We’ve all seen those online articles, calculating what a mother would earn on the free market. No matter how high it estimates a wage for motherhood and homemaking, we all know it’s ridiculous.
There is no price we can put on late night feedings, on intense parenting conversations, on making a grocery trip both frugal management and fun field trip.
Some people might have nannies and personal chefs whom they pay a salary, but such jobs don’t set the standard by which a mother’s value is determined.
In a society where education’s purpose is making people good employees, it seems like being a stay at home mom is throwing any education away. After all, our education has been all about preparing us for the job market. Step out of that job market, and the degree becomes wasted time.
Living like an employee, when you aren’t
In fact, viewing our role at home as a job is part of what makes us discouraged by it. A job is an arrangement whereby we do a set of tasks and in return we get compensation. Even schools are set up on a job model. Students do the work assigned by the teacher, and in return they get a grade and a piece of paper at the end that signals their preparedness for the next stage of education or for the next job.
The students don’t have to care about the work; they just have to do it. Employees might like their work, but whether they do or not is irrelevant. What matters is checking the boxes and punching the time clock.
So we get to managing a home, and we flounder. There is no time clock, no hourly rate, no boss-imposed checklist. There are no due dates; there are no paychecks. All the assurances and credit we’re used to receiving are gone. No wonder we flounder.
The problem isn’t with the situation, though. Being a homemaker is so much better than being an employee. We just have to approach it with a business owner mindset rather than a job-worker mindset.
Being a business owner at home
Business owners don’t get to do whatever they want. They also are not accountable to anyone higher up. They don’t do their work because someone has delegated it to them, but because they have a vision they are trying to achieve and they are willing to do what it takes to make it happen.
Owners delegate work to others, but still take responsibility for the outcomes. They’re interested not in getting a paycheck and clocking off for the weekends, but in putting something valuable out into the world.
And, more than any product, a home, a family, is a valuable thing to put out into the world. That, homemakers, is our business.
Is the husband the boss of the home?
We might be tempted to sit comfortably in our employee mindset, saying that our husband is the boss and we are his worker bee at home. However, that will leave us either complacent by abdicating our responsibility over the home or it will leave us chafing. A wife generally chafes if her husband actually acts like a boss, giving her deadlines and a list of tasks to complete.
But more likely such a wife chafes at what she calls a lack of leadership, because he’s not telling her what to do and how to do it. She wants such direction because she wants to know when she’s done and off duty. In reality, he’s entrusted the home to her care as he should.
Whichever kind of chafing it is, it includes a dissatisfaction that her husband isn’t giving her daily kudos for keeping laundry clean and food on the table. Where are the A+s? The paychecks? The pats on the back?
Your home market
A husband is more like his wife’s market than like a boss. He’s not micromanaging and telling her what to do when. Instead, the wife interprets and responds to the goals and desires of her husband, turning them into tangible goods: clean laundry, good food, orderly rooms. She does it not because he’s making her, but because she’s responding to the state of her market, her sector, and she delights to do so, like a business owner taking advantage of an opportunity to expand.
Sure, most business owners get a paycheck – from themselves, not from a boss – but they do it for more than the paycheck. They simply enjoy playing the game.
Homemaking & business are strategy games
As homemakers, we need to own the home as a game we can maximize, expand, and figure out. It takes strategy and insight. It takes long hours and interest. It takes dedication and a long view. The home is a business.
Homemakers, like business owners, have to be self-motivated and determine their own meaningful metrics without relying on others. Ownership means choosing and finding your own measurements and keeping yourself on target because you deeply care about moving your mission forward.
Do you have an employee mindset or a business mindset in your home? I’d love to hear what you think in the comments.