In 2004, 70.4 percent of women with children under 18 years of age were in the labor force. The more men and women do what they do in exchange for money, and the more work in the public realm is valued or honored, the more, almost by definition, private life is devalued and its boundaries shrink. It is a fundamental truth that the responsibilities of motherhood cannot be successfully delegated; not to day-care centers, not to schools, not to nurseries, not to babysitters. The value that mothers add to the world must never be over looked. What else could be as important as molding the lives of human beings? Yet we do not recognize mothers enough. Why do so many mothers spend so much time at work and so little at home? First of all there is the problem of financial stress, which is a definite problem. But more than that I think it is because mothers are not being valued enough and the male role in society is praised too much. Spencer W. Kimball asked a question in an address to Regional Representatives, that we too should all ask ourselves, “How can we help the wife and mother understand the dignity and worth of her role in the divine process of motherhood?”
Too often the pressure for popularity, on children and teens, places an economic burden on the income of the father, so mother feels she must go to work to satisfy her children’s needs. That decision can be most shortsighted. It is a truism that children need more of mother than of money. Financial strains are obviously a part of more mothers entering the work force, but in a 1995, a national study found that 48% of American working women and 61% of men claimed that they would still want to work even if they had enough money to live as “comfortably as you would like.”
According to Arlie Russell Hochschild, in her book Time Bind, the real reason for leaving kids at home to pursue a career is that women feel more valued at work than they do at home. Work feels more like home and home feels more like work. At work you get recognized for doing a good job as an “internal customer.” You are made an “empowered” employee to make you feel like the company cares about you, not just about making money. On the other hand, how many recognition ceremonies for competent performance are going on at home? Who is valuing the internal customer there?
And who can blame them? However hectic their lives, women who do paid work, researchers have found, fell less depressed, think better of themselves, and are more satisfied with their life than women who don’t do paid work. “Paid work,” says psychologist Grace Baruch, “offers such benefits as challenge, control, structure, positive feedback, self esteem…and social ties.”
Other than the problem women face of not feeling appreciated for being mothers and house wives is the problem that our society sees the “male” world of work as more honorable and valued than the female world of home and children. Too often women use the world as their standard for success and basis for self-worth. Folklorist Joseph Campbell said, “Women have come to believe that only the aim and virtues of the male are to be considered, and that male achievement is the proper aim for everyone, as though that is what counts. No indeed.”
“In the early stages of the women’s movement many feminists pushed for restructuring of work life to allow for shorter –hour, flexible jobs and a restructuring of home life so that men would get into the action,” explains Hochschild, “but over the years, this part of the women’s movement seems to have surrendered the initiative to feminists more concerned with helping women break through the corporate glass ceilings into long-hour careers.”
As more mothers enter the work force we are increasingly becoming a society taught by capitalistic companies, not by loving mothers. Companies realize that time invested in their employees to make them committed believers in the company, instead of just a cog in the machine, is well worth the effort. People who feel empowered by the company and who feel like they are appreciated for the value that they contribute work harder and longer. Most companies also offer free courses in “dealing with anger” or “how to cope with difficult people.” At home, people seldom receive anything like this much help on issues so basic to family life. Also, some companies stage events in response to loosing customers to competitors such as “Large Group Change Events” held in assembly rooms where they work as a group to talk about problems they, as employees, are facing and ideas for the company. The purpose of all these activities is to convince each worker to renew his commitment not to his spouse or church, but to his workplace.
A re-emphasis of the importance of stay-at-home-moms and a restructuring of work time are good steps in the right direction. It has been proven to work in countries like Sweden, Norway and Germany, which have created alternative architectures of time. Many sectors rely on 35-hour workweeks and continue to have economies that thrive. Swedish and German workers average six weeks of paid vacation a year while Americans average only two and a half weeks. Men must be willing to share in house work, parenting, and community participation while valuing work in the home as highly as work on the job. President David O McKay said: “The home is the first and most effective place for children to learn the lessons of life: truth, honor, virtue, self-control; the value of education, honest work, and the purpose and privilege of life. Nothing can take the place of home in rearing and teaching children, and no other success can compensate for failure in the home.”