The Non-Paid Working Mom

by Mary Waite Garvey '93

Mary Waite Garvey

I’ve come to really like the term “partner” when speaking of a spouse because it symbolizes what family and work/life balance is about for me (although “lover” is currently running a quick second). In a healthy relationship, each member of a family has a role to play and skills to contribute to the betterment of the whole and no one is left wanting, angry, or unfulfilled. That’s where I am in all working or stay at home mommy stuff; I’ve decided that I’m a non-paid working mother.

Managing a home and all that entails is full-time enough, but I also sit on the parent association executive board, serve as a trustee for the elementary school, manage a capital campaign grant program, fundraise for Children’s Hospital Los Angeles, and have been known to lobby Congress/the White House and local governments for changes in how law enforcement counts and solves sexual assault crimes, not to mention campaigning for the exposure of various human rights abuses around the globe. I do it for free, because I feel an obligation to give back using the education I received and the talents I was blessed with. I also do it because I’m fortunate enough to have a financial situation that gives me leeway and choice.

I realize this is not a mainstream lifestyle and many working mothers are wondering where the next meal is coming from, and how to make paper dolls with a bunch of first graders and, saving the world is even down lower on the list. But I do have that opportunity; I can provide services to organizations that really need my skills but don’t want to hire someone because of the costs associated with that. Do I sometimes feel undervalued and judged? Never and often.

People, more specifically, women, regularly assume many things about my lifestyle, interest, and intelligence because I don’t draw a salary. They can’t fathom why I wouldn’t want to get paid for my work or think of me as somehow short changing myself or endangering my future economically. I’m over it and am focusing on my family and how we function as a unit. I hope that in the 21st century, women will stop judging women and revel in the reality that we do indeed have many choices. There are obstacles, affordable professional childcare being one, to overcome to help achieve true parity in the workplace, but I believe the home is a refuge where all voices are honored and each partner is supported in living the life he/she desires.

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On November 5, 2009, one of the main volunteer efforts that Garvey and other women have undertaken began to get positive results; Bipartisan legislation was introduced in the U.S. Senate that is considered a significant step toward eliminating the backlog of evidence in rape cases. Justice for Survivors of Sexual Assault Act of 2009 would require the federal government to collect data on untested sets of evidence, known as rape kits, in police and crime lab storage facilities and prioritize testing this evidence in federal DNA funding programs.