What Mom Is Worth: Dollars and Sense
(First written for the podcast Babies and Moms: Birth and Beyond 2007 available on iTunes)
Every mother has had a day where she throws up her hands and says, “It’s just not worth it!” Well, she probably isn’t talking about the monetary compensation plan, but today we actually are going to address just what a mom is worth in dollars and cents. And we ask the question: Does it make sense (CENTS) to be a mom? We believe the answer is “YES!” but you don’t have to take our word for it. Let’s talk about it.
There are many aspects of motherhood, and of course we could never cover all the ways in which a mom is valuable or figure out just how much a mother is really worth in a person’s life. But today we do want to focus on the financial worth of MOM. Perhaps there are working mothers who may not realize all the double duty they are doing, or how much they are paying to replace themselves. Or there might be at home moms who may not know just how much the work they do is worth! And maybe there are some dads and kids who need to know this information too so they can better understand and appreciate, or even help the overworked and underpaid mothers in their lives!
The idea for this segment first came to me as I looked around my dirty house one day. Since I have eight children under fourteen, including 5 boys (two of them twins!), and since my husband is still in school (after 16 years of marriage) and works full time, and we just got a puppy, there is an endless array of laundry, dishes and just dirt in general. I was tired that day, and even worse, I just didn’t care anymore. I used to love the smell of clean laundry, clean floors, clean beds. On that dismal day, I just sat there and stared blankly waiting for some force of nature to push me over.
Running away didn’t seem like the most mature option, although it did occur to me. Instead, I did something I had never done before. I called a cleaning service. Oh yes, they assured me on the phone. This is not a luxury; this is a necessity in today’s lifestyle. Oh yes, they can come today for an estimate, yes, yes, women should never feel guilty, they can’t believe I haven’t called sooner, they’ll be right over. The gal on the phone should have been a bartender. She was so soothing; I knew I had done the right thing. I floated through the rest of the morning, anxiously awaiting my liberation. We can afford this, I told myself. We only need them to come once a month I rationalized. Little did I realize just what it would cost in dollars and cents.
To summarize the rest of the experience, let me say this: they came, they saw, they billed. I couldn’t believe it! The estimate was very explicit. They only “deep clean” 2 rooms each time they come. They don’t do windows, they don’t wash walls, they don’t do closets or pantries or bedrooms. What DO they do I was wondering, but not for too long, because then they handed me the estimate: it was a little more than 400 dollars. That was for just the downstairs! Which they estimated would take three girls about 2-3 hours. Well, I decided against using their services, but it was not a wasted experience because I learned something very important. My work as a “housewife” is very valuable! Suddenly I had a second wind about doing all my mundane chores. As I analyzed each piece of my house the way that the cleaning service did, I could see just how difficult, time consuming and expensive my housework really is! That got me thinking about all the other jobs moms do on a regular basis. We are doctors, chauffeurs, cooks, maids, laundry service, child care, tutors, decorators, psychologists, music teachers, soccer coaches, not to mention companions for husbands, PTA presidents, etc., etc. Each mom’s list is a mile long. In fact, RedBookMag.com March 2007 claims that a mom today is worth “$ 761,650.00/year . . . if they were paid for all the work they do.” There is no time off, no holidays or sick days. There is no pay, no over-time pay, no bonuses, not even gift baskets! (Unless you count the ones made out of Popsicle sticks that you get from your 1st grader!). “Good thing motherhood is its own reward!” touts Redbook.
So we just want to take a minute and say to moms everywhere, “Good Job! Well done! You’re priceless!” Just take some time to realize all you do and just what you contribute to your family and neighborhood. Not just emotionally, but very realistically, financially!
Now, for those that do work for a pay check, realize that you have double duty. Chances are you do most of what other moms do, plus your outside job. And realize that you may be paying someone else to replace you. Does that make sense? All moms everywhere should analyze what they are paying for childcare, housekeeping, wardrobe, commuting, eating out, etc. and decide if it is all really worth it. Perhaps your pay check is not as valuable as you think. If you are working mostly for the money and wishing you could be home instead, maybe this is your chance. Now that you know just what it is costing, think about your options.
When we had three children under three, my husband had just landed his first real job. We excitedly bought a house. Well, the mortgage was a bigger chunk than we realized it would be each month. Slowly over the first year we were going into debt. We had to make a choice. Should I go to work? I pondered the question a long time. In the end, I decided that childhood is too short and that I wanted to be home with my children fulltime. So, we came up with a creative plan. We moved into a one-bedroom apartment. The children shared the bedroom with a bunk bed and crib. My husband and I slept on a fold out couch bed in the “living room.” Meanwhile, we rented out our house to cover the mortgage, which consequently reduced our monthly housing costs by about 75%. The children were young and they didn’t mind a smaller place. I spent the days with friends, at the park, etc. to keep them busy. After a year of this, we were out of debt and were able to purchase a video camera and a piano! Two items we desperately wanted. Our house appreciated that year and then we were able to sell it and buy our next house with that money. The whole thing was an adventure, perhaps not right for everyone, but I was able to stay home with the children, make lots of new friends, get out of debt, buy stuff we wanted and make money for our next down payment – all in one year because we did some creative thinking instead of just automatically putting mom right into the job market.
I had a friend when we lived in Philadelphia. She was from Austria and worked as an Au Pair for our neighbors. As the children played, we would talk and one day she asked me how much I got paid to stay home with my kids (four at the time). What? I had never heard of such a thing! She explained that in Austria women are paid to stay home with their children! I recently heard that Russia is thinking about adopting that model also (That sounds great, let’s move there!).
In conclusion, we hope this week that we were able to brighten your day a little. Does it make sense to be a mom? You better believe it! As a mom, whether you work outside the home or not, we KNOW you work INSIDE your home and girl! Your work is priceless! You deserve a pat on the back and you also deserve a fat paycheck! But instead you will probably get some peanut butter kisses and some, “love ya mom”s, and that too is worth a million.