A greeting card company made a fascinating video consists of interviews with several candidates applying for the position 'Director of Operations'. As reported by Straits Times, the 'Job Description' of the position includes:
"...the worker must stand up almost all the time; work from 135 hours to an unlimited number of hours per week; and have no time to sleep. There would also be no vacations. He or she must also expect his or her workload to increase on occasions like Thanksgiving and Christmas. Oh, and there would be no pay as well."
As each of the candidates find the job's expectation ridiculous, it was revealed to them that the other title of the position is 'mom'. The interviews are actually staged to show how demanding it is to be a mother.
This interview shows us that a mother's "job" is highly demanding. Let's not forget there are also full-time fathers who similarly have taken up such role. I know some of them.
Regardless whether it's mother or father, home-making is definitely no less demanding, if not more, than regular paid job. It is one of the most underpaid vocations. If they are paid at all, the amount that many homemakers get is lesser than full-time missionaries.
Two years ago a journalist, Porsche Moran calculated how much a homemaker should make in a year. As her calculation is based on American society, I thought I can re-work her model for local Singapore context. So I looked up the range of salary in industries related to homemaking, and I picked the lower estimation. This is what I found.
A kitchen chef in Singapore who makes sure your food is healthily prepared earns about $24,000 per year. This has not include grocery shopping and delivery cost.
Domestic cleaning of 4 hours, twice a week, is about $6,200 a year. This has not include annual spring cleaning for festive season.
Child care cost is about $8,200 per year. And this quotation is only for day time caring. A homemaker often needs to care for the children even in the evening, and sometimes through the whole night.
If we just take these three basic services (cooking, domestic cleaning, and child care), a homemaker should be paid about $38,400 a year, which is $3,200 a month. This is a minimal estimation. Without CPF, annual leave, insurance coverage and medical benefit.
I haven't take into account that some homemakers are also tutor to their children for school work. Some even play the role of a chauffeur. Sometimes homemakers are also the holiday planner, wealth consultant, career adviser, and counselor for the family. If yours is a Christian home, then you are also the spiritual director to your child. So, a fairer wage should be more than $3,200 per month.
I think many housewives and house-husbands among us do not receive that much allowance. So, I wonder what can the government and society do to compensate our 'Director of Operations' fairly?
On the part of the church, what can we do to affirm and celebrate their role, place, and gifting in the community?
I think one way is to learn to see homemakers as called to serve in this capacity as their vocation. It is their calling; honourable and no less God-given. As the great reformer Martin Luther wrote,
"The idea that the service to God should have only to do with a church altar, singing, reading, sacrifice, and the like is without doubt but the worst trick of the devil. How could the devil have led us more effectively astray than by the narrow conception that service to God takes place only in church and by works done therein… The whole world could abound with services to the Lord---not only in churches but also in the home, kitchen, workshop, field."
(Quoted in R. Paul Stevens, The Other Six Days: Vocation, Work, and Ministry in Biblical Perspective [USA: Wm. B. Eerdmans, 1999], 77.
Like all legitimate vocations, homemaking is not merely taking care of the house and children. Theologically, homemaking provides the possibilities for God's spirit to recreate the world, to install glimpses of the new creation in the present time. In the words of Miroslav Volf,
"The point is not simply to interpret work religiously as cooperation with God and thereby glorify it ideologically, but to transform work into a charismatic cooperation with God on the "project" of the new creation."
(Quoted in Jeffrey Scholes, Vocation and the Politics of Word: Popular Theology in a Consumer Culture [UK: Lexington Books, 2013], 44.)
Family, spirituality, new creation, and God converge in the role of homemaking. It is a high-calling to be a stay-at-home mom or dad.