When done correctly, parenting is the toughest job there is. It's also the worst-compensated. Back in 2007, MSN Money put a figure on the job of motherhood and estimated the annual salary for the job of "mom" at $138,095. While most working moms would likely be happy to see that the often thankless job of parenting is at least seen by others as highly valuable (even if the monetary value is hypothetical), most can also attest that it does little to help in saving for college, paying for activities, and the many needs parents fund.
But for moms who have opted out of a full-time career in order to develop a non-traditional job that allows them to spend more time raising kids, the number only reminds of just how much motherhood doesn't pay, at least in cash.
I presume many parents agree that the overall joy of parenthood far outweighs the happiness that a high salary provides. By the same token, if I denied that there are times I miss the respect that being a professional woman commanding a decent salary invokes, I'd be lying. Case in point: our recent car purchase.
What a mom doesn't make
My husband and I recently purchased a car. Based on the reaction of the finance manager at the dealership when I told him my now paltry salary as a self-employed writer, yoga instructor and full-time mom, it was obvious that my husband's income would be the deciding factor behind our potential approval for auto financing. I wanted to caveat my response to his question of my salary with comments like "But my job is 24/7" and "I work much harder now than I did in a traditional career." While both statements are true, the reality is that in some situations, money talks, and motherhood pays very little.
Situations like mine at the car dealership aren't unique. But they serve as a reminder for moms who have sacrificed professional power in order to raise kids, that your "new value" as a mom has little to do with salary; it should be weighed in a currency far deeper.
PsychCentral reported on a study conducted at the Victoria University of Wellington in New Zealand to determine the true indicator of a person's well-being. It concluded that while money does play a role in happiness up to a certain point (previous studies have identified the number ranging somewhere between a salary of $75,000 to $80,000), the real indicator of a person's happiness lies in the perception of autonomy and freedom of choice in making life decisions. Ultimately, the research concluded, "money leads to autonomy-- but it does not add to well-being or happiness."
The next time someone reminds you of your lost salary of days gone by, remember that having the ability to give yourself, and your family, the life you want has far more value than money will ever provide.
The modern woman is redefining what it means to have a successful career. Rather than feeling torn between climbing the corporate ladder and having a happy family life, many women are choosing to merge the two and transition careers from a traditional role to a more flexible one.
Working Mom 3.0 is reinventing the definition of "working mom," as office hours are held at home and revolve around nap times.
This column begins by chronicling the experiences of Stephanie Taylor Christensen, a former marketing professional turned self-employed stay-at-home mom, writer and yoga instructor, as she strives to redefine "having it all" on her own time and terms.
More tips for working moms
Working Mom 3.0: Shifting career gears after baby
Working Mom 3.0: Starting over mid-career
Working Mom 3.0: Finding work-at-home jobs