Homemaking a ‘Real Job’: One Mother’s Response

(Author unknown)

Setting: Career Days at school; daughter wants her mother to present her “job” at career days but principal says no because homemaking is not a “real job.” This is that mother’s actual reply:

“Dear Ms. Brown, of course, homemaking or domestic labor is not an official job as specified by the Department of Labor’s handbook of occupations. But there are many services that are provided without compensation that qualify for the label of work. And indeed, economists universally acknowledge the crucial economic contribution that domestic labor provides to our society, even when it is done outside the for-pay labor market. In fact, a number of economists have studied the economic value of domestic labor. Regardless of the approach they take to calculating its value, economists easily place the value of a full-time homemaker at well over $100,000 a year. Moreover, social scientists have studied the impact of domestic labor on families and society now for decades. My academic discipline of family sciences is dedicated to understanding such things as domestic labor and helping individuals gain the knowledge and skills to be effective in their (unpaid) work.

“It is not only silly but almost offensive to claim that domestic labor or homemaking — housework and childcare — are not real jobs. The absurdity of such a position is revealed when you consider that those who do some of the work of domestic labor — childcare providers, nannies, for-pay domestic cleaning workers, laundry workers, cooks, etc. — usually do this work part time and for very short periods of time at low pay while those who take on the full range of domestic labor as full-time homemakers do it for more than full time and do it as a career for more than two decades. That they are not compensated for their work in the marketplace seems to me be a poor justification for saying it’s not real work. Oh, and by the way, there are by far more domestic laborers than any other job that is listed in the Department of Labor’s handbook of occupations. Does your school system really want to send the message that domestic labor is not real work? They would be offending a crucial constituency by so doing. Maybe all those non-workers would organize a protest and stop driving their children to school and stop helping their children finish their homework unless the school system started paying them for their labors!”

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