Parenting is the hardest job I’ve ever had. And the pay sucks.
Want to figure out your monetary worth as a mom? You can do it. You can even print out the cute, fake paycheck written out to “Mom” that, in my case, totals $89,815. Woohoo! That amount is in addition to my part-time pay as a freelance writer and photographer. (I’m not going to tell you that number. Let’s just say freelance writing is my other labor of love.)
In 2007, the national annual compensation for the a mom’s “work” averaged $85,900, according to Salary.com (notice that I’m above average). The national low was $46,600, and the high was $125,900. This is all hypothetical, of course. I’m not sure if salary.com will adjust up in 2008 for cost of living, or down because of worsening economic conditions.
You can personalize the national number by typing in your zip code. For the Asheville area, the average low mom salary is $64,200, the median $78,800, and the high is $96,100. So Asheville’s a bit more socialist than the country as a whole. and we’re generally paid less. But we already knew that.
You can further personalize your salary by inputting the number of kids you have between the ages of 0-5 and 6-18 and by clicking on whether you’re a stay-at-home or a working mom.
Your personal mom salary is calculated with this information plus the number of hours you spend doing certain “jobs.” These jobs include the following: housekeeper, day-care teacher, cook, computer operator, laundry-machine operator, facilities manager, janitor, van driver, psychologist, and chief executive officer. Housekeepers average $9.06 per hour, while CEOs average $156.69. The second highest hourly rate goes to facilities managers at $35.
You can accept the Web site’s average number of hours per position or input your own. I lowered the number on laundry-machine operator because that’s primarily Enviro-spouse’s job. I upped the facilities-manager hours because E-spouse doesn’t care about the facilities except when he’s monitoring energy use. I also upped the cook’s hours, because that task tends to belong to me.
There are a few jobs that Salary.com forgot to list for moms — including project manager, academic tutor, personal shopper and secretary.
I question putting CEO on the list. While I don’t want to demean the challenges of parenting, I don’t think we often take on the same roles as a CEO. If by CEO they mean master scheduler and people manager, I think they should change the description to CEO’s assistant. In my experience, behind every successful CEO sits a master scheduler/manager. In other words, behind every great CEO is a great mom.
The Web site also offers a “Dad Salary Wizard.” For some reason, Salary.com’s national salary ranges for working dads are a good bit lower than those for working moms. Whoever wrote the program must assume that working dads do a lot less around the house and with the kids than working moms do. The median salary range for an Asheville working dad is about $66,000, while a working mom here would earn $78,800. Hmmm.
Turns out that the list of corresponding “dad” jobs is different from the “mom” list. Instead of housekeeper and janitor, dad jobs include groundskeeper and maintenance worker. This seems a bit sexist; I know lots of moms who spend more time working in their yards than their spouses do. And though it’s not true in my home, some dads are the more meticulous housekeepers than their counterparts. I even know some women who are better at fixing stuff than many men.
While it’s heartening to imagine that, if I were paid for being a mom, I’d be significantly better off financially, this construct seems artificial. In truth, I have no idea how many hours I spend per week on various household tasks. Also, while I’m often with my kids at home, sometimes I’m working and not interacting directly with them. I think full-time working moms probably spend more intense one-on-one time with their kids at the end of the day than I do. I tend to spend five or 10 minutes of focused time here and there between phone calls and e-mail management.
I wonder why, too, we value most the time we’re paid for. Why do we feel the need to put dollar signs on the time we devote to caring for our kids? It’s nearly impossible to understand how much time and energy raising kids takes until you’re in the middle of doing it. But it’s a choice — a choice made for love, not for money.