A Mom’s Work Is Worth $113K Annually. Or Maybe About Half That

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I need a raise

How much is a mom worth? The answer, of course, is — everybody altogether now — “priceless.” While that’s the safest response (and I swear it’s the truth, Mom!), it’s also boring and vague.

Thankfully, there are data crunchers out there who gather info annually in order to put a number on how much mother work is worth. Timed, conveniently enough, to be published around Mother’s Day.

At Salary.com, the arithmetic is based on the time and value of all the various jobs moms take on, including laundry-machine operator, janitor, van driver, cook, facilities manager, psychologist and CEO (of the entire household). The results show that stay-at-home moms put in one honey of a workweek: 94.7 hours. After factoring in duties and corresponding approximate wages ($36.85 hourly for the “psychologist” role, $13.11 for “cook” responsibilities), a stay-at-home mother is worth an average of $17.80 per hour, or $112,962 annually.

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The mom work put in by working moms, on the other hand, is worth $66,979 per year, based on their 57.9 hours weekly of work around the house over and above their paying jobs.

Looking back, Salary.com’s studies indicate that stay-at-home and working moms alike just aren’t worth what they used to be: five years ago, calculations had it that mom work was worth $138,094 and $85,938, respectively.

In any event, the folks at Salary.com seem to hold the work of moms in higher regard than the heartless data fiends in the insurance business, whose mothers probably never loved them. Here are the numbers from Insure.com’s 2012 Mother’s Day Index:

Our review of wage data found that an assortment of common tasks is worth $60,182; last year’s Mother’s Day Index found those same tasks to be worth $61,436. That’s a drop of $1,254 (about 2%), but still much more than most families could afford to pay.

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Apparently, insurance companies don’t think moms are all that valuable. The $60,000 figure is about one-third of what a good nanny is worth in New York City, according to the New York Times.

Understandably, many moms aren’t fans of these “what’s a mom worth” estimates. In a post at CBS MoneyWatch, Suzanne Lucas, who works part-time and has two kids ages 4 and 8, writes that Salary.com’s survey make her want to “gag and contemplate stabbing my eyeballs out so I don’t have to read the whole thing.”

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Why? She finds them silly, even insulting. For one thing, everyone must do laundry, cook, and tackle household chores — “even (gasp!) teenagers,” says Lucas. It’s also a stretch to put mom duties in the same category as professional CEOs or psychologists. Mostly, though, Lucas just thinks that it’s absurd to put a dollar figure on a parent’s worth:

I chose to have children. I chose who I married and we discussed these issues prior to tying the knot. It’s rather insulting to suggest that the only value in motherhood is a monetary one. And that moms (or dads) can be replaced by a paycheck.

Indeed. As boring and vague as it seems, moms — and yes, dads too — truly are priceless.

Tuttle is a reporter at TIME. Find him on Twitter at @bradrtuttle. You can also continue the discussion on TIME’s Facebook page and on Twitter at @TIME.
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