A recent Reuters story posited that if a typical full-time homemaker were paid for "her" work, she'd earn almost $140,000 per year. While this concoction might elicit a prideful grin from some "typical stay-at-home mother" (Reuters's description, not mine), it's not a story likely to generate progress for women overall.
First, if it had to be written, the story should have alluded to the work of a typical stay-at-home "parent," rather than "mother." Yes, Reuters, there are full-time homemaker fathers. While their numbers are small by comparison, full-time fatherhood is rising at a rapid clip. Women will never reach parity in the work world until parenthood is a fully shared responsibility and men have "reached parity" in the homestead.
Second, we tread on dangerous turf if we start to encourage the idea that activities performed for oneself or one's family are deserving of pay from someone else. We already have a form of paid parenthood. It's called welfare or TANF (Temporary Assistance to Needy Families). If it were extended at the taxpayers' expense to middle- and upper-class parents, we'd see taxes balloon to the point where they would dwarf the cost of President Bush's Iraq invasion and its untold military cost expansion.
Call me crazy, but I just don't see raising a family as something of great benefit to societyparticularly not in times of increasing human population and decreasing natural resources. Perhaps a different argument could be made in Europe or in Japan or the so-called "graying" countries.
But not here in the United States. Families are something Americans should, and usually do, produce and raise primarily if not exclusively for the betterment of the lives of the parents and the children themselves.
Besides, when is the last time you heard a would-be parent say she/he wanted kids for the sole purpose of making the world a better place? It's almost always because "we/I want kids."