The Worth of a Stay-at-Home Mother
I’m going to say it: I get agitated when people post those infographics or studies that breakdown the job of stay-at-home mother and assign it a salary. According to the latest figures, Salary.com places the average stay-at-home mother at $113,568. They even allow you to calculate your own personal salary, adding in how much time you spend being your own housekeeper, cook, and daycare center teacher.
You know, whether or not you’re responsible for another living human, you do the vast majority of the jobs on that list simply to keep yourself alive and not living in squalor. The fact that you do extra — such as grilling 4 chicken breasts instead of 1 — and your kids benefit too is beside the point. Beyond that, I find the concept of assigning an enormous salary to a parent to be offensive because if we look at it closely, the child becomes the employer in this scenario since I am doing these tasks for them, and therefore, they are my boss. And seriously, my kids are not my boss. And I can’t be fired. So… no.
Image: 401(K)2013 via Flickr
I looked at Salary.com’s list for creating my personal paycheck and broke down the tasks into three categories — do it anyway, do it only for the kids, or do it but definitely not like a professional who deserves to be paid.
Do It Anyway
- Housekeeper (I’m the one who doesn’t want to live in a messy house. Based on all the toys they leave in the living room, they could care less)
- Cook (Last time I checked, I needed to eat too)
- Facilities Manager (I don’t really think I do this job in addition to these other jobs. Right? It’s just as another description of these other tasks. Sorry, Salary.com, you can’t get double paid for the same work)
- Computer Operator (I have to get online too)
- Janitor (How is this different from housekeeper?)
- Laundry Machine Operator (Got to wash my own, so I might as well throw the twins’ clothes in as well)
- Bookkeeper (Seriously, balancing my checkbook does not make me a bookkeeper, but fine)
- Administrative Assistant (If I didn’t keep the calendar, I would miss out on my own appointments)
- Groundskeeper (If that’s what we’re calling mowing a tiny patch of grass, then sure, I’m a groundskeeper sometimes)
Do It Only For the Kids
- Daycare Center Teacher (I deserve buckets of money for my homework help. Seriously)
- Van Driver (Van driver sounds a bit perverted. I’m more like a sedan driver as I schlep them to their various activities)
Maybe Do It But Not Like a Professional
- Psychologist (Do I listen to their school woes? Yes. But it’s a slap in the face of psychologists to believe I can do their job just because I sat on a bed and listened to the longest tale ever of can-you-believe-she-said-that? while surrounded by stuffed animals)
- Chief Executive Officer (My understanding of CEOs is that they’re paid the big bucks because everything is riding on their head. They also have a board. I don’t need to manage a staff or board just because I’m one of the heads of this house. Why should I be paid like a CEO?)
- Staff Nurse (Should I really be paid a salary to slap on a Band-aid? I mean, isn’t that a little offensive to nurses who risk their health and go through years of schooling to do their job?)
- Event Planner (I hardly think calling the pool to set up a birthday party counts as the same thing as an event planner)
- Nutritionist (Giving an orange as a snack doesn’t make me a nutritionist. It makes me a human who doesn’t want scurvy)
- Logistics Analyst (Really? I deserve a salary for ordering a movie from Amazon?)
- Interior Designer (Putting the cushions back on the sofa after they’ve been co-opted for an American Girl Doll hospital doesn’t make me an interior designer)
- Plumber (Yes, I’ve unclogged a toilet. No, that doesn’t make me a plumber)
- General Maintenance Worker (Again, I’ve screwed in a light bulb. That doesn’t make me a maintenance worker)
So there are exactly two things I do on that list that I do solely for the kids and a few more that I may do, but not like an actual professional who holds those titles. And the rest were going to be done anyway whether or not I had kids. And no one calls it your job if you don’t have kids. They call it managing your personal life.
Listen, I am technically a SAHM (or really a WAHM, but who’s counting?) and I have a deep respect for the amount of work it takes to be at home with kids day-in-and-day-out. It takes a certain type of brain and a certain type of stamina to find it enjoyable. It’s the same type of brain and stamina that is drawn towards being a teacher, another job that not everyone would find a good fit. So, yes, I enjoy very much being a SAHM because it fits my personality.
And I hope to G-d that my kids appreciate how fucking good they have it with a parent who is always at the ready to sit with them for hours while they do their homework and bake homemade cookies and drive them to the ends of the earth (or, at the very least, the ends of the county). I’m certainly aware of how much I benefited growing up with a stay-at-home parent. (Thank you, mum!) And I was equally fine when that parent became a work-outside-the-home parent. (Thank you, mum!)
I’m not saying that stay-at-home mothers shouldn’t be appreciated BY THEIR KIDS (and given Hallmark cards in May as a show of gratitude. Come on, wouldn’t that be sweet, a whole holiday in May set up to honour mothers? Oh… wait…), and there are certainly special needs parents who do real hands-on nursing, homeschoolers who put in a six-hour school day at the kitchen table, and spirited kids who force their parents to spend more than a little time giving counsel. But when the vast majority of that work was going to be done anyway, I’m not sure we can quantify a SAHM’s salary. It’s just called… housework. And that exists whether you have children or not.
I would say that this was my two cents, but I’m underpaid, so I sort of need those pennies.