Instead, as we dedicate an entire edition of our publication to the women in our community who power our businesses and our homes, I want to share the stories of two women in my life to whom no man can measure.
When I met my wife, Meghan, for the first time, we sat over a restaurant table with our eyes wide and the world before us. I worked in media, she in law, and we both had a blank canvas for the rest of our lives.
Almost two years later, when we said our vows, one of my best friends pulled me aside at our wedding and, in Alabama football parlance, bluntly told me that I “outkicked my coverage.” To the layman, I married a woman I did not deserve.
I had no idea how right he was.
You see, I knew I was marrying a beautiful, caring, devout woman. I also knew I was marrying a woman who had a budding legal career at, arguably, Houston’s best law firm. But back then, we were just two single people joining up to ride life. Our focus was on each other and our careers.
Then came our first son. The second arrived three years later, and in those fleeting moments of parenthood, I have come to understand the greatest difference in gender.
It goes something like this: A man finishes a hard day’s work. He is exhausted, he is grouchy, he wants a longneck and a comfortable couch. He loves on his children, helps feed them dinner and maybe reads them a book before bed. But in the back of his mind, all he really wants is an hour to himself.
A woman finishes a hard day’s work – and my wife probably works twice as many hours a week as I do – and she walks in the door with the grace of a queen and a shimmer in her eyes. She has spent the entire day waiting to come home to feed her children, wanting to put them in the bath, wanting to clip their fingernails, anticipating tucking them into bed.
The last thing a mother wants is to come home and retreat to a sofa, and that is an energy and a love and an ethic most men cannot comprehend. It is a sixth gear men do not have, and it’s not something the women in our lives learned in some home economics class. This is inherent to them. At least it is in my wife.
When I married Meghan on the edges of the Hill Country, I knew I “outkicked my coverage.” I just didn’t know I married someone who would work harder, parent harder and love harder than I imagined possible. She is a species all her own, as I imagine most women are.
I had the pleasure of knowing my wife as a single woman without a child-induced wrinkle on her face. As for my mother, Eleanor, I never knew her as anything other than Mom.
My mother raised five children and she did it without the aid of today’s greatest parenting tools. Imagine this: She never missed one carpool, one baseball practice, one recital or one teacher conference, and she did it all without the aid of some device in her pocket that sent her notifications.
I know that sounds trivial, but multiply my hectic weekly schedule by five, and we’re talking about 100-hour work weeks. My siblings and I had doctors’ appointments, haircuts, summer jobs and winter sports.
There is no job – not a doctor, lawyer, accountant or newspaper publisher – as rewarding as rearing children full time. I also know, now for a fact, there is no job in this world as difficult as spending every waking hour making sure your children are fed, clothed and behaved. There are no lunch breaks on this job. You don’t get three weeks of paid vacation from your children.
In this age of equal pay discussions, I thought it would be interesting to see how much it would cost to pay a mother of five children, assuming we paid $8/hour per child (try hiring someone to take care of one child, full time, for $8/hour).
Using that barometer, my mother should have been paid $40 an hour. For the first 40 hours of the week, that’s a base salary of $1,600. Add in another 40 hours of overtime at time-and-a-half – conservative, by my guess – and she earns another $2,400 per week. She’s on a base of $4,000 per week, or $208,000 per year. She drives an average of 60 miles a day carpooling, and the federal mileage rate is $0.535/mile, so we pay her $32.10/day in mileage or $11,716 a year. And we need to cover at least half of her benefits, so chalk up another $1,000/month. And then we’ve got to pay tax on that employee, including unemployment, and we’ll add another $500/month.
By my calculations, my mother was worth about $238,000 a year in salary, and that isn’t close to what she deserves for raising her wonderful children.
And you know what’s best about people like my Mom? If you paid her a penny of that, she’d turn around and spend it on her children.
I have been blessed beyond riches for the two wonderful women in my life. I bet most of you have, too.