In our Economics class, while discussing the differences between various kinds of labour in terms of their economic value, our teacher often used to highlight the fact that a mother’s labour in a family is unpaid. However, this is justified in society by replacing the word ‘unpaid’ with ‘priceless’. The term ‘priceless’ is usually applied to things which are so rare and valuable that they cannot be defined in economic terms. However, in case of a mother’s labour, the term does not seem to suggest its rarity but excludes it from economic consideration through the glorification of motherhood.
A critical look back at history seems to prove that physical force is not enough in order to gain complete control over a country or a particular race. The act of gradually seeding the ideological beliefs of the dominant group in the subjects’ minds through institutions like family, school, religion, culture etc is more fruitful than forcing the subjects to conform to the rules of the dominant group.
This process of compelling the subjects to internalize the beliefs and rules of the hegemonic group becomes quite evident in patriarchy. Since their childhood, girls are preached certain values and qualities, like caring, nurturing, being passive and obedient and so on, which are to be exercised in the future in order to maintain the status quo in patriarchy. The idea of ‘motherhood’ is always heightened in order to compel women to carry the burden of huge responsibilities, through creating the illusion of glory. This results in the fulfilment of patriarchy’s aim of confining women within the family and denying them their individual traits.
Patriarchy uses complex and sly tactics to exclude our mothers’ labour from being evaluated in economic terms. It is through creating the image of an affectionate, homely, submissive goddess, who is always ready to compromise with her dreams and sacrifice for the sake of her family, that patriarchy successfully establishes a mother’s labour in a family as ‘a priori’ and ‘unquestionable’.
It is assumed by and large that a woman will happily carry the burden of domestic labour without any complain, and will be satisfied with the occasional glorification of her contribution. Hiding the troubles and pain of the mothers in families with the veil of a glorifying narrative has been a major tool of patriarchy for ages. It is through this narrative that the question of valuing our mothers’ labour in economic terms is never raised.
Even in the 21st century, most women, who are no longer confined within the private sphere but can independently dwell in the public sphere too, are found to be so deluded with this idea of ‘greatness’ of motherhood, that they completely fail to see through patriarchy’s policy behind it and to unravel the hypocrisy of the entire system. Thus they become ready to be part of this glorified narrative by overlooking their miseries and compromising with their dreams.
Patriarchy’s act of strengthening its stranglehold upon modern women became evident to me a few days back when I was watching the Miss World 2017 competition. In the final round of the competition, the jury asked Manushi Chhillar, the representative of India, “Which profession according to you should be given the highest salary?”, to which she replied “A mother’s profession”. After listening to this answer, I was overwhelmed. However, my happiness turned into frustration very soon. Miss India Manushi Chillar brought a twist to her answer by adding that “by highest salary, I do not mean money, but the highest respect.” This very intelligent and diplomatic answer won Manushi the crown of Miss World 2017 and reassured us of the ‘pricelessness’ of our mothers’ ‘unpaid’ labour.