What’s a Stay at Home Mom Worth?

by Darwin on May 7, 2013

There’s a recent study out stating that a mom is worth about $60,000 based on the type and amount of work she does if these services were rendered on the open market.  First of all, this study is quite flawed in my opinion and doesn’t reflect in any way any typical family since the standard deviation across households is absolutely enormous.  But it also begs the question as to what each spouse is worth in your household which I’ll get into a bit later.  But first, let’s consider trying to value what a mom is worth and why that’s kind of impossible to do in aggregate for Americans, and why the notion of doing so is a bit insulting and useless to begin with:

  • Moms and Dads are Interchangeable – I can only assume there was an agenda going into these studies to show how undervalued women are in society and by showing a typical mom is worth $60,000 (which is north of the median income in the US by the way), it dispels that notion.  While it’s a noble cause, it doesn’t mean it’s right.  First of all, isn’t listing out a bunch of domestic responsibilities that a 50s housewife had traditionally done and pricing them out a bit sexist in this day and age?  I have a co-worker whose wife travels constantly. Nonstop, I can’t even exaggerate.  She’s gone 5-6 days a week about 3 weeks a month. She’s barely ever home and rarely sees the kids.  So, he’s basically raising them during the week.  He does all the cooking, cleaning, driving them to sports, school, lessons, etc.  He’s fulfilling the role that the “mom” plays in the study.  Plus he works a full-time job of course.  So, she’s not fulfilling virtually any of “mom jobs” the study relies on. I have another situation with a dad realtor/mom teacher.  Same thing; he’s home a lot more so he does all the kid stuff including cooking, cleaning, etc.  Cop friend, same thing.  He works 5 days on 5 days off.  On his 5 days off, he has virtually nothing to do!  So he’s mom.  He deals with everything kid related, cooking, cleaning, etc.  I have another female neighbor who loves mowing the lawn.  My wife wouldn’t touch the tractor, but this woman is out there twice a week mowing meticulously.  That’s traditionally a male role, but who cares, she does it.  These are all anecdotes but I’m sure you think of many, which demonstrate that it’s basically useless and impossible to cost out what a woman is worth based on 1950s definitions.
  • What’s a “Dad” Worth?  Presumably, the same logic could apply to dads, but I haven’t seen that study. Funny how that works.  But let’s just think about all the things I do on the side, aside from my day job.  I just powerwashed our deck, mowed the lawn, did a bunch of crap for the pool opening, landscaping, took the boys fishing and drove/coached my kids all this past weekend alone.  I also paid the bills, disputed a healthcare expense, did a return on Amazon, set up an outing for Adventure Guides that I have to run and countless other things.  Last night, I ran my kid to piano lessons and I also spend time with him doing his assignments and practicing with him.  It would be absolutely silly and useless to cost these items out and claim that I’m really worth whatever it is, say, $50,000 above any beyond my ordinary salary.  Because I’m not!  No reasonable person would outsource 100% of their parental role.
  • This Study Looks at the Wrong Things – It doesn’t really matter what someone wants to claim a mom or a dad is worth based on outsourcing everything, because nobody really does that (not in the bottom 99.5%).  It’s called being a parent.  Parents do stuff with and for their kids.  Aside from this, of course, there’s no adjustment for cost of living (all these tasks cost twice as much in the Northeast and West Coast compared to Alabama or North Dakota), and the assumptions are just too generic to be representative of any routine family.  It’s just an average of wildly divergent assumptions.  An assessment families should really do is what is it worth for a second spouse to work versus stay home, if that’s something they’re unsure of.
  • What’s a Second Income Versus Staying at Home Worth?  This is a real question families should consider.  My co-worker I told you about – he was lamenting the fact that now their tax rate is over 50% when considering the Obamacare taxes, the higher marginal federal rate, state, local and payroll taxes.  Then on top of it, he’s gotta pay for daycare for one kid still, pay a sitter all the time when he can’t get home from work in time or has a night-time call for work and more.  If his hourly rate is say, $50 an hour, he’s working for like $20…marginally speaking.  And they can’t invest in a Roth IRA either at that level. If he were on his own, of course he’d have to work.  But could they live off just his wife’s salary and save all the money they shell out now and pay a much lower tax rate?  Sure!  They’d end up getting a child tax credit, more deductions, stop paying the Obamacare rate on income and investments and more.  When I did the analysis for my wife working while our kids would have required daycare, it was more like $10 an hour.  I’m sorry, but for someone with a Master’s Degree and the opportunity to stay at home and live a more reasonable, enjoyable lifestyle for 10 years, $10 an hour just wasn’t worth it.  Don’t get me wrong, I do look forward to getting her back in the workforce once the kids are all in school, especially since teachers get pretty good healthcare, livable income and my job is anything but secure the way my industry’s going.  But for now?  It’s just not worth her going back.

So, rather than trying to value what my wife’s “jobs” are actually worth, we looked at it from the top down instead and questioned whether it’s really worth her working on a teacher’s salary when we’d be shelling out so much on childcare, higher taxes, gas/depreciation on an extra car, and all the money teachers spend out of pocket to be a teacher (something parents rarely give them credit for).

What Are Your Thoughts on What a Mom Is Worth?

Is It Even Appropriate to Try and Define?

{ 9 comments… read them below or add one }

krantcents May 7, 2013 at 1:03 pm

What is a Mom worth? Priceless! My wife made the conscious decision to work part time when our children were small. She could work a couple evenings and a Saturday as a nurse and do pretty well. There were only 2 hours a week, one of us was not with our children. How do you put a price on that? You make decisions based on finances and sound logic. Sometimes there is a lot more than money motivating your decision.


Darwin May 8, 2013 at 10:39 pm

Nursing’s always been great when it comes to flexibility. Our friends that do it love to keep working flexible schedules.


Squirrelers May 7, 2013 at 9:33 pm

Moms are great, at least many of the ones I know. Especially my own. She was a true giver, and sacrificed much of her time to be the best Mom she could be.

From a strict financial viewpoint, what is a stay at home mom worth financially? Well, I suppose that valuation might come from divorce courts. Yeah, I know that doesn’t sound good, but if she claims half the assets of the marriage in divorce and gets alimony, perhaps she’s valued more than the working guy?

It’s an interesting question though. I think that parents in general have value, whether mother or father. Both are equally important in their own way.


Darwin May 8, 2013 at 10:38 pm

Both important in their own way; and impossible to value IMO


SB @ One Cent at a Time May 12, 2013 at 11:39 am

I can only say, a mom whether she’s stay at home or working, is always priceless and I can’t even think about measuring the worth


Pauline May 13, 2013 at 8:19 am

I did a similar calculation to check what my sister was really bringing in with her job to the household. After daycare, a second car, and the higher tax rate, it was less than $500. I would rather stay at home for that price and bring immaterial value to my kids.


Darwin May 13, 2013 at 9:29 pm

Sometimes there are some side benefits like accruing pension, SS benefits, etc., but on a near-term cash basis, yes, many people are working for less than minimum wage in high stress jobs.


KC @ genxfinance May 15, 2013 at 4:31 am

Yeah, mom’s worth is priceless. Wouldn’t trade her for all the money and the riches in the world.


Harry @ Smart Money Junction May 19, 2013 at 5:38 am

Yeah I also went through that infographic. It just goes to show that stay at home moms are priceless since they have to do a variety of tasks, usually boring, which us men would frown at doing!


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