How much is a home maker worth to a household, to a community, and to society? Do they earn their keep?
Within a household a home maker provides services that include:
- house cleaning
- child care
- lawn maintenance
- driving and errands
- accounting/bookkeeping and related administrative tasks
- food shopping, meal planning, preparation, service, and cleanup
- yard maintenance and/or food gardening
Investopedia values these services at $96,261 if they were done in the context of a professional career. All free for the household served by the home maker, who should therefore be highly valued by the other household members and treated accordingly.
Not included but at least as valuable from the perspective of the family unit are:
- education, training, nurture and emotional support of children before, beside, beyond, because of and/or instead of formal schooling
- savings in business apparel not needed
- home security – house is occupied more and at less predictable intervals
- home organization
- special skills such as sewing, hair cutting, home repair and improvement, furniture repair and refinishing, interior decorating, financial asset management, landscape design and maintenance
- food gardening, raising livestock and other forms of production
Home makers also often provide benefits to the community, such as:
- Keeping an eye on the neighborhood and neighbors
- Carpooling other children (e.g., of dual income families)
- Child and pet care for other families
- Serving and preparing food for neighbors, as well as school, church, team, and other community events
- Savings in health costs due to healthy food prep
- Being there for neighbors & friends – someone to talk to, keep an eye on neighborhood during “work” hours, lend and share, help with projects, advice, crisis
Beneficial effects of the role of the home maker on larger society are harder to enumerate, but could include stabilization of communities through the nurture of children, informal social services, lessening demands on government.
However, governments and others tend to view homemaking as a choice of the privileged, nowadays, and not something that should be directly supported by government. In fact, when the services listed above are provided by home makers by choice, the government has very little influence over how these jobs are done and has no mandate in taxation of their services.
- Lost revenue from employee- and employer-paid taxes
- Lost business and tax revenue from commercial providers of the services listed above, and from their employees’ paychecks
- Lost business and tax revenue from the purchase of clothing, products, and services (e.g. hair styling) that create a “professional” image
- Lost business and tax revenue from sales of ready-made convenience food products from restaurants, delis, and grocery stores
- Lost business and tax revenue from sales of auto fuel, service, repair and supplies needed for work commute
- Lost revenue from salaries of government workers in social services, regulation and oversight of industries mentioned above
- and much more
Billions of dollars in lost revenue, that is. Some of this revenue would go to government social services programs, but the increased need for workers in those services (and the business they generate just by being employed away from home) would provide additional tax revenue.
Home makers can thus be seen as a drain on the economy, part of the unemployed and underemployed. They also generally operate outside of the influence of regulation, so can legally bring up their charges in a variety of ways, to adopt a variety of perspectives, and have a tendency to see the family unit as the main building block of society, and community after that, rather than any -ocracy, protocol, or state mandate. They form cells of like minded people, which interferes at times with the melting of the pot and large scale cultural diffusion (though not with true multiculturalism). They are even allowed to mix religion with the education of their children. Also, ideally, they teach their children skills that keep them equally independent of the various branches of the care giving economy listed above, perpetuating the problem.
Hence the state has very little incentive to support the role of the homemaker. Other important social roles can also be seen this way–the non-professional healer, the friend in need/shoulder to lean on, the folk musician, the elder, the volunteer teacher or mentor, the spiritual or relationship guide.
In other words, homemakers, don’t be surprised at the pull into the work place, the temptation to dislike and devalue your work, the pressure to hand it off and get a paying job at something more “satisfying,” the isolation you feel as others move on out of those community connections. Don’t be surprised when in asking the question, “what do you want to be when you grow up?” no one will openly aspire to be a home maker. The fact that the role still exists at all, even in industrialized society, is a testament to its inherent value, and maybe that will have to be enough for now.