In the shadow of Mother's Day, I have been thinking about my mother (pictured here, with me as a child) and asking myself, "What do mothers really want?" Chocolate, flowers, jewelry, homemade pancakes, cards adorned with glitter and macaroni—all sweet ways to honor the woman who took care of you and made you the person you are today. But is that enough?
Women assume about twice the amount of housework that men do. And, regardless of their employment status, women are the default caregivers of children. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, on weekdays women spend an average of 1.2 hours bathing and feeding young kids while men spend about 25 minutes doing the same. This is in addition to the 2.6 hours (that may or may not come on top of work completed outside of the home) women spend cooking, cleaning and doing other household chores. Women's work done within the home is largely unpaid and, unfortunately, under-recognized. Hours spent coaxing vegetables into reluctant mouths, healing boo-boos and checking for dragons underneath beds and in closets aren't logged on time sheets or tallied in our gross domestic product, or GDP—the value of all the goods and services created within a country.
GDP is one of the main economic indicators used to assess the health of our economy, but it is grossly incomplete. It accounts for housework and childcare only when we pay for it—much in the way GDP ignores the value of natural resources until we turn them into commodities, or have to pay to clean them up like the Deepwater Horizon Disaster off the coast of Louisiana. GDP goes up when we get sick and have to pay money to a doctor, but it doesn't budge when we are well. And GDP doesn't distinguish between the money we spend to put someone in jail versus the money we spend to put someone through college.
It's hard to gauge how well we're doing when we don't count what really counts, and it's hard to honor the value mothers (including Mother Earth) bring to us when we give them kudos only once a year. Considering all that moms do, I think the best way to honor their work is to give them a break.
What all mothers—including Mother Earth—want is rest.