Have you ever wondered just what a stay at home parent’s work is worth? Or are you one of those people who assumes that because it’s not paid, it must not be worth much? Or are you a stay at home parent who’s fed up with people who assume what you do is easy, doesn’t require any skills and shouldn’t be respected? Or maybe you’re part of a couple who’s trying to decide whether one of you should stay home with the kids, and if so, which one.
Determining the value of unpaid work
Salary.com has a tool for working out Mom’s or Dad’s financial contribution to the household in clear, simple terms. It compares what the stay at home parent does to what you’d have to pay if you hired people to do that work for you. Stay at home parents often fill the roles of housekeepers, bookkeepers, teacher, nutritionists and a whole lot more. The fact that they do this in exchange for lodging and food rather than a paycheck doesn’t make this work any less important or valuable.
These calculators will also work for parents who have jobs outside the home. It crunches your employment income with the free labor you provide to determine what you’re contributing to the household. Dads who work and do the occasional chore, prepare yourselves for a shock: Mom may be contributing considerably more than you, in the form of unpaid labor.
With this tool, you can also enter your zip code to localize the wages (Salary.com collects wage information for all sorts of jobs, in every region of the US), and you can enter the number of hours you spend in the role of each type of worker you’d need to hire to replace what parents do around the home.
Finances are a major source of stress in marriages, and this tool can help reduce some of that stress by giving both spouses an objective view of what they’re contributing to the household. Sometimes the employed spouse doesn’t appreciate what the stay at home spouse is contributing. Other times, the stay at home spouse doubts their own worth because all their friends have jobs, and this tool can help them realize what they’re doing is of tremendous value.
This tool can also help a family decide how much labor they want to pay someone else to do, assuming they can afford to do that at all. Let’s say you have more kids than most families, or a kid with special needs, and the stay at home parent is desperate for some relief. With this tool, you can figure out where to get the best break for the money: would you be better off hiring someone to maintain the lawn, or a bookkeeper, or a cleaning service? It depends how much time the parent spends on each task, and how much they would cost to hire someone to do them.
After all, think about all the roles parents have to fill around the home:
- CEO (making major decisions)
- Bill paying
- Laundry: operating the laundry machines, ironing, folding and doing special things to special stains
- Running errands (a very time-consuming, sometimes frustrating job)
- Driving the kids to school and/or extra curricular and social activities
- Cooking and planning meals
- Providing first aid
- Teaching – even if your kids are in school, you help them with homework and try to teach them more about the world than school can
- Interior design
- Lawn maintenance – some people outsource this, but I know a lot of parents who mow, do the landscaping, pull weeds, rake leaves, etc.
- Plumbing and other DIY maintenance and repair around the home
If you’re not interested in filling out the whole calculator for a specific answer in your case, I’ll tell you this much: the national range for a stay at home parent’s labor falls between about $64k and $164k. It depends how many kids you have, just how much time your household takes to manage, and how much the family is able to outsource.