We hear a lot of differing opinions in the doula industry about what and if doulas should charge for their services. There are a wide range of certifications out there, and they all seem to teach their doulas something different when it comes to charging for births. You can find anything from volunteer births being the only acceptable option, to invoicing people by the hour if they go over 12-24 hours of labour. I believe in charging what we’re worth, and making sure that we have a sustainable income as women and/or gender expansive folks in business. Here are a few important reasons why Maternal Support Practitioners should be thriving off the income they make from their birth and parenting businesses.
1. The Importance of Reliability in Doula Services
When something is your income, and what you need in order to survive and pay your bills, you don’t really mess around with the chance of losing that income. Our clients know that they are paying a premium because our doulas take their work seriously and couldn’t imagine risking their monthly income by not attending a birth. I have heard time and time again that their volunteer or extremely reduced price doula didn’t end up showing up to their birth.
Clients look at our services, see our professionalism and know they can trust that we will show up, and often times go above and beyond for them. When you aren’t making enough to even cover your expenses to attend births, you run into a brick wall. We call that brick wall “burnout”. Which brings me to my next point…
2. Sustaining a Fulfilling Career in the Doula Profession
Too often, birth workers leave their work to pursue something that is less taxing on their physical and mental health. We see this a lot in other professions, even when there are pensions and benefits included. With doula work, I have found that had I not been able to charge a sustainable income, one that would allow me to provide for my family and cover the costs of things such as childcare (to even be able to attend births in the first place) I probably would have burnt out long, long ago. I love the work I do with all my heart and soul, but that doesn’t mean I don’t value myself enough to charge enough so that I can live comfortably on my income.
3. Impact of Recognizing Doula Work as a Legitimate Career
When you have something that becomes a legitimate option as a career, it increases the interest, and brings it to everyone’s attention. The more doulas there are, that are charging their worth, the more people will start to consider doula support. We see no problem in paying massage therapists for their work, or chiropractors, or dentists, etc. The more people have received knowledge of the benefits of all those different industries, the more people have reached out for the services, and the more RMTs, Chiros, and Dentists have come out of school. I was SO excited to hear that Fanshawe College started offering “Doula Studies” as a course at their school. It means we’ve made some pretty great waves for our industry, but it also means we need to really consider the effects that “volunteer only” doulas have on the career side of things for people that are considering doula work as a career, rather than something they do on the side.
4. We can offer subsidized care for birthing people and families that are truly in need
We let our client know that a portion of the fees we charge go into a subsidy fund that we use for families who truly cannot afford the cost of doula support for their families. This means that our doulas still get paid to attend the births, but the families get their services either at a reduced rate or free. This is a huge win for both parties. Our doulas are able to feel valued and provide for themselves/their families, and we can reach people who would have never thought they could afford a doula. We would never be able to offer this if we weren’t charging for our services.
5. The Value of Passion-Driven Professions
I think there is a huge divide when it comes to people who do something they love as their job. People think that if you love what you do, it must not be “work” and therefore you should simply do the work out of the kindness of your heart and for your own enjoyment. I think that kind of thinking comes from a place of extreme privilege (not sure if this is the word you want to use…I know what you are trying to say…but I’m not sure you need to include it).
The idea that because we are providing a necessary service and that ALL birthing people should have access to a doula so we shouldn’t be charging or getting paid for our work doesn’t make sense.… Why don’t we think that way about heart surgeons who perform live saving operations and are paid for what their hands and minds are capable of? They are worth their weight in gold, and so are doulas!
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