Family Volunteer


Stay-At-Home Moms Deserve High Pay, Analysis Shows

My hat is so off to stay-at-home moms. Sometimes its easier to go back to work - other than the guilt factor, which pulls you the other way.

- Cindy Crawford

"A raise or I'm outta here!"

by Jessica Wohl

New York - The old adage that "a mother's work is never done" remains as true now as ever.  Today's stay-at-home moms are learning what their predecessors always knew - they'd be making a lot of money doing their job outside the home.  Just in time for Mother's Day, an informal study conducted by website shows that stay-at-home moms would earn an average of $131,471 annually, including overtime, if they received a paycheque.

A sampling of the 5.4 million stay-at-home mothers were asked to come up with job titles that fit a general description of their daily routines.  The titles - which reflected the most time-consuming parts of their day - include day-care centre teacher, van driver, housekeeper, cook, nurse and general maintenance worker, the survey showed.

Of course, a stay-at-home parent does not work typical office hours.  The hypothetical median salary is based on a 100-hour work week and assumes caring for at least 2 children of school age.  "The importance of this calculation or this estimate is just calling attention to the fact that being a stay-at-home mom is not a cop out, it's not the woman's way out of the workforce and it's not a job of no value," said Bill Coleman, senior vice president of compensation at  "There is a lot of value there, and some would say it's even priceless." tracks what jobs pay - it suggested that the annual base pay for a 40-hour stay-at-home mom's workweek would be $43,461.  Mothers would earn an additional $88,009 a year for 60 hours of overtime each week.

"I think I should definitely make that much," said Joanna Butti, who stays at home to care for her twin boys.  "It's a hard job."

Coleman said feedback on the figure was mixed.  Some felt mothers deserved more, some less.  In general, though, many were pleased to see a figure above $100,000.  "Stay-at-home moms are enthusiastic and upbeat about their jobs, they didn't seem to need external validation," Coleman said.  "They were also happy that they were getting attention, and that somebody was out there telling the world that what they do is valuable, and perhaps more valuable than one would expect."

Mothers said you cannot attach a figure to the time spent with their kids.  "I'm giving 150% of myself to them many hours a day," said Debra Miley, who stays home with 2-year old daughter Olivia and 4-month old son Gregory.  "You cannot attach a dollar value to the time that you spend nurturing your child if you're lucky enough to be a stay-at-home mom."

Source: Monday 2 May 2005

If Miley redoubled her efforts, could she give 300% of herself?  Meanwhile - inflation strikes!

"Moms' Work Would Bring in $138,095 a Year"

A Rebuttal That Should Be Kind of Obvious

According to "research" conducted by (just in time for Mothers' Day!), mothers' work, if compensated, would bring in $138,095 a year.  (If this story sounds familiar, it's because releases a new figure each year, which is a great way of keeping their name in the news).

Before I get started on this, can we all agree that there's something not-right about this?  That this $138,095 figure is bound to provide some satisfaction to underappreciated mothers, but ... this all sounds a little wonky, right?

Good. Let's get started.

I think it would be reasonable to hypothesize that mothers who take a salary survey on on this topic may not be entirely representative of mothers as a whole.  They are likely the overachievers.  Perhaps some have applied their education and ambition to child-rearing in a way that adds to their workloads; at very least, they are mothers with internet access and have enough familiarity with paid workplace activities to be familiar with  But even disregarding that possible skew, let's continue.  From CNN:

The typical mother puts in a 92-hour work week, the company concluded, and works at least 10 jobs.  In order of hours spent on them per week, these are: housekeeper, day-care centre teacher, cook, computer operator, laundry machine operator, janitor, facilities manager, van driver, chief executive officer and psychologist.  By figuring out the median salaries for each position, and calculating the average number of hours worked at each, the firm came up with $138,095...

Mmn-hmmn.  Ten points:

  1. First off, we all have to conduct Normal Life Activities.  Those of us who do not have children still must wash our dishes and bandage our own cuts and scrapes.  The respective hourly wages of dishwashers and nurses are wholly irrelevant.  We are all uncompensated for the business of keeping life going.
  2. If you do parts of each of 10 jobs, you don't get paid proportional parts of the salary of each of the 10 jobs.  Shift managers at Starbucks perform part of the jobs of CEOs in that they manage people.  Great, you're still a shift manager!  If you're not qualified to do the whole job (of a CEO or a full-time "computer operator," for instance), then it's very unlikely that your salary will go up for being able to do part of the job.  A worker at Barnes & Noble operates computers, but is not doing the whole job of being a "computer operator"; he or she does not receive a proportionally-higher salary during the time that he or she operates computers.
  3. Let's talk about the CEO thing.  CEOs create wealth for shareholders.  They manage companies that have thousands or millions of employees, and head organisations with multiple levels of management.  Even if you have 10 kids and part of your job is to delegate to or co-manage with a spouse and possibly the hired help, your job is still more like that of a middle manager - you know, like someone on The Office who has 12 people's activities to orchestrate.  A middle manager might make $50,000 a year, as opposed to the millions made by a CEO.  Why do CEOs make that much money?  Because they work harder?  Of course not.  It's because shareholders are banking that attracting the best CEO talent will increase their own investment in the stock.  This - in any other than the most shady metaphorical sense - is wholly irrelevant to parenting.  (In fact, if millions of people were buying stock in your kids and you were then obligated by the Securities and Exchange Commission to act entirely in the interest of increasing the value of your stockholders' shares, you'd be a pretty shitty parent).  So again: middle manager.
  4. Middle managers (and psychologists) are generally salaried.  So you can't take the amount of the salary, divide it by 40 hours a week for 52 weeks a year, figure out an hourly wage, and then multiply it back times the 92 hours a week you are actually working.  The salary figure is fixed; it does not change based on hours worked.  If you have a salaried job and you are asked to work too many hours, you can try to be more efficient, you can ask a superior for some kind of adjustment or assistance - or you can quit.  Notice how irrelevant this seems to the profession of mothering?  (It's hard to leave for a better offer.)  This is wonky math.
  5. Since we've done "CEO," let's talk about "psychologist."  JUST BECAUSE YOU PERFORM DUTIES "LIKE" A PSYCHOLOGIST DOES NOT MAKE YOU A PSYCHOLOGIST.  A million dudes who call themselves "amateur gynecologists" don't deserve $100K+ a year for that, either.  Psychologists, I'm sure, are pleased that apparently their medical degrees and licenses are irrelevant.  I've sometimes offered advice to a friend in need, but I don't charge, and if I did, my counsel would be worth less than that of someone who, you know, passed the MCAT.
  6. Jobs are worth however much other people will actually pay you for them.  Obviously.  This is the first thing that probably made the report seem a little wonky at first.  (Notably, the whole point of rest of is not to advocate for what people "should" be paid for their jobs, but rather to aggregate data about what they are paid).  If the job of mothering is "worth" $138,095 a year, how come no one ever pays anyone that amount for it?  (If such a position were to be offered, it would probably only be available to exceptionally beautiful young women - the Melania Knauss-Trumps of the world - which would make it a different kind of job and skew our results.  But even then, a mail-order bride is cheaper and does not demand an annual salary.  See how this monetization business is getting a little insulting?  Never fear, Feminist Wrap-Ups follow!)
  7. People who prioritise making money make more money.  Shocker!  If the average salary for a receptionist is $40,000 a year, but you make $22,000 a year because you are a receptionist at an environmental nonprofit that you believe to be saving the world, then you're probably not shocked that you make less than the average.  You knew that when you signed up.  If making money were your top priority, you'd be a receptionist at Bear Sterns, or, better yet, not a receptionist.  If you choose a path that does not provide a traditional wage, or you follow - through intention or simply going along with things - one of the less lucrative paths available, it doesn't mean anything to say you "deserve" some other salary.
  8. Corollary to the above: If you accept a "job" working for your husband - who very likely makes less than $138,095 a year himself - of course you are not surprised that you make less than $138,095.
  9. Let's keep going with that.  It's unclear what meaning it could have to say that the wife of a man who makes, say, $60,000 a year is really doing a $138,095 job, even if no one on earth will pay her that to do it.  Hmmn.  Well, say we're talking about even a very appreciative husband here (the one who makes $60,000).  Obviously, he can't pay her more than he even makes - just as a "CEO" can't expect to be paid more money than a company has access to.  I can't go work as "CEO" for a company with less than $1M in revenue and expect to be paid more than $1M a year, even though that's small potatoes for CEOs - unless, of course, I can raise the small company's revenues by many millions of dollars per year, such that it becomes possible and worthwhile to compensate me in proportion to my having increased the value of the firm.  How does that apply to mothering?  It doesn't.  Because having children is not a profit-making enterprise.  To ask for CEO-type compensation for it would be to ask to be paid based on how much money you can make off the children.  (And if you are one of the few Dina Lohans who makes money off the children, you're already getting your $138,095.  Is that the model we're aiming towards?  I think not).
  10. Basic economics: jobs become worth less when more people are qualified to do them.  Take "being a patent attorney" versus "delivering Chinese food in New York, on a bicycle."  The second is hard, unpleasant, and extremely dangerous, and, as I understand it, often pays less than minimum wage.  This is because a great many people can do it, including illegal immigrants who speak near-zero English.  How many people are qualified to be patent attorneys?  In America, under 100,000.  How many people are qualified to be mothers?  Over a hundred million.  (You might argue that not all of them are good at it, which is certainly true, but only the very worst are ever removed from their positions by Social Services, so I think it's fair to count all of the mothers allowed to remain in their jobs).  When more people are able to perform a certain job, the wages for that job are driven lower.  Everyone who's every studied the Industrial Revolution, Taylorism, the AFL, or the Progressive Era should be familiar with this concept.

Okay, that was the 10 points.  Now, please keep in mind, I'm a feminist.  So where do we go from here?

Feminist Wrap-Up A:

Maybe instead of painting mothers as oppressed women forced into roles in which they are embarrassingly being exploited by their overlords (who pay them 0% of their earned wages!), we should think of them as women who've chosen to do things they think are more important than making money.  Perhaps women are adults who have the ability to make their own choices in a capitalist society.

Feminist Wrap-Up B:

Maybe putting out feel-good reports right before Mothers' Day telling mothers that they're performing a $138,095 a year job - when they know that no one will pay them that much money to do the job (and, like most Americans of both genders, no one will pay them that much to do any job) - is just a little patronizing.  Women are supposed to lap up blatant lying because we enjoy flattery oh-so-much?  Condescending in the extreme.

Feminist Wrap-Up C:

No one is performing this sort of calculus for, say, male activists who don't get paid for their labour.  What if a male global-warming activist works 92 hours a week, performing parts of the jobs of CEO, marketing director, van driver, computer operator, et cetera?  Does anyone feel the need to calculate some kind of pseudo-salary expressing the total dollar value of his unpaid, but very important, work?  Seems kind of meaningless.  I think we assume that the unpaid male global warming activist doesn't need emotional shoring-up, or pretty lies.  A double-standard here is patronizing and anti-feminist.



This post made it to, courtesy of Megan McArdle.  In the comments below the generous excerpt of my original post, one man comments that no one's proposing he receive overtime for the professions of painter, carpenter, electrician, plumber, et cetera.

p.s. Mom, I love you very much, but, of course, no one in our family has ever made $138,095 a year.  I mean, if we were a multimillion-dollar corporation (note: maybe we should've founded a chain of discount stores: Dziu-Mart), I'd vote you a big bonus and stuff.  But I think you're going to have to settle for having produced a daughter who writes blog posts like this one.  If only that were its own reward.  Happy Mothers' Day!

Source: 5 May 2007

A well-written blog - go there to read the comments and her other posts.

Source: USA Today Monday 25 June 2001; photo credit Robert Deutsch

Attachment Parenting

So what is attachment parenting?  It starts with nursing your babies carrying them close to your body in a sling or carrier.  (NO strollers! - strollers do not have a "gait" for a child to absorb.)  It continues with responding immediately to your child's cries and allowing for child-led weaning.  The family bed is a big part of attachment parenting.

The Five Tools of Attachment Parenting

  1. Connect with your baby early.
  2. Respond promptly to your baby's cues.
  3. Breastfeed your baby.
  4. Wear your baby.
  5. Share sleep with your baby.

The above is taken from The Baby Book : Everything You Need to Know About Your Baby from Birth to Age Two by William Sears, Martha Sears (Contributor) Paperback - January 1993.

I realise everyone will not agree with my position on childrearing.  I don't mean to be dogmatic, and I hope I've tried to present both sides of the issue of mothers working.  Certainly I feel each mother should (in an ideal world) be free to make her own choice on the matter without coercion.  But of course I have an opinion - we all do.  This is mine.

From my journal, 1991 (we were living in North Carolina):

As I write this late at night while propped up in bed, my youngest child is asleep, curled up against my leg.  My older son is a couple of feet beyond him, also asleep.  We sleep with our children - we have since their birth.  We have a "nest."  They go to bed the same time we do (unless Wolf falls asleep from exhaustion first, since he's always the first to arise every morning).

Neither of our children has ever been left with a baby sitter.  There are several reasons for this.  First of all, there was seldom, if ever, anyplace my husband and I ever wanted to go without them.  We take them everywhere - to the ballet, symphony, restaurants, museums, doctor and dentist appointments, on trips.  They learned from the first what behaviour was required of them.  One of us was always with them, so their environment was essentially continuous, seamless.  We especially tried never to frighten or hurt them.  As a result, they are both extremely self-confident.

Also, I never met anyone with whom I might leave them that I knew well enough or trusted enough.  I am appalled that virtually every parent leaves his or her children at multiple points in their lives with people about whom they know absolutely nothing.  (They spend more time choosing a neighbour to look after their dog while they go on vacation.)

From my journal in 1993 (we were on Lady Fair, tied up in Westhaven Marina in Auckland):

Jeff met a man who manufactures bassinets specifically designed to prevent cot death in children.  He's coming by the boat on Thursday to discuss the possibility of us being his sales representatives in some of the more remote islands.  Sounds like a great product?  (Apparently it's really popular with grandparents.)  So what's the dilemma?

Well, I feel the main cause of cot (or crib) death is mothers not sleeping with their babies.  Small babies evolved to synchronise their sleep with that of their mothers.  Babies didn't evolve to sleep alone (some sleep too deeply).  Do I want to assist selling something I think may be actively detrimental to the health of newborn babies?

Unfortunately, the choice isn't usually whether to sleep with Baby or put him in a well-ventilated bassinet right next to your bed (as the marketing literature for "Cradlesafe" suggests) - it's whether to put him on a pillow or beanbag (which might suffocate him) or to put him off in his room somewhere across the hall so his crying won't drive you crazy while you're teaching him to keep regular hours and be self-reliant (like parents do in most Western countries - and especially in the US).

In New Zealand, it is recommended to mothers that they NOT sleep with their babies due to the risk of suffocation.  Yes, I realise that such an event has happened - but it is quite rare and often involves a parent who has taken alcohol, drugs or medication or is an unusually deep sleeper or quite ill and who is therefore not responsive.  The benefits to the child are huge - especially for mothers who work - it gives her 6-8 more hours of skin contact with her baby - time for the baby to absorb her smell and touch.  (These things matter.)

Perhaps a Compromise?  A Baby-Friendly Crib


Designed by Manuela Busetti and Andrea Garuti


For articles related to working including why, which career, bosses, time constraints, focus, trends, gender issues, pay differentials, getting laid off, getting re-hired, dependents, part-time work and balancing work and values click the "Up" button below to take you to the Table of Contents for this section on Working.

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