How much is a homemaker worth? Financial service company Investopedia recently added up what it would cost to hire someone to do cooking, cleaning, child care, driving, laundry, and lawn service equivalent to a full-time homemaker. The equivalent compensation would total $96,261.
Studies like this one are perennial, as Greg Forster notes, and have been around since at least the 1950s. But while the intentions are well-meaning, such studies have a tendency to reinforce materialistic assumptions about the nature of human relationships in both the family and the economy:
Since God originally designed human beings to spend most of their time in productive work because he wants us to bless each other, understanding the social conditions of productive work is critical for the church.
The study invites us to think of domestic work as something that could be reduced to a series of merely contractual services. The biggest trouble comes in when they define parenting as “child care” and measure its economic value by looking at what a babysitter would charge. Parenting isn’t babysitting. It is the unique and exhilarating adventure of nurturing an infinitely precious, infinitely complex, infinitely frustrating (I have a rambunctious 6-year-old) image-bearing human being from infancy to maturity.
You can’t measure the value of that by asking how much babysitters charge. This is why, for example, child support payments are no substitute for a father.
You can’t even measure its economic value that way. The ultimate precondition of all economic value is someone’s productive work, and parenting does more than anything to make us into productive workers. Our parents predominate in the formation of our virtues, knowledge, habits, and socialization. Just think for a moment about the future economic productivity of a well-raised child versus a neglected child. Parenting affects not only the child’s earnings but also the productivity of the entire economy and hence the survival and flourishing of our society.