Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Quantifying Mommy's Worth

Mint.com is not the first outlet to attempt to quantify the worth, in terms of dollars and cents, the value of a stay-at-home-mom.  They're just the latest, and the one that, therefore, has stuck in my craw this week.

So before I address the fatuous, pandering article/blog post, I want to, once again, reiterate my enormous respect for my stay-at-home-mom friends and family.  In addressing this article, I do not intend to denigrate my loved ones.

But what I do intend to do is say, "Hey, wait a minute!  I do that too!"  Or at least some of it . . . .  I think that even my SAHM friends and family can easily see that this Mint.com article serves only to fan the flame of the Mommy Wars.  In quantifying the work of SAHMs in this way, Mint.com implies that Working Moms (and Working Dads) don't do these things, that we hire all of this stuff out.

Mint.com says a stay-at-home-mom's worth is $96,261 a year.  That's a pretty nice salary.  They come up with that figure by adding up the salaries of professionals who do the work that SAHMs, by the estimation of Mint.com, do.

Private Chef:  $52,261/year
Really?  First off, it may come as a surprise to Mint.com, but my husband and I actually are able to get a meal onto the table without the aid of a personal, private chef.  This cooking-dinner thing is something that SAHMs would be doing even if they were at the office all day.  Rarely, rarely do we order out or eat out. So, add $52,261 to the annual net worth of my family because we're saving the expense of a weekly private chef.  Awesome!  (And, P.S., are we really to believe that every meal prepared by a SAHM is chef quality?  I mean, I am willing to wager that even SAHMs will open the occasional blue box with the noodles and orange powder in it.  Tom Colicchio would not be amused.)

House Cleaner:  $6,136/year
Okay, yes, we have a maid service that comes in once a week.  But that doesn't alleviate our nightly need to clean the kitchen (not to mention the minefield around the high chair of an 11-month-old table-food-eater-and-occasional-thrower).  And, too, we have been known to re-clean something after the maids have "cleaned" because it has not been "cleaned" to our satisfaction.  I am, therefore, taking $2,000 of this and adding it to The Working Mom & Dad's yearly take.

Childcare:  $31,000/year
OK, total give.  Because we both work 40 hours a week, we don't do this (except for early mornings, evenings, mid-nights, weekends, holidays, when The Boy is sick, and the occasional SAHM Friday).  The Boy goes to the most awesome daycare ever.  It costs approximately $18,000/year, though.  Still, assuming two or more kids, daycare could easily top $30,000.

Driver:  $4,168/year
Yes, in fact, most working parents also have to chauffeur their kids to doctor visits, Scout meetings, school functions, and extra curricular activities.  Maybe Siri Cruise has her own car, but I can assure you that The Boy will have to settle for rides in his mom's Civic.  Yippee, another $4,168 per year added to our family income!

Laundry Service:  $936/year
I. Do. Laundry. All. Freaking. Weekend. Long.  And during the week too.  First of all, it's worth way more than $936 when you consider time value of money.  I mean, say that my husband and I billed a fairly modest lawyer's hourly rate of $350 an hour.  My husband and I probably spend, conservatively, 15 hours a week doing laundry, folding it, and putting it away.  That's over $5200 a week!  But then, I guess you can't charge lawyers' rates to do the work of a laundress.  More's the pity.  So I guess that's another $936 to The Working Family's yearly net worth.

Lawn Maintenance:  $1,560/year
Okay, let's be honest, most middle class families have lawn services, whether or not both parents work outside the home.  And if they don't have a lawn service, honesty must again prevail upon us to admit that it's usually Dad who is pushing the mower, not Mom.  (Although, this Mom, before she was a Mom, really enjoyed mowing the lawn, and probably will again in the fullness of time.)  We have a lawn service, now, post-birth-of-The-Boy.  So we get dinged here.

In all, based upon Mint.com's valuations, my husband and I can consider ourselves enriched to the tune of $59,365 per year for all of the work that we do ourselves that we could otherwise hire out to other folks.  Lucky us!  Now, how to spend this new-found wealth . . . .

So what is my point here?  My point is not to devalue the work of the SAHM, but simply to point out that many of these quantifiable tasks that Mint.com has ascribed to SAHMs are not just done by those parents whose workplace is the home.  Many of these tasks are tasks that all parents do, whether they work outside or inside the home.  The point of, and the value in, being a stay-at-home parent is that there are unquantifiable intangibles in that occupation.  In attempting to quantify the "worth" of SAHMs, Mint.com has simultaneously devalued the worth of the working parent's contributions to the home and of the stay-at-home parent's intangibles.  And, well, that irritates me.

(P.S.  Thank you, Friend With Whom I Had Lunch Today, for encouraging me to write this post and for getting me back into the blog.  I will try not to let a whole month pass before the next entry.)