What’s the Financial Value of a Mom? 

I am a part time landlord/full time stay at home mom. I recently received a rental application from a single mother who included in her income statement a monthly payment from the state of $3,000 because she is a foster parent and currently has a foster daughter in her care.

I’d never thought before about what a foster parent is paid each month for a child in their care, and I casually mentioned that information to my husband later that afternoon. His response surprised me. He said, “Wow. They pay that much? Is it that much per kid, or do you think they get a smaller amount per additional foster child?” He went on, “I thought it was hard to find enough foster families, but with that much money I’m surprised more people aren’t signing up to foster. You could like, not even have a job and just take 2 or 3 foster kids in and make a good income just from that.” I was really irritated by his response, but I had to think it through to decide what upset me. Then I figured out why I was mad.

See, he said to me (a stay at home mom!) “Someone could not even have a job and just take care of a couple foster kids instead”. He and I have three kids. I don’t have job that I punch into Monday through Friday. I *just* take care of our kids. Was he accidentally admitting to a subconscious belief that I don’t have a job, because I just take care of kids full time? 

To be fair to him, I think my husband was only adding up the food, housing and essential expenses it costs to raise a child. (Say they might eat $250 worth of food, raise your rent $300 a month so you can have another bedroom, $50 extra utilities, $100 school activity fees, $50 toys/clothes, and $70 for piano lessons. That’s only a grand total of $820, so maybe a local foster parent is clearing an extra $2,180 each month per foster child, according to his calculations.)

I said to him, “I’m really bothered that you think $3,000 is a lot to compensate someone for taking care of a child full time for a month. My full time job is taking care of our three children. Exactly what do you think my financial contribution is worth to this household?”

Taking care of children is grueling, time consuming, monotonous work, and for many years chains you to one place, on-call 24/7 for emergencies. Relatively few other jobs can take priority over anything else you want to do in life, make you work weekends indefinitely, and wake you at 3 am and demand an immediate response. The idea that paying someone $3,000 a month to take on that all consuming role is somehow an excessive amount is, according to my professional mom opinion, nuts. Perhaps there is a shortage of foster parents because $3,000 is not nearly enough to compensate someone for the enormous task of parenthood, and most foster parents are kind and loving saints who give of their love and time freely, despite the low reimbursement amount. 

I don’t think my husband had thought through his words carefully or intended to say something that would annoy me.  I also don’t get the feeling in general that he devalues my contributions to our family, financial or otherwise, and he was quick to clarify and apologize.

But it makes me wonder about the worldview of a typical LDS man with a stay at home mom as his wife. Does he ever think about what it would cost him to pay for childcare for his children, which she provides the family free of charge? Is it because she is paid nothing that he’s so quick to forget that it’s a productive job, literally allowing the entire economy to function and supporting the family in an equal way to his financial support? Does he think that women and mothers enjoy childcare so very much that they’re excited by the opportunity to provide it for as many children as possible for free, and would be thrilled to get that extra $2,180 each month from the government for the opportunity to care for another one? 

 I would love to see a social experiment where Latter-day Saint moms leave their kids with their dads during the day, go to the bishopric meetings on Sunday mornings while their husbands get the kids ready for church, sit on the stand and watch their spouses alone with children in the pews, and come home daily to a fridge re-stocked with food, the closet toilet paper supply magically replenished, and a feeling of enthusiasm and gratitude for seeing their kids because they haven’t had one glued to their leg since dawn. I believe the key to increasing appreciation for stay at home parents (of any gender) is to make it more commonplace for men to take a turn managing that family role. Once they do that, they will never, ever again, suggest that $3,000 is a lot of money to pay someone to care for a child for an entire month.

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7 Responses

  1. Elizabeth Mott says:

    This is spot on. I have basically been a foster parent to my disabled younger sister for several years. My mother died 20 years ago when she was only 12. Even experiencing what it was like to be the sole parent for many years, my father has been slow to change. He has still taken it for granted that I or my other sister should do all the stuff my mom used to do, simply because we’re female. And without concrete compensation for our time and resources. Oh, and I’m single. So it’s wrecked my own career goals. Anyway, I could go on a long time.

  2. Tina says:

    My response to your husbands comment would have been the Anger character from Inside Out completely on fire. The worldview of the typical LDS man makes me shudder. Unfortunately, part of the problem is that their worldview is limited from lack of experience. If you choose to follow through on the social experiment you described, either in your marriage relationship or suggesting it to the ward, I’d love to see a write-up about it here. If you want to put a number to the unpaid care and work you provide at home, Bill the Patriarchy will prepare an invoice for you: https://www.billthepatriarchy.com/

    When my oldest was born, I kept working at my professional job but decreased my hours. Part of our care arrangements was my husband working four 10 hour days so that he was home caring for the baby by himself without me. He grew as a parent because of this and I think it changed his relationship with our oldest for the better. He and I both learned a lot and it helped us start to move towards a partnership. A few years ago I stumbled upon Riane Eisler’s work about partnership societies and I love the concept. She is currently developing an economic measurement model that, unlike GPD, includes care of people and the planet. https://centerforpartnership.org/programs/caring-economy/social-wealth-index/

  3. Rita says:

    Your social experiment reminds me of the 1975 Icelandic women’s strike. I would happily sign up to participate in an event like that.

  4. Kaylee says:

    I ran across this video of “job interviews for Director of Operations” years ago (and I can’t believe how quickly I found it!). I love that it shows how utterly ridiculous the demands of a mother’s time can be.

  5. Ashley G says:

    I like your idea but I want to take it even further. I want caretakers to be compensated for their work. It’s a mistake to think that these contributions only serve our families. Raising children, caring fir aging parents or a disabled person serves all of society. If men were doing the caretaking I honestly think the government would have come up with a compensation program for caregiving or at a minimum designed social security to have a stipend for the years that women (it’s almost always women) devote to caregiving. Our country chooses not to do this. We choose to increase profits fir corporations and stockholders and fund the pentagon at the expense of caregivers and kids. You are right. Taking care of your kids is a JOB.

    Also, fwiw, foster care rates vary greatly across states. But a $3,000 payment for one child is high enough that it’s likely because that child has a medical condition or special need that requires intense caretaking including many appointments ymrnts. Interestingly, many states have moved to a model where foster parents must show proof of income outside of fostering in order to become foster parents because of concerns that people are fostering for the money. It’s quite a paradox. Particularly because many of the challenges associated with many/most children ending up in fister care are connected to poverty. If the birth parents of many kids in foster care received the same level of compensation that a foster parent does there’s a good chance that their kids might not end up in care in the first place.

    Clearly this piece strikes a cord with me:). Thank you for taking the time to write it.

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