Over the past 30 years, we’ve seen a huge movement of women and mothers into the job market worldwide. Two wage-earners were always needed in American working-class families, but you’d expect our middle-class families to be more solid as a result of this new demographic shift. Instead we’ve seen an increase in bankruptcies; we’ve seen stagnant wages failing to keep up with rising costs. I hope you’re asking, why? (More on this later.)

In just about every economic category, women come up with the short end of the stick. Their reproductive and emotional work costs them in real time and expenses, as they rear the next generation’s workforce and maintain family and community connections foundational to a working economy. Yet this work continues to be unpaid at home or underpaid when out in the job market. The crucial work of childcare and homemaking and maintaining community doesn’t even register as “economic,” though clearly it is. We wouldn’t have an economy without it. It’s time to ask ourselves, what’s this economy for anyway?


This problem of invisible but essential work isn’t a “women’s issue.” It affects women and men and the families from which every human has benefited. We all need care at the beginning and end of our lives–and sometimes in between. This family care would be easier if the marketplace paid women fairly. The Institute for Women’s Policy Research reports that equal pay for the average woman would contribute $5710 to her household. Imagine. Over a 35-year working life, she would gain $210,000. Would this be a bad thing for your family? www.iwpr.org/pdf/payequityrelease.pdf

By now you’ve probably heard about The Washington Post story on a University of Florida study that appears to demonstrate male chauvinists with traditional ideas about women get paid $8500 more a year than you wussy men with fair-minded views. But not so fast! Bonnie Erbe Scripps, with Howard News Service, makes this observation (among others):

“Allow me, dear reader, to step back for a moment and agree that perhaps one of the study’s conclusions is correct: Egalitarian men face pay discrimination in the same way women, whether traditional or not, apparently face it. But perhaps that can be explained away because egalitarian men, like many of their egalitarian female counterparts, don’t want to put in 80-hour weeks. Perhaps they, too, want time to fully participate in the rearing of their children? Heaven forfend: Could that explain the pay gap these authors claim to have found?”  findarticles.com/p/articles/mi_qn4188/is_ai_n28117313

I once complained to my husband, when I couldn’t find a pair of matched sox for work, “I need a wife!” He was very sympathetic, answering, “I know! I need one too!” We’re living in a wifeless world. Are you?