Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Mom's Six Figure Salary...NOT!

Well, with the title alone I have probably offended every female who may ever read this including my wife and mother. Before you come tearing down my door with your butcher knife and righteous indignation, bear with me for a moment and let me make my case. Please note that this post is not a knock on mothers or wifes (I happen to like my mother and my wife very much). This is a knock on society's insecurities that lead people to trying to justify why they don't pitch in and help out at home. is on their ninth incantation of the Mom's Salary Survey. When the first one came out I remember reading it and laughing. To me it appeared that some children and husbands were feeling quilty about the lack of work that they did around the home and so decided to show their wifes and mothers (on Mother's Day of course) that their hard work was worth a "theoretical" $100K+. After some adjustments a few years ago which lowered the amount, the 2009 survey found that stay at home mother's were worth a salary of around $122,000 and working 96.4 hours a week.

Interestingly enough, the Bureau of Labor Statistics job description that most closely matches the overall role of a mother (and I am using the term overall role very loosely here) is Personal Home Care Aides. They make on average $9.47/hr so assuming a 40 hours at regular time and 56.4 hours at time and a half their annual salary would be $61K a year. So why the discrepancy? I set out to find out.

Using the calculator for my family and area, I found that my wife is worth $118K using their average number of hours worked from the survey. I then came up with the following fallacies based on my own family situation and experience.

Fallacy #1 pretends that working multiple jobs will get you "overtime" pay. I sure wish this was true. But it isn't. At one point in college, I had three jobs: photographer, electronics bench technician, and data entry clerk. Each was with a different employer, and in spite of the fact that I was working 60+ hours every single week, I NEVER was paid time and half. Turns out that employers don't really care how much you work at another job when it comes around to payday. Of course, I knew this going in. I still had to pay for college, so I had to work 60+ hours to earn the money. Making this one adjustment and calculating my wife's pay for straight time, we find that she is worth only $91K.

Fallacy #2 uses wage rates that are unrealistic for the training/experience of the average mom. Their salary is based on the wages of the top 10 time consuming occupations that mother's do. I didn't have a problem with three of them: Housekeeper, Laundry Machine Operator, and Janitor (coincidentally, these could all be rolled up into the Housekeeper category and their wages were all around $9.50 per hour). For each of the others I disagreed with their wage or else my wife (and the average mother) does not have the qualifications to command such a wage.

Day Care Center Teacher (theirs: $12.43 per hour) - since it says teacher rather than worker, I am assuming that there is some level of certification required by the state. My wife doesn't have it so she gets $10/hour for this.

Cook (theirs: $12.70) - we are not talking fine restaurant cook here, we are talking cook. The vast majority of meals made at our home would probably rank in the fast food arena or maybe the decent sit down place. Having worked in both of these types of places before, and knowing that I was paid minimum wage at both, I'll give my wife $10/hour for this.

Computer Operator (theirs: $14.57) - if this is data entry, then I would have killed for this kind of money in college doing data entry, as I mentioned before I had a data entry position, and I made a little more than minimum wage. I'll give my wife $10/hour for this (are you seeing a pattern yet).

Facilities Manager (theirs: $32.67) - I think we are talking about something like a convention center or such. If this is the case than I can agree with it. If you are managing the facilities of a hotel with 30,000 square feet of convention space, I can see you getting $32.67/hour. However, we are talking about a 2000 square foot home. I'll give my wife $10/hour for this.

Van Driver (theirs: $14.70) - my wife was a bus driver in college. Guess what she made? Yep, minimum wage. I'll be generous and give her $10/hour.

Psychologist (theirs: $34.44) - last I checked, psychologists usually have an advanced degree, and are usually licensed in the state that they work. If you don't have either of these (degree mills don't count), you will be hard pressed to command the $34.44/hour wage. On the other hand, there are also help lines that are looking for people to answer phones, listen, and give advice. They are usually on a volunteer basis, but I'll give my wife $10/hour.

CEO (theirs: $65.36) - I worked at a small business where I think the owner was making about $130K a year ($65/hour). Since I took all the deposits to the bank, one day while waiting in line I calculated that his company was bringing in about $2 million a year in revenue. He had 10 employees and a small fleet of vehicles. Based on what I new of office space rental, equipment costs and probable salaries of the people in the office, I calculated that he was making $130K. For my family, we have less than a tenth of $2 million in revenue. So, I'll just be generous and give my wife $12/hour.

Using my figures and's hours with no overtime, I get just under $50K.

Fallacy #3 uses a self reported survey for the hours worked. Self reported surveys are notoriously bad at providing unbiased information. Self reported data is tenuous at best and in many cases pure fantasy. So I went over the reported numbers and adjusted them for what I think the amount of time my wife spends. Here is what I came up with:

Housekeeper (theirs: 16.5) - this is a littler more than 2 hours per day. I can live with that.

Day Care Center Teacher (theirs: 14.7) - well we homeschool our kids, although I have admitted in the past that my wife spends about 2 hours teaching (the kids also do a lot of work on their own) five days a week. Subtract out the days she doesn't teach and add in the days that she does planning and I will go with 15 hours a week.

Cook (theirs: 13.1) - well, we do once a month cooking that takes about 8 hours, then there is cooking each day which is probably only an hour (although I do some of it), and if we add in grocery shopping which is 2 hours a week then the total time is probably around 10 hours a week.

Computer Operator (theirs: 9.2) - I have not met a home yet that requires 9.2 hours to operate. Sure my wife spends 9.2 hours on the computer each week, but the majority of that is doing her hobbies (scrapbooking, playing games, etc.). So how about we limit counted computer time to budgeting, shopping, and activities that directly affect the family. I could maybe go for 3 hours.

Facilities Manager (theirs: 8.6) - on a week that we are having a party at our house, we spend 8.6 hours preparing (maybe), otherwise, about the only thing that I would put in this category is arranging play dates for the kids, which is about a 10 minute phone call each week. I'll round that up to 2 hours.

Van Driver (theirs: 7.3) - Yes, my wife spends about 7 hours each week driving the kids around. So, while I could quibble that part of that time is spent going places she would have if we didn't have kids, I'll accept the 7.3 hours a week anyway.

Psychologist (theirs: 7.2) - the majority of my wife and I's practice of psychology does not have to do with delving into our children's feelings. Its more along the lines of "good cop, bad cop" to determine which kid is at fault. But, I'll agree to at least 7 hours of it.

Laundry Machine Operator (theirs: 7.2) - laundry does take about 7 hours each week (including folding and putting away), but more than half of that time the machine is running and no one is actually doing anything. I'll give my wife 4 hours.

Janitor (theirs: 7.1) - how is this different from Housekeeper? I don't know, so I'll give my wife 0 hours since I already accounted for the cleaning and picking up in Housekeeper.

Chief Executive Officer (theirs: 5.5) - CEO stuff that my wife (or I) do: pay the kids allowance, plan the budget for the year, shop for big purchases, um ... Yeah, I don't see us spending 5.5 hours a YEAR on that stuff. But I'll be generous again and give my wife 2 hours a week.

So adding it all up I get 66.8 hours of work a week, 30 hours less than what survey found. I trust my numbers more, and I would be willing to bet if they made the people who take the survey record on a daily log for one month what they spent their time doing, it would be a lot closer to my numbers than's.

And what does this get us for a total salary for the year: $34,096, which translates into $9.82/ hour. WOW! that is what I said Personal Home Care Aides were making at the beginning of this blog. Turns out, the reason they are making that amount, is because that is the value of the work that they do. I am not the only one who finds the Annual Mom Salary Survey ridiculous at its core.

So there are my reasons for mocking the salary survey. If you think I am going to trade my wife or mother in for a housekeeper and nanny, they you are the crazy one. If you are a mother and look to the salary survey to feel justified, then you should talk to a real psychologist about your self esteem issues. If you are a child or husband and you try to prop up your mother or wife with this claptrap, then maybe you should start lifting a finger or two around the house and help out.


  1. unbelievable!

  2. Times are getting harder nowadays and indeed, it's not that easy earning money and supporting our family. So wives or even single ladies are finding jobs that's worth their profession and skills.

    With our every day's hard work, it is our right to get the salary that we deserve. Like for example in our company, our salary is being taken cared by the payroll tax services group and make sure that we are getting enough salary and we pay enough taxes.

  3. Times are getting harder nowadays and indeed, it's not that easy earning money and supporting our family. So wives or even single ladies are finding jobs that's worth their profession and skills.

    With our every day's hard work, it is our right to get the salary that we deserve. Like for example in our company, our salary is being taken cared by the payroll tax services group and make sure that we are getting enough salary and we pay enough taxes.

  4. I bet your wife puts in more than 66 hours a week with the kids, and that's even with jobs overlapping! Plus, I disagree with you about scrapbooking being just a hobby. There are companies who pay good money for her design skills. Just saying. And school tutors get a lot more than "Day Care Teacher." I met a lady who gets $25 an hour for tutoring, and that's one child at a time. I guess you wrote this a couple of years ago, but even at that time I made well over $9.82/hr for tutoring! Not sure I would do it for so little.

    I do agree it's more important to do your share (I won't say "help out!) Be a husband and father, not just a wage earner. And then you can say your wife is worth however much you want, but she will say you are worth your weight in gold!