By STEVE BREWER
Scripps Howard News Service
June 25, 2006
(They're cruise missiles! Get it? Huh? Here, America, let us hit you over the head with our collective wit.)
One of those strange hiccups of silence breached the Dolby SurroundSound just as an older lady behind us wearily said: "Right, and who's going to clean up that mess?"
Spoken like a veteran mom. One who's mopped up too many spills for one lifetime. One who's scolded so many sloppy teenagers, she's tired of the sound of her own voice. A frazzled woman just happy to sit still for a change in an air-conditioned theater on a hot summer afternoon.
She couldn't quite relax into the moment. Actions still have consequences. Somebody's still got to clean up every mess. And, like many of us, she's worn out by the real world. One telecast disaster after another, all the bombings and tsunamis and hurricanes. And you just know, her tone said, that our tax dollars will be wasted, rebuilding the causeway that Tom Cruise blew up.
Which brings us to the cost of things.
Did you see the recent calculations about how much a mother's work is worth? Salary.com added up the top 10 jobs that make a mom's job description (such as janitor, cook and psychologist), put value to them and came up with this: Stay-at-home moms are worth $134,121 a year. Working moms would earn $85,876 for the "mom job" portion of their work, in addition to their actual salaries.
(OK, whoa, that's enough. If you are a mother, you need to stop waving this article in the faces of your loved ones. Right now. Yes, you've been telling them, all these years, how hard you work, but they're not going to start listening now. Someone could get a paper cut.)
And that's just the work that can be calculated. No one can measure all the sleepless nights and harried days of the average mom. The level of everyday worry that could take a woman to a place where she experiences automatic thoughts about the cleanup costs of computer-generated special effects at the movies.
The article was pegged to Mother's Day, so it didn't say anything about working dads' housework contributions or work-at-home dads or stay-at-home dads. We'll assume we dads would make a lot less if our at-home contributions were calculated. Some men do absolutely nothing (and you know who you are), and blow the curve for the rest. Even those of us who do the lion's share of the housework don't put the same amount of time and care into it that your average mom does. We tend to compact all our efforts into those frantic few moments before our wives get home.
Still, we'd be worth something. We could prorate it to hours spent per week on household chores (minus time spent on burrito breaks, wandering off and scratching), and come up with a pretend salary for all of us, too.
The comparisons might be embarrassing for the men. Mom's worth $85,876, on top of what she's drawing down at the rendering plant? And Dad's annual housework contribution is only worth how much? Seventeen dollars?
No way we men could ever catch up to moms. In fact, isn't the mom in danger of pricing herself out of the imaginary market here? I mean, come on, $134,121? Who does she think she is, Halliburton?
One thing's for certain: At those prices, we can't afford to hire moms for the job of picking up after Tom Cruise. No matter how much they volunteer.
Contact him at ABQBrewer(at)aol.com
Distributed to subscribers for publication by Scripps Howard News Service.