There’s no denying that mothers are superheroes, whether they work full-time, part-time or stay at home. It’s true that it takes a special person to handle the innumerable tasks involved in being a parent, especially a mom who does the heavy lifting for nine months during pregnancy, endures the marathon of labor and delivery, and then dedicates the rest of her life to doting on her child hand and foot. We’d be remiss to say motherhood is easy.
That’s why we were pleasantly surprised by the results of new data from Salary.com that estimated stay-at-home parents would earn a whopping $162,581 if they were paid a yearly salary — which is up $5,000 from last year’s calculations. To reach these findings, the resource hub selected a handful of jobs that reflect a day in the life of a stay-at-home parent, such as housework, driving, cooking, grocery shopping, basically keeping the house afloat, and predicted that they work up to 96 hours per week. (Yeah, you thought your 50-hour week was a lot.)
While some might be surprised by the data’s findings, it seems that most stay-at-home moms are not. “I’m a mother, a wife, the alarm clock, the cook, the maid, the bartender, the babysitter, the nurse, the manual worker, the security officer, the advisor, you name it — and I don’t have vacation a day off! I work day and night, and I’m on call all day and night,” says Nicole Green, mom of three from Boston, Mass. “I’m not complaining, but it totally doesn’t shock me that I’d be making the big bucks if I was compensated for all of the work that I do as a stay-at-home mom.” What’s more, Green recognizes that she wouldn’t be able to do half of the things she accomplishes on a daily basis for her family if she was working full- or even part-time.
“Raising children and taking care of a home is expensive and time consuming, and although advancements in products and technology, such as microwaves and Roombas, have helped make some household chores faster and easier, parenting has become even more of a full-time job than in previous generations,” notes Andrew Selepak, PhD, professor in the department of telecommunication at the University of Florida and Director of the graduate program in social media. “Moms in previous generations didn’t check on their children’s social media accounts on the regular, sports were not their own cottage industry of AAU games and travel teams, and a child’s network was limited to other kids in the neighborhood.” In other words, he explains that the demands placed on parents in the 21st century have grown tremendously as they attempt to keep up with the Joneses by helping their kids get into the best schools, play for the best teams, and have the best young lives as possible.
It’s also worth noting that, for some families, having one parent stay at home makes more financial sense than having both parents earning incomes. “Some women don’t earn enough working to cover the costs of childcare, so sometimes it makes more sense to stay home and take care of your kids and file for government benefits like Medicaid, welfare, and food stamps,” says Maggie Germano, financial coach based in Washington D.C. “I wouldn’t be surprised if this is happening more often as the costs of childcare and healthcare continue to rise.” It’s an issue many women face when planning for a family. For Green, being a stay-at-home mom has saved her family a lot of money. “It would of cost us well over $1,000 a month for just one child, and I have two little ones and an 8-year-old,” she says. “We’d rather take that money and put it towards our kids’ college fund!”
But while there are tons of benefits of being a stay-at-home mom that compensate for lack of salary — namely, being present to watch your children grow up and reach milestone after milestone — Abby Eisenkraft, CEO of Choice TaxSolutions Inc. in Melville, NY points out that there are a few downsides. “A woman out of the workforce means lost opportunities year after year to accumulate retirement wealth; she cannot participate in a company 401k program and, while she can contribute to a spousal IRA because her partner has earned income, the contribution maximum is much lower than the maximum 401k contribution (about 1/3),” she explains. “Years of lost wages and bonuses, time gaps on your resume, the loss of retirement wealth — all these can add up to problems down the line if your finances aren’t secure.”
Bottom line: Whether you continue to work as a parent or choose to stay at home full-time is completely up to you. Either way, Germano recommends having regular conversations around caretaking and responsibilities around the home. “Devoting time and energy to household duties and caretaking takes time and energy away from other things, like career and self-care,” she says. “There needs to be a shift towards a more egalitarian split, no matter who is the full-time employee.” Just as tasks are delegated in the office, they should be at home, too.