Should Stay-at-Homes be paid somehow?
I’m reading a book about women. So far it’s primarily about how the different sexes are treated and the expectations placed on them right from the off. There’s some interesting stuff about how little boys and girls are treated by their parents, usually the parents don’t even realizing it’s happening. But one huge obvious difference is in the division of labor when one person stays home. This book mainly talks about how it’s more likely that women take up the childcare and household jobs (even when they’re professionals themselves). But I don’t want to get into all the complications that come into the picture when talking about men and women (like how they are raised and expectations, which are messy), so I’ll stick with staying at home vs working and how each are viewed.
A question that popped into my head while I was reading was how two people can be on equal grounds when one works and one stays at home to raise children. I think people generally say they value both jobs. I’m sure you’d say staying at home to raise children is a valid and worthwhile undertaking (maybe the most noble thing you can do). But there are clear inequalities as well, that are maybe unavoidable. Who decides which car to buy? Which house? Which appliances? Who makes most of the financial decisions? And who holds the power if a relationship starts to falter? Whatever the divorce laws are where you live, that’s not the most appealing route to take. Especially when the troubles are small. Immediate earning ability holds sway, I’d say, over the prospect of a long, drawn out divorce. Divorce damages both people, and involves the children. So it would seem that the working person has a much larger say and more power.
So just hypothetically, if you were in a relationship in which you worked and other person stayed home to take care of your child, would you try to work out a way for the person at home to feel like he/she is equal in earning? There’s a dollar amount attached to a professionals. You can count exactly what a full time job contributes to the family. Meanwhile, raising a child is much more abstract. So you spent 9 hours feeding, changing, cleaning, washing, cooking, etc? What does that mean, really? I spent the day at work and earned such and such amount of money to buy those things! It’s hard to make concrete sense out of diaper changes and bottle feedings. Is spending an hour trying to improve your child’s hand-eye coordination equal to an hour on the job? Is that a fair question? It’s equating work, that may or may not be a passion, to taking care of your child, which most people would claim they enjoy. Saying you deserve money (or something) for doing it implies that it’s a chore. You raise your children because you love her or him and want to help do what’s best. You don’t do it for money. Wanting some compensation can make someone look heartless.
It’s not hard to see how unfair that is though. No matter how much lip service you pay to raising the children, one person is still “bring home the bread” (I don’t eat bacon).
So you want to make it more equal and quantify the work that goes into raising a child and keeping a house in order. But then the trouble is, is the other person just giving you an allowance? That’s not ideal. You aren’t a child. Having a joint back account makes people feel more unified. “What’s mine is yours and what’s yours is mine.” But not really. If I make 100% of the money, then no matter the name on the back account, I’m making the money. I bought the groceries. I bought the house. Etc. And, primarily in arguments, those issues will come up. (“And who goes to work every day to pay for this house!?”) Maybe it would help if it was set up in a way that the paychecks were immediately and automatically split and deposited in separate accounts. The same thing might be true, that I’m making the money, but it might give a feeling of independence. That the stay-at-home is being paid for doing a job. Maybe you can write up a legitimate contract (like Kurt Vonnegut wrote for all the jobs he would do while his wife was pregnant). There is no real way to be paid as a stay-at-home unless it somehow comes from the employed person (because the government isn’t going to pay you). I don’t know if splitting the paycheck and depositing into separate accounts would work, but I do feel there should be some tangible way to acknowledge the effort and importance of staying at home to raise kids.
The book also mentions how having parents who stay-at-home vs work, gives a constant example to the children that maybe there are different roles for different sexes. And since, statistically, women are more likely to be stay at homes, then kids learn women stay at home and men work. And a little girl or boy has more limited options than he or she otherwise would. Food for thought.
Note: This was not thought out. I was reading, thought about this and basically stream of conscious’d it. I tried to clean it up a little but please excuse the terrible flow and disconnected logic/logical leaps.