Looking into a hypothetical Stay-At-Home-Mom’s Pay

FB Note: Don’t get all up in arms about this topic, okay?

This post is NOT MEANT TO MAKE ANYONE ANGRY or disrespect anyone.

It is meant to generate discussion.

If you can’t handle it, step away from the post and drink some tea.

Here, I brewed a cup for you (See left).

I recently read an article on MSN called The Price of a Mom, a report that assigns a salary to a stay-at-home mother, based on the jobs she does in a normal week.

According to one report, $138,095 a year.
That’s the figure in a study put out by Salary.com, which calculates the wages that would have been paid a stay-at-home mom in 2007 if she were compensated for all the elements of her “job.” That total was up 3% from 2006’s salary of $134,121.

Moms who have jobs outside the house would earn another $85,939 for their mothering work, beyond what they bring home in existing salary.

The job descriptions that Salary.com used to determine a mom’s salary includes 10 jobs that moms do on an average day: housekeeper, day care center teacher, cook, computer operator, laundry machine operator, janitor, facilities manager, van driver, CEO and psychologist.

Salary.com had a similar report, see here.

Salary.com determined that the time mothers spend performing 10 typical job functions would equate to an annual salary of $122,732 for a stay-at-home mom.

Working moms ‘at-home’ salary is $76,184 in 2009; this is in addition to the salary they earn in the workplace.
Living Almost Large (LAL) also recently brought up the question about whether or not SAHM’s are “overpaid”

I truly believe a SAHM is a very hard job, no if, ands, or buts. But it’s not worth $122k. Why?

Well the average US salary is $48k for a family of 4. Assuming that the average primary breadwinner makes $40k, how in the world can Salary.com justify paying a stay at home mom $122k? Let alone saying a working mom earns $76k at home?

A normal working parent doesn’t even earn that much.

The truth is, that you have to clean your house, cook dinner, laundry, CEO, janitor, etc. These are basic living chores. Also, who pays all these people that much? You have a housekeeper come in once a week, and in a HCOLA it might be $100/week. How does this all translate to $122k?

Before we continue, let me clear the air.

I am using “MOM” for the sake of writing. I am not intentionally or unintentionally trying to be gender-biased (as per someone’s comment on my “Why your manager is a monkey” piece, where she said I kept referring to the bosses as MEN, when in fact I cited my own manager as a woman in the article for a good chunk of it).

It’s easier than having to type every single time “stay at home mother or father or partner”.

I don’t believe you can really put a price on what a mother does because … she’s a MOTHER.

You can’t price love.

Even my mom (a grandmother) can’t help herself, and does everything in her power (financially, emotionally and physically) out of love.

And having a stay at home mom is great.

I never had one, and I always wished I had a more at-home mother, but she was too busy trying to make ends meet to stay at home, couldn’t handle just being a SAHM (she said she would have gone nuts with us) and struggling with slight bouts of depression. But in the end, she found a good job and we all turned out fine.

I just wish I had more memories of her baking with me, or reading to me, but… that’s what I’m aiming to change when I have kids of my own – to be a mother that creates memories even if I have to bring home some bacon. Heartless Bitches International (not for the faint of heart) wrote a funny piece on this.

But a lot of moms (in general, not just stay at home ones) feel that their work is never done and don’t feel that they are valued enough and/or their partners and spouses leave the bulk of work up to them.

Have you ever watched “Everybody Loves Raymond”? Typical family reaction, right?

Poor Debra (the wife) gets lambasted by her mother in law for not being a cleaning, cooking, baby-raising machine, and her husband Raymond, makes cracks at her like “And what do you do all day at home, HUH!!?” as if his going to work is a free “Get out of raising kids” card for his entire life.

So maybe assigning a salary will make them see that they do have a worth and they can stop feeling like they aren’t contributing and others can appreciate their worth.

I totally agree that it would help, because I have seen so many couples where the poor wife literally does everything, and the husband is The King.

But I’ve also seen the reverse, and you cannot put a blanket label on ALL mothers, stay at home or not.

I also do believe that the article is meant to be a “feel good”, symbolic, heart warming article to make mothers feel even more loved and valued in their family. I hear you on that. I know it’s meant to be a heart warming kind of article, but ….

With all that being said I find that number of $122,732 to $138,095 as a salary (from a purely financial perspective) to be incredible.

Incredible… meaning, I don’t believe it’s accurate or reasonable. *dodges rotten tomatoes*

There are a ton of parents out there, single parents, married couples, people who put their heart and soul into their family, and trudge out into the trenches every single day to make $40,000 to help supplement the income of their family.

If they could really be valued at $138,095, why wouldn’t they just switch jobs and cite being a SAHP as their references?

This comment left in one of the message boards is heartbreaking. This former Stay at Home mother says she can’t find a job in the workforce any longer.

If a person earned $138,095 they would earn more than 91% of all Americans according to FiLife.com.

To me, it’s just not logical. 91% of Americans don’t make that kind of cash.


I’m not trying to devalue what single mothers or single fathers do. I am just trying to figure out a realistic salary with logic and no emotion involved.

I’m just saying that the 10 occupations that ‘fit’ what a stay at home mother or father does is … unrealistic as what I believe needs to be an accurate report.

Here are some comments left by working mothers and fathers:

So I thought it’d be fun to figure out what an accurate salary would be.

Let’s go over the jobs:

….housekeeper, day care center teacher, cook, computer operator, laundry machine operator, janitor, facilities manager, van driver, CEO and psychologist.

The ones highlighted in bold make me very nervous in their little survey because they sound too far fetched to me.


I have seen mothers and fathers who cannot cook. At all. They buy frozen dinners and that’s what the kids eat. It’s sad, but true. And it’s not even that they can’t afford the food because on the contrary, it’s cheaper to buy fresh food and cook it than it is to buy a sad little frozen dinner.


This one in question because it is just too vague for me to take it seriously. You could call any IT professional a “Computer Operator”, you know, as well as a grade school kid who uses a computer.


Um. No. I hate to be rude, but (I’m gonna be) and my answer is No.

I cannot imagine a CEO’s salary to be part of a mother’s skill set. A CEO has to do a hell of a lot more than just manage a company (or family). They are paid a lot because they are under a lot of pressure to perform for thousands of shareholders, they have to travel constantly, they are always in the spot light and being scrutinized.

I am sure mothers fit all of these skills.. but not to the same degree of pressure that a CEO goes under.

To me, if a Mom doesn’t get around to the laundry, or forgets to pick up the milk at a store, it’s not really a huge deal.

It won’t end a company and it won’t put people out of jobs. What it WILL do is make a kid cranky and/or have to wear dirty clothes again.

No big deal. It doesn’t end the whole household or ‘company’.

But a CEO could potentially shut down a company with a bad decision. And THAT is what they get paid for. To be the one guy or woman who has to answer and be responsible for the fates of thousands of their employees and shareholders.


I also believe this one to be erroneous only because we are ALL mini psychologists. Even at work. Having to deal and finagle with office politics is my best example.

As humans, we also have to comfort our friends and be a sounding board to them, but you don’t see me claiming to be a psychologist just because I’m comforting a friend or trying to help a family member sort out their life.

With that being said, I also think the survey didn’t take into account that everything a mother does for her family.. she’s also doing for herself.

When she cooks for her family, she also cooks for herself.

When she does the laundry, she does it for herself.

I am (again), not trying to devalue or put down mothers (I hope to be one some day!) but every task that she does, she half does for herself for the very single reason that THEY ARE HER KIDS TOO!

And don’t try and use a loophole and say “What if they’re adopted? Or step kids?” To me, they’re your kids if you take care of them on a daily basis because you love them.

So I ran my own little estimation based on what I am guessing.


When I put in an hour, I really mean a full 60 minutes of cleaning, not 30 minutes of cleaning and 30 minutes of something else.

I am assuming 16 hour days, only 5 days a week because weekends are a FREE ZONE to me.

I am assuming the partner who works outside the home, comes back and helps out a bit to relieve the stress and pressure.

I am assuming a mother multitasks. When she does the laundry, she doesn’t sit there and wait for it to be finished. She’s minding the kids or running an errand while waiting for the laundry.

I am not putting sex into the equation here. Let’s not get into a heated discussion about paid sex just because a mother stays at home.

I am not including shopping for clothes or other things like that. I am assuming that’s on the weekends with her partner (if she has one) that she can get all those things done.

I am not including fancy skills like assuming she’s a chef in a restaurant. I am assuming she’s an average mother, who makes a decent meal from scratch or using cans, but not feeding her family frozen dinners, buying take out all the time (my sister in law does this by the way) or just opening a can of soup and calling it a day.

My mom was no chef, but she knew how to bust out a good meal to fill our bellies and it was homemade from scratch some of the time.

I put in about 2 hours for a ‘break’ in total. *shrug* I have a statistic that I read on my Google Reader once that says women who stay at home spend about 57% of their time on the computer surfing the Internet. I find that percentage a bit high, so I just put in 2 hours out of the 16 hour day.

I also didn’t put in other things like managing finances or replying to emails because.. we ALL DO THAT. To me, we all manage finances, or reply to emails whether we are mothers or stay at home fathers or not.

I also didn’t include entertainment such as play dates, or driving kids to soccer because those are OPTIONAL tasks. You as a parent, do not have to set up play dates or enroll your kids in soccer (although I strongly encourage that you do), I am trying to stick to the basics here. Basic living.

Lastly, I am assuming mothers are efficient at multi-tasking (many are…like my Mom!) – so that means they won’t be running to the grocery store 5 times a week, for an hour each day. I put in 1.5 hours for just the weekday.

I researched actual wages of the jobs that I think an average mother fits in terms of skills and scale of who she is dealing with on a regular basis (not CEO or psychologist, obviously) and came up with this, keeping in mind the above notes.

I put the earnings divided in half, because like I said.. the kids are hers too. It’s a 50/50 split in my opinion. If someone stays at home, and the other person works, that other person is making money so that he or she can support the family.

A family is not single sided or individual. It is a cohesive TEAM and PARTNERSHIP.

An average salary of a Canadian is around $30,000. This looks just about right in the ballpark, and more realistic and reasonable than $138,000.

To me, the last defining factor is that on these Debt Shows that I watch like ‘Til Debt Do Us Part on Slice.ca, Gail makes a lot of stay at home mothers on maternity leave do the math.

The mothers do the math, they figure out how much it costs to stay at home, versus going back to work, even with childcare and having to buy work clothes… and more often than not, they go back to work because it’s more financially responsible and helpful for the family, even with childcare and other things factored in.

I also cannot imagine or believe that the other partner DOES NOT HELP OUT AT ALL when they get home at night.

Not even to lift a single finger to hold his or her child, or to read a story to them in the entire week unless they are gone because they’re traveling during the week (in which case, those are exceptional jobs and not ‘average’).

Sure, we can’t put a price on guilt either but…. to me, that’s a telling sign that the number up there of $138,000+ is a bit too outrageous to be believable. They also did the survey by asking 2500 mothers what they do.

I am not trying to target mothers, but I can tell you that in a lot of surveys, people don’t tend to be honest or accurate because they cannot remember (nor do they track) how many hours they spend cleaning or cooking on average in a week, and/or they don’t want to look bad in a survey.

So what do you think? Reasonable? Outrageous?

Am I off in my assumptions and are my numbers and estimates totally wrong?


(In a friendly manner, please. No bashing of mothers or fathers in any manner. I won’t accept that and I DO read every comment.)

About the Author

Just a girl trying to find a balance between being a Shopaholic and a Saver. I cleared $60,000 in 18 months earning $65,000 gross/year. Now I am self-employed, and you can read more about my story here, or visit my other blog: The Everyday Minimalist.