cases/work-value-case-aged-care-industry

[3] https://www.wgea.gov.au/sites/default/files/documents/australian-unpaid-care-work-and-the-labour-market.pdf

[4] https://www.ibisworld.com/au/industry/finance/1740/#:~:text=The%20market%20size%20of%20the,at%20%24360.6bn%20in%202023


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