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Wages for Housework

June 26, 1988

Prescod and Jones-Schellenberg are right in their statement that homemaking is work. Women have always known that and any man who has found himself having to fill that role as well as that of "breadwinner" has learned that. But I think their position that workfare ignores economic realities also overlooks an important reality. As a mother who was once a "full-time mother and homemaker" and later that plus being first a part-time, then a full-time worker outside the home, I learned the best benefit from adding outside employment was a monumental gain of self-confidence and self-esteem.

A better program than what we have now would:

1. Assist unemployed single parents in gaining self-esteem through training that would lead to employment beyond minimum wage.

2. Financially help during a transition period by paying the difference between earned income and the barely survivable Aid to Families with Dependent Children rates, as well as continue Medicare where necessary.

3. Encourage families to stay together, rather than the unemployed father "staying out of the home--or pretending to."

This is not to say that the Senate bill or the one from the House is perfect, but it is an effort in the right direction. As a social worker, I have seen young mothers who wanted to be more self-supporting who had to stay on assistance because they lacked work skills, day care, and/or knew that they would lose basic medical coverage while decreasing their income. This does not add to a person's self-esteem and the negative feelings are passed along to their children.

It is time that we make the changes in the law to begin to undo some of the negative results of a social-welfare program that was developed out of the best intentions, and give people opportunity to know their strengths and skills, and develop them, rather than getting "hung up" in the issue of the value of the work that women do in the home. Some people will always write that off as unimportant. That is their problem, we do not need to make it our problem.



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