A couple of weeks ago I picked up a book called The Price of Motherhood by Ann Crittenden. It was on a clearance table in the bookstore for a ridiculous price and the title was so provocative that I simply couldn't not buy it. In odd moments since the purchase I have thought - what is the price of motherhood and how would one compute it? What is the value of nine months of pregnancy? or the price of loss of sleep? How about the hours of agony during childbirth and the inevitable hours of anguish during adolescence or illness? Can a price be put on the frustration of dealing with a willful, irritable and irrational toddler (or 15 year-year-old)? Or for what price would you give up your youthful figure?
There are of course bits of parenting that are quite simple to put a price tag on. Those are the ones that can be and often are "hired out" so to speak. The chauffeuring, the cooking, the laundry, the tutoring - the things that others can do in lieu of ourselves, that may or may not make a difference in the final product. Those things are easy to calculate. Have the other things lost much of their value because we don't have any way to quantify them?
If one is going to assign a price to motherhood though, how about totting up both sides of the balance sheet? What would you pay for a baby's first belly laugh? or that moment of exquisite joy when a new life is delivered into this world? Could there be any way to value a child's sense of wonder? the precious gift of their trust and love? What price watching any single moment of growth let alone the entire journey to adulthood and independence? What valuable could be traded for the sublime treasure of the nurture of another human being?
As I contemplate what I see as the balance sheet I cannot help but feel that motherhood may be undervalued in the market place and in our society because it does not generate an immediate return in terms of ability to purchase or consume goods. Perhaps though there is no monetary value precisely because there is so much of the role that cannot be bought or hired, that no power on earth can buy or pay for. I know that there is not even one single moment of my motherhood that I would exchange, change or give away - not even the painful ones. It is in each moment that I have paid for what I value above all else and what nobody can take away from me for it is exclusively mine - the love I have for each unique child and the love I know they return to me, along with the knowledge of their lives and selves.
To be fair and honest I haven't yet read the book - at least not more than a cursory skimming - and I don't know what Ann Crittenden has to say. I suspect she places a lot more value on the role than perhaps she once did as the title of another book she has written is If You've Raised Kids you Can Manage Anything. This post is not a book review or in any way a rebuttal, just a few of my thoughts as I have considered the joy and honour of motherhood, and thought about Mother's Day. I do enjoy the attention of my husband and kids as they express the love they feel for me every Mother's Day. David has created a strong tradition of honouring me and yes, I love it. But secretly? you should know that every day is mother's day for me. I am so blessed.
Happy Mother's Day to every woman who has nurtured or hopes to nurture a child - their own or another's. Motherhood is a sisterhood. Celebrate! And the price of motherhood? Well, of course it is priceless ... as opposed to without value. Really, we all know that.