Mothers at Work

When Zoe Lofgren filed papers to run for Congress last year, she listed her occupation as "mother." But California election officials told her to cross it out. Listing motherhood as an occupation is against state law, they said. "They're telling me motherhood is not a job," Lofgren said in disbelief. "As any mother will tell you," she added, "it is a job—24 hours a day." Lofgren is right, of course. But her experience illustrates just how confused Americans have become over the value of motherhood. Is motherhood in the nineties a real job—or just a lifestyle option for the privileged few? The dismissive attitude Zoe Lofgren encountered is a common one. Consider the annual Take Your Daughter to Work Day, sponsored by the Ms. Foundation. This year, the event is being held on April 27. By inventing a holiday that celebrates mothers who have outside careers—but not mothers who are homemakers—the Ms. Foundation is clearly promoting feminist values. The message is that real women are in the corporate world pursuing profit margins, not at home chasing preschoolers. In fact, on Take Your Daughter to Work Day last year, one Cincinnati school principal announced that homemakers could not participate. "Being a housewife is not an occupation," the principal said. Later, under pressure, she backed down. The problem is that, since the Industrial Revolution, work once performed in family industries is now performed outside the home by professionals—everything from food production to clothing manufacturing to care of the sick. An attitude has set in that anything not done professionally—anything not done for pay—has less value. But there are some things best done for love, not for gain. Child-rearing is one of the most obvious examples. Children need to know that their parents love them unconditionally. By sacrificing a second income so one parent can be home, parents boost their children's self-esteem much more than by taking them to work once a year. In the Wall Street Journal last year, Bill Mattox of the Family Research Council told the story of taking his then-eight-year-old daughter, Allison, to work. He introduced her to women who were lawyers, accountants, and policy analysts. On the way home, Mattox told Allison that her own mother used to do many of the same exciting tasks that she had witnessed that day. Then he said: "Allison, your mother could [still] be using her talents . . . in all sorts of jobs in the workplace. But she has chosen instead to use them at home teaching you. She must love you very, very much and think you are very, very important." Somehow I think that one conversation raised Allison's self-esteem in a way the Ms. Foundation never dreamed of. Parents sacrifice in many ways to affirm the value of raising children—and not working is one way many mothers sacrifice. This is the message we ought to be teaching our own daughters on Take Your Daughter to Work Day. When prominent folks like election officials and school principals deny that motherhood is a real job, you and I need to stand firm for the value of a loving home—where parents are committed to biblical principles for raising their children.


Chuck Colson


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