On Mother’s Day, What Are We Celebrating?
In the United States, Canada, Australia and New Zealand, today is Mother’s Day. Cards are being opened, gifts are being given, and brunches are being eaten. Children are giving their moms the morning off from cooking, with mixed results. Mothers are being thanked for “all you do.” We are acknowledging the years that our mothers sacrificed their pleasures, their time, their personal space, their wants and even their needs for us—and we are remembering that we don’t even know a fraction of all they’ve given up for our sakes.
On Mother’s Day, you celebrate and appreciate motherhood: Mom helping you learn your letters and numbers; Mom bandaging up your skinned knee; Mom helping you with your homework; Mom teaching you to have happy relationships—Mom being there.
But what you might think of as motherhood is no longer reality in millions of homes. For the majority of moms in the United States, the United Kingdom, Canada, Australia and New Zealand, motherhood means not being there. It means dropping off children somewhere else on the way to work. For millions of children, the person teaching (or not teaching) them how to talk, how to eat, how to play, how to learn, and how to treat others is a daycare worker who clocks in for $11 an hour.
If your mother works full-time as a mother—supporting your father, guiding early childhood development, teaching you motor skills, helping you with your homework, compelling you to treat others with kindness, keeping the house stocked and supplied, troubleshooting appliances and devices, dealing with service people, managing errands in town, maintaining a budget, cooking nutritious meals, cleaning the home, driving you to school and practices and games, participating in school and community organizations, developing your talents, encouraging you, providing instruction and counsel—she isn’t just a minority, she is a rarity.
It is now normal for moms to spend some or all of the workweek doing something else somewhere else: answering phones, filing reports, typing on a computer. These things are harder to celebrate: The greeting card industry has yet to catch up with the trend and offer heartfelt Mother’s Day cards: “So glad we’ve got that second income,” or “Thanks for not picking the cheap daycare.”
The statistics on what modern motherhood has become are more drastic than you might think. The days when most moms spent their hours and their energy supporting their husbands, managing their homes, and raising their children disappeared more than a generation ago.
In American families, 70 percent of women with children younger than 18 work for wages.
In Canadian families, the proportion of women with children under age 3 who worked outside the home amounted to 31 percent in 1976. That number had risen to 70 percent by 2014. According to 2013 data, the number of Canadian mothers (ages 25 to 54) who have children younger than 15 and who work outside the home is 75 percent.
In Australian families with children younger than 18, the proportion of mothers who worked for a paycheck was already more than half in 1991 (55 percent). By 2011, it was 65 percent, and it has likely risen since then. But that is not enough for some.
“Australia’s solid labor market performance is sullied by its failure to fully tap the potential of women: those with young children, single mothers and females in their late 50s …,” claimed the Sydney Morning Herald on March 10, 2017. It later stated, “Another major issue for Australian women aged between 25 and 54 years with children is that they tend to only work part-time, [the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development] said.”
Not only are 7 out of 10 moms now working for paychecks, but the last three are being pressured to leave their children with daycare employees as well. And moms who work part-time (so they can at least pick up their kids from school, for example) are a “major issue.”
Data published by the Institute of Fiscal Studies on April 27 shows that in the United Kingdom (where Mother’s Day is March 31), more women are working outside the home than ever before. In 1975, 57 percent of women were working for wages. In 2017, the number was 78 percent.
A 2017 study in England showed that 65 percent of mothers whose youngest child was a toddler were working, up from 55 percent in 1997. This growth corresponds with the British government providing tax-free and completely free child care: Gov.uk offers a scheme of 30 hours of free child care to hundreds of thousands of British families.
Even among British women who have children younger than age 2, 75 percent do not stay home to care for them.
Last year, Britain’s Office for National Statistics released a study that showed that stay-at-home mothers are not just a minority, they are now an 11 to 1 minority. Only 9 percent of mothers work in their homes doing the types of things we celebrate in Mother’s Day cards, rather than working for a paycheck.
In December 2017, the Daily Mail interviewed 11 women whose children attended the same primary school. They were all married with two or more children. Ten of them worked part-time or full-time jobs. Only one was a full-time mom. Here are some of their assessments of their current role in society, including the one stay-at-home mother’s response:
- Karen Thorpe, mother of two, works four days a week as a communications manager: “I think it’s important for my children to see their mother pursuing a career and earning money. … Having two wages doesn’t give us a lavish lifestyle, it just means we don’t worry about money so much and can enjoy the odd foreign holiday.”
- Lina Karpiniene, mother of two, works full time as a processing administrator at Cambridge University Hospital: “When my youngest started school, I took on a full-time job at our local hospital. I feel so fulfilled and ‘myself’ again. There are things I miss, such as taking my children to swimming lessons, but I did it for years, and it’s my husband’s turn now.”
- Kate Swan, mother of two, works two days a week as a local authority leasehold services contractor: “I took three years off when my sons were babies—we were told we wouldn’t be able to have children, so I wanted to savor every moment—and went back part-time to my old job two years ago.”
- Linzee Kottman, mother of two, works 30-to-40-hour weeks as a public relations consultant: “Because of my upbringing of two successful working parents, it never occurred to me that I wouldn’t go back to work after taking a year’s maternity leave. And, now they’re at school, if I wasn’t working, what would I do between 9 a.m. and 3 p.m. each day?”
- Amanda Slater, mother of three, works three days a week as a learning and development trainer: “With three children, it’s a juggle keeping on top of everything at home, plus working. But I enjoy the dimension to my life that my job provides. I’m not just a mum—I have skills that are valued. I do sometimes envy stay-at-home mums and wonder if they have it easier, but I’ll never know.”
- Leyla Newling, mother of three, is a homemaker: “There’s so much to do as a mother—washing, cooking, cleaning, spending time with my daughters—I often wonder how those who also work fit it all in. My only concern is that I might be lonely—there aren’t many of us stay-at-home mums left!”
The Telegraph’s Allison Pearson offered this perspective:
A mother looking after her own small children is considered a luxury, even though, in survey after survey, most women … say they would prefer to be at home in the early years. They’re caught in a trap. As successive governments encouraged mothers out to work, the more couples could pay for a house, which saw property prices rocket. Only dual-income families could buy a home in certain areas so, even when one parent would prefer not to work, that choice became increasingly unaffordable. …
We don’t yet know the price society will pay for making it practically impossible for mothers to look after their own children. Anecdotal evidence is building that things are amiss. Two teachers in their 50s that I know, one who works in a smart London prep school, the other in a state primary, talk of pupils who are 5, 6 even 7 are still not potty-trained. Increased aggression, lack of basic table manners, an alarming growth in speech problems that simply weren’t there 30 years ago.
Times columnist Libby Purves noted the “statistical acknowledgement that something big has happened. … The stay-at-home supportive wife and mother was a strong image for the centuries. [Now,] the change to two-earning couples managing and juggling even the youngest children has come round so fast that other things haven’t caught up.”
Some economists want to pressure the last remaining mothers out of their homes. A year ago, the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development classified Australia in the “bottom third” for female employment rates and categorized full-time mothers as “not in employment, education or training.” As if they were one of the bottom categories of sophisticated society, and as if they were not employed in educating and training their children. The oecd experts further asserted, “There are potentially large losses to the economy when women stay at home or work short part-time hours.”
Around the same time, the chair of the United States Federal Reserve, Janet Yellen, exhorted more American women to join the workforce. If all women left their children and homes to the care of others and clocked in somewhere else, Yellen said, the economic output of the U.S. would rise 5 percent.
This is the way people commonly portray mothers working at home in relation to the economy. Yet economists like Yellen and the oecd experts deemphasize or intentionally ignore the obvious fact that when they calculate a nation’s official economic output, they simply exclude the work a full-time homemaker performs. If economists could and did calculate the work that mothers do in the home, gdp would rise instantly—and not just by 5 percent.
Calculating the economic impact of a mother working at home is challenging, of course, since the government does not issue her income and tax statements. But it is disingenuous to portray that impact as nonexistent. For example: If a woman did the exact same work she does at home, except she instead did it at her neighbor’s house and got paid for it, economists would count that toward an increase in gdp. And when she paid much of that money to someone else for doing the work in her own home that she left behind, economists would count it again. Even though the tasks that were completed and the value that was generated were exactly the same as it would be if the women stayed working in their own homes.
But a woman cannot do the exact same work for her neighbor as she can do in her own home. Because a woman cannot care for, protect, teach, raise, refine, strengthen, enlighten, enrich and embolden the children in someone else’s home like she can with her husband in her own home. This type of mother’s effect on her children causes them to grow up to contribute far more to society, in terms of economic output and beyond.
How much does gdp and society in general benefit from the mother who works hard (and inevitably works overtime) making good human beings instead of making quarterly reports?
In “How Homemakers Help the Economy,” Trumpet writer Andrew Miiller wrote,
God created the family to excel by taking advantage of specialization of labor between husband and wife. Any honest economist will tell you this model leads to greater productivity. Those who ignore the contributions homemakers provide to the economy and try to “guilt” them into getting jobs in cubicles are not trying to grow America’s economy.
A strong family built on the biblical model—with a faithfully married, family-focused father and mother intent on fulfilling their respective roles—is an ideal that should be valued by any clear-thinking person, and certainly by any clear-thinking economist!
The Bible describes the woman as a worthy help to her husband who fulfills his needs and hopes, who loves and equips and instructs her children, who uplifts and counsels her friends and acquaintances, who shows kindness to those who might work for the household, who helps those in need, and who makes her home physically and spiritually fulfilling for her family. She trains her children in moral integrity, she elevates the abilities and achievements of her husband, she executes important responsibilities delegated to her. She strengthens her husband, her children, her family, her nation.
Alexis de Tocqueville traveled extensively throughout the United States in 1831, recording his observations in Democracy in America. His classic book examines the fundamentals of America from almost every angle: the shape and arrangement of the continent, its regions, its geology, its natural resources, the origin of the Anglo-Americans, their principles of sovereignty, the organization of townships and municipal bodies, the legislative power of the states, the arrangement of the judiciary, the federal Constitution, political parties, the liberty of the press, the principles of maintaining the democratic republic, the conditions of the races, the role of religion, and the role of family.
Tocqueville noticed that women in America were “less constrained there than anywhere” before they were married, and after they married, they willingly traded independent life outside the home for a new role confining themselves to and focusing their energies on building up the lives of their husbands and children.
Tocqueville noted that although the Americans were more dedicated to political equality than perhaps any other people, they intriguingly did not equate this with subverting the “natural authorities in families.” They held “that every association must have a head in order to accomplish its object.” This meant that rather than competing with or emulating their husbands by working for income outside the home or by other means, women instead worked inside the home as the supporters and delegates of their husbands and second-in-command over their children. Tocqueville noted, “No families are so poor as to form an exception to this rule.”
Here is what this prominent diplomat, political philosopher, sociologist, politician and historian wrote about 19th-century “stay at home moms” in one of the most influential books for the century, which is still regarded as a classic in several fields of study:
I do not hesitate to avow that although the women of the United States are confined within the narrow circle of domestic life, and their situation is in some respects one of extreme dependence, I have nowhere seen woman occupying a loftier position; and if I were asked, now that I am drawing to the close of this work, in which I have spoken of so many important things done by the Americans, to what the singular prosperity and growing strength of that people ought mainly to be attributed, I should reply: To the superiority of their women.
Although Tocqueville would have only partially recognized this, what he just described was women who were largely executing their role as defined in the Holy Bible.
Men and women who turn away from this biblical role are draining more than just the economy. They are draining the character, success and strength of their nation.
If mothers tend to think of the opinions of Janet Yellen, the oecd or editors at the Sydney Morning Herald as somewhat authoritative, hopefully they will also consider the studied opinion of one of the brightest minds in recent history. And hopefully they will consider a more authoritative source than any of these: the Bible.
In “Motherhood: The Untold Story,” Trumpet executive editor Stephen Flurry wrote the following about women who misunderstand or intentionally break down the biblical roles for wives and mothers:
They are not satisfied with their God-ordained role. Instead of teaching young girls about it, they ridicule and mock the way God organized the family. They view any attempt to persuade working moms to return home as an attack on women’s rights. They would rather compete with men to prove they are every bit as capable of holding a successful career.
And while they have proved that, it has come at considerable cost. Our children have suffered immeasurably.
God Family Vision author Gerald Flurry describes the biblical example of Hannah:
Some women are bored and perhaps even hostile toward the notion of being a housewife and mother. Some women want to establish a career in the workforce. But look at the vision in Hannah’s home! She didn’t want another career. She had the greatest career God has to offer. Her job was to get her son ready to be born into God’s Family.
You can learn the amazing and precious purpose for fathers, mothers, children and family by clicking here now to request God Family Vision.
Mothers are being pressured by friends, acquaintances, family and even government bureaucrats to stop working in their homes and to start working in offices, stores, factories, toll booths, call centers, restaurants, hospitals, etc. Our leaders in government and society have unintentionally and in many cases intentionally made it culturally and financially prohibitive to be a homemaker. They are leaving women with no choice, and are successfully forcing them out of the home. Even if a woman wants to work in their home raising their children, she often finds it virtually impossible.
Our society has a serious problem. We portray raising children as either a luxury at best, a silly or lazy choice at least, and a mistaken, irresponsible, soft-hearted, nostalgic, labor market-sullying, gdp-draining “major issue” at worst. This hostility toward motherhood is not because of economics. It’s because of covert and overt hatred of the Creator of family and His manual for strong families, societies and nations: the Bible.
On Mother’s Day, no one celebrates “How I cried for two hours after you dropped me off at daycare,” or “How I never learned how to eat tidily,” or “How I missed you a lot when you were at work.” These are considered unfortunate sacrifices made for the greater good: a second income or feeling like a professional. But is that the greater good?
The truly good role of the mother that we are celebrating today is not just tradition or nostalgia or warm sentiment. It is a core principle of a functioning society. It is the biblical function established by the Creator of motherhood.
Biblical motherhood is a demanding, mission-critical, rarefied, virtuous, precious and glorious duty. And on Mother’s Day, that is the right thing to celebrate: the woman whose career is her children, her husband, her family, her nation and her God.
Happy Mother’s Day!
- Research assistance by Kassandra Verbout, Cariña Carbonell and Anthony Chibarirwe