The other day, while I was waiting in line at the doctor's office, I happened to overhear the conversation of two young moms who were sitting right next to me. It caught my attention, not because how unusual it was, but on the contrary, because it's so very typical.
"I pay so much for daycare," - one of them said, - "that between daycare and gas, my entire paycheck is gone. In addition, I spend the whole day outside the home, come home tired, don't have time to do anything, and hardly see my children."
The second mom expressed her sympathy, said she's in the same boat, and added that, "while I'm not actually earning anything now, there's a pretty good perspective to start earning more in a couple of years - then I'll see more of that paycheck."
Note that not a single word was said about joy and/or inspiration the two young women were getting out of their work. None of them said anything along the lines of "it might be not very profitable, but I find my work so interesting - it makes my life meaningful". Both of them admitted that they are, as a matter of fact, working for free.
Now, I can think of many good reasons to work without pay, besides the obvious duties we all have at home. For example, volunteering in a crisis pregnancy center. Or creatively decorating one's place of worship. Or making and giving out handmade gifts just to make someone else happy. Or walking the dog for an elderly neighbour who broke her leg. But to dedicate the best hours of every single day to work I don't find particularly meaningful or interesting, without any pay, just for the fickle prospect of earning more in a few years? Doesn't sound very appealing, in my humble opinion.
I know many of you ladies will say that no matter what, no amount of money can compensate for time - precious time of children's lives, which their mother longs to be a part of, and from which she is unjustly separated by irrational social expectations. But as we so often see, it might not even be about the money - not really. Numbers don't lie - it's pretty easy to deduce the cost of work-related expenses from one's paycheck, and see what we are really earning. We are just so conditioned to think that we must spend most of our day working outside the home, that we rationalize even when it's obvious we don't derive any profit from it.
Of course, many young professionals have to settle for low pay for their first couple of years in the field, or else they won't find a job at all. But to actually work without receiving any pay? There's no guarantee things will change for those young moms in a couple of years, either. The current economical crisis might make any pay rises look far-fetched. Or they might have another baby, which will increase daycare costs. Note that I'm not talking about women who plan to have one or two children and "be done with it". I'm talking about religious Jewish mothers, who love their children, and in most cases will want to have many of them - which means childcare costs will be there for a substantial stretch of time.
The logical solution, in my opinion, would be to stay home and care for one's own children, with joy and peace in one's heart, instead of making someone else rich by handing out our paycheck every single month. But there are, of course, other considerations, such as - what if I want to work later when my children are older, and can't find a job? What will others think of me? Will I be seen as lazy and useless? More than money, this is about social trends and expectations only we - each one of us - can change by the choices we make.