What is a Mom Worth?

by Wendy Sachs


I’ve always had a hunch that I am being grossly underpaid. After all, shouldn’t I be more flush given that by 9 p.m. each night I’m so wiped that my body feels like it’s been mowed down by a Mack truck and I need a triple shot of espresso just to get me moving in the morning.


Last week, Salary.com confirmed my suspicion. While I get bi-weekly direct deposits courtesy of my office gig in publicity, I’ve gotten bupkus over the past eight years for my vastly more complicated, messy, exhausting and yes, sometimes heartwarming career as Mommy.


According to Salary.com I should be earning $85,876 for the “mom job” portion of my work day while my stay-at-home mom friends deserve $134,121 for their various labors of love. Wow! Well, it’s no wonder why we moms feel so gypped. My eight years of lost wages would total a whopping $687,008. Jeez, with that kind of cash I may actually be able to afford sleep away camp, braces, college or more importantly, a long overdue spa visit for me.


Salary.com calculated the mommy paycheck based on an algorithm that took into account hours worked and the job titles that best matched a mom’s definition of her work including: housekeeper, day care center teacher, cook, computer operator, laundry machine operator, janitor, facilities manager, van driver, CEO and psychologist. The less glam jobs like launderer and van driver yielded low hourly wages. But add up the oodles of hours worked together with the more skilled and higher paying professions of CEO and psychologist, and moms are apparently deserving of some serious cash.


While I applaud the website for putting a price on a mom’s worth even if it’s just a clever PR move, I think Salary.com’s press release must have either been written by a guy trapped in a time warp or Dr. Laura. Trying to neutralize the harsh reality that women are screwed financially in their mom job, the press release sought out to prove that moms – at least good moms – have no needs, are utterly selfless and don’t give a hoot about money.


“The rewards I have by being there all the time in spite of my own needs are priceless,” said Laura Pennington, a stay-at-home mother of three from El Paso, Texas. “My children’s well-being and education are my priority regardless of the daily marathon I face from sun up to well after sun down.”


Seriously? Maybe this is one of the reasons our society doesn’t recognize the work we do. Sisters, where is the outrage? Ok, I get it that our rewards are not financial and that the mini painted flower pots, handmade cards and foam necklaces I got for Mother’s Day from my kiddies are indeed priceless. But until society truly appreciates a mother’s value in caring and raising her children, well, frankly nothing much more will change at home or in the workforce.


I am late to this discussion, but just joined and have to say that I completely agree with this post, and I say the challenge we face in getting our society to value (place a dollar value on) time spent raising children/running a household, etc. is that people don't see children as a resource that benefits everyone in society. Regardless of whether an individual has chosen to have children/raise them/pay for their journey towards adulthood, they still benefit from the fact that there is a next generation being born/raised, etc. And it is in everyone's best interest that those children are raised to be contributing members of society.

So, most of the criticism I have seen/heard of the compensation for moms issue is that we made a choice to have children and others choose not to, so there is no issue of being compensated for the extra work, because we asked for it by choosing to have children. No one made us have children, so no one else should have to pay us for having them and caring for them. Well, I HUGELY disagree with this argument for several reasons, the main one being that as moms (parents) we are choosing to devote time and energy towards creating the next generation of adults who will run our country, earn livings, make policy decisions about how we all should be dealt with in our old age, etc. In short the children we are raising will make contributions to society as a whole, and therefore it is in the best interest of society as a whole to see to it that people who choose to raise children have what they need to do it well. Having children doesn't immediately make money for anyone (legally anyway) so no one assigns it a dollar value.

American politicians say we value family, but really, if we valued family, and if children were our most precious resource, we'd invest more in their care and nurturing. We'd have policies in place that supported raising a family (and I don't mean just a tax break) I mean family-friendly work places, more realistic workday schedules (for everyone, parent or not), federal holidays or leave days from work that synched up with the school year calendar. Other countries have those kinds of things in place for families. (I suppose the socialist accusations will fly my way, but oh well. We can learn from other countries' experiments in family policy)


Amen to this!! "Often these moms skip lunch, come in early, and give up exercise in order to save time..." As a new mama this year at age 34, after 20 years in the workforce, I needed to adjust my schedule and this is what I had to do to make it work. It's ridiculous that moms are not given any or given very little support in the workplace.

brenda bengis

Unfortunate, but true. At least you got handmade cards. Save them and cherish them. A day may come when you get no card, not even on Mother's Day even though the demand and requirement of being a good and selfless Mom is forever.