This is sort of disturbing

Chanel

So, Polly Phillips, a 32-year-old stay-at-home mother who recently wrote unabashedly about lusting after a pair of $750 shoes for months (she clearly has way too much free time), and I have something in common. We agree that there is great value in caregiving and household work.

Phillips wrote in the New York Post: “To me, there can be nothing more feminist than believing that staying home to take care of our daughter — as well as the day-to-day washing, ironing, cooking and cleaning — is just as worthy of a wage as going out to a job outside the home.”

That’s a sentiment that I can get behind. But other aspects of this woman’s outlook and habits just seem, frankly, distasteful. For example, she describes leaving her child with family members during a “week-long splurge” on Chanel and other luxury labels. I mean, I’m all for some occasional retail therapy, but why spend a full week shopping? After the first few hours, or even days, doesn’t it get boring? Does a bit of self-loathing start to creep in after, I don’t know, day four? It’s not like this is a woman who only whips out her wallet during that one week per year.

All this to say, it just feels a bit odd to agree with Phillips about anything, especially something as important as the economic value of “woman’s work.”

Go figure.

–Ruth

p.s. The shoes in the picture are $750 flats from Chanel. That’s some pricey mediocrity.

For those interested in all things about women in the U.S. workforce…

…here’s a link to the U.S. Department of Labor’s Women’s Bureau, which describes itself as “The only federal agency devoted exclusively to the concerns of women in the labor force.”

The site leads with a reminder that the U.S. is the sole developed nation that doesn’t mandate some paid maternity leave. Indeed, the U.S. is the only country within the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development, a 34-nation group that includes some of the world’s largest economies, that provides zero weeks of paid maternity leave (check out the table below). Meanwhile The International Labour Organization, a U.N. agency that sets “decent” work standards, says maternity benefits should be at least 14 weeks.

OECDLeave052715

–Ruth

Fairly valuing woman’s work is about more than cash

Alia’s post highlights how hard it is for employed women to find a happy mix of hours spent working versus caregiving. The issue stems, in part, from feeling that others don’t fairly value the time that working women spend on kids and household chores.

Bean counters can estimate the dollar value of household work. A couple could, say, use the U.S. Labor Department’s list of occupational wages to calculate that the five minutes a wife spends wiping down the table after dinner is worth about 90 cents. But that estimate doesn’t include all of the benefits that her family picks up with each swipe of the dishtowel. Children watching their mother clean after dinner learn to value a hygienic home and to take responsibility for caring for their property and the health of loved ones.

Here’s another issue: For women who like their jobs, paid employment is typically more interesting than doing another load of dishes. So even when a woman makes less than her partner, she may still feel like she’s giving up a lot — pay and psychological benefits — by taking on the lion’s share of housework.

While looking for data about household work, I came across an interesting table from the Labor Department’s annual estimate of how Americans use their time. Among employed adults with kids under 6, men work about 1.7 hours more than women per day. Employed women spend those 1.7 hours caring for kids, cooking and cleaning, among other activities.

ATUSExcelChart

Of note, even while an employed woman is at the office, she frequently acts as the default parent and homemaker, dealing with school nurses calling to get a sniffling kid picked up and arranging for the plumber to fix a burst pipe, all while responding to requests from her boss.

In homes where there’s a substantial pay difference between employed adults, an uneven split for household chores may be satisfactory. But even in these families, the division of labor may be too stratified, with working women’s household chores significantly undervalued.

Increasing men’s appreciation for the full economic worth of caregiving could help families move closer to a system that feels fair to each adult. When more men carve out more time to spend with their kids and at home, a greater share of the country will have a stake in properly valuing “woman’s work.”

–Ruth