‘Never worked a day in her life’ vs. the 95-hour work week

It’s likely that you heard about the recent controversial remarks from Democratic lobbyist and pundit Hilary Rosen during an appearance on CNN:

“His wife has actually never worked a day in her life. She’s never really dealt with the kinds of economic issues that a majority of the women in this country are facing in terms of how do we feed our kids, how do we send them to school and how do we — why we worry about their future.”

It’s the “never worked a day in her life” part that is rubbing so many the wrong way. Do stay-at-home-moms (SAHMs) work? Salary.com conducts an annual survey of more than 8,000 moms across the country to determine what kind of work they do. They then use their “extensive salary data” to figure out how much a mom would earn if she were actually paid for that work.

Their 2012 survey revealed that SAHMs average a 95-hour work week. Career moms put in an additional 58 hours of work in the home on top of their “in the office” time. Below is their list of the top 10 “mom jobs” and what they would earn for performing that work in the home. 

#10 Mom Job: Chief Executive Officer

Annual salary: $171,824
Hourly pay: $55.07
Stay-at-home moms: 3.2 hours a week
Working moms: 2.9 hours a week

#9 Mom Job: Laundry Machine Operator

Annual salary: $20,500
Hourly pay: $9.86
Stay-at-home moms: 6.3 hours a week
Working moms: 4 hours a week

#8 Mom Job: Psychologist

Annual salary: $76,650
Hourly pay: $36.85
Stay-at-home moms: 7.6 hours a week
Working moms: 5.8 hours a week

#7 Mom Job: Janitor

Annual salary: $20,322
Hourly pay: $9.77
Stay-at-home moms: 7.7 hours a week
Working moms: 4.5 hours a week

#6 Mom Job: Van Driver

Annual salary: $28,761
Hourly pay: $13.83
Stay-at-home moms: 7.9 hours a week
Working moms: 5.6 hours a week

#5 Mom Job: Computer Operator

Annual salary: $32,095
Hourly pay: $15.43
Stay-at-home moms: 8.9 hours a week
Working moms: 6.5 hours a week

#4 Mom Job: Facilities Manager

Annual salary: $66,300
Hourly pay: $31.88
Stay-at-home moms: 10.7 hours a week
Working moms: 7.1 hours a week

#3 Mom Job:Daycare Center Teacher

Annual salary: $26,881
Hourly pay: $12.92
Stay-at-home moms: 13.7 hours a week
Working moms: 5.5 hours a week

#2 Mom Job: Cook

Annual salary: $27,274
Hourly pay: $13.11
Stay-at-home moms: 13.9 hours a week
Working moms: 8.1 hours a week

#1 Mom Job: Housekeeper

Annual salary: $20,331
Hourly pay: $9.77
Stay-at-home moms: 14.8 hours a week
Working moms: 7.9 hours a week

Salary.com then figured out the annual salary (40-hour base pay plus an average of 54.7 hours of overtime) from the above jobs and arrived at $112,962 in yearly compensation for SAHMs. Not bad at all. Career moms would rake in $66,979 on top of their outside-the-home compensation.

But does all this work in the home make any difference? Do children, moms and dads benefit from having mom stay home? Bill Duncan, Sutherland Institute’s director for The Center on Family and Society, collected research that sheds some light on this.

Do kids do better in school if mom spends more time with them?

  • Increased time of mothers with children led to a decline in high school dropout rate. Pedro Carneiro, Katrine V. Loken, Kjell G. Salvanes, “A Flying Start? Long Term Consequences of Maternal Time Investments in Children During Their First Year of Life” Working Papers in Economics No.06/10 (Dept. of Econ., University of Bergen October 2010) at http://www.uib.no/filearchive/wp0610.pdf.
  • Children with a positive relationship with their mothers were less likely to have behavior problems and more likely to do well in school. Emily Fergus Morrison, Sara Rimm-Kauffman, and Robert C. Pianta, “A Longitudinal Study of Mother-Child Interactions at School Entry and Social and Academic Outcomes in Middle School,” Journal of School Psychology 41, No. 3 (May/June 2003): 185-200.
  • Mother’s bonding with the child is the most consistent predictor of a child’s cognitive, social and emotional development. NICHD (2003). “Does amount of time spent in child care predict social-emotional adjustment during the transition to kindergarten?” Child Development, 74(4), 976-1005.
  • Mothers’ talking to children helps the children’s language skills and cognitive abilities. Tamis-LeMonda, C. S., & Bornstein, M. H. (1989). “Habituation and maternal encouragement of attention in infancy as predictors of toddler language, play, and representational competence,” Child Development, 60(3), 738-751.

Are children healthier if mom is involved in their lives more?

  • A mother’s communication with adolescent children about sexual activity resulted in decreased likelihood of adolescent sexual activity. Vincent Guilamo-Ramos et al., “Parental Expertise, Trustworthiness, and Accessibility: Parent-Adolescent Communication and Adolescent Risk Behavior,” Journal of Marriage and Family 68, No. 5 (December 2006): 1229-1246.
  • Adolescents’ accountability to mothers results in lower alcohol and drug use and less sexual misbehavior, Barnes, G. (2006). “Effects of parental monitoring and peer deviance on substance use and delinquency,” Journal of Marriage and Family, 68(4), 1084-1104.
  • Mothers’ discussion of the risks of illicit sexuality, alcohol and drug use makes children less likely to engage in these behaviors. Guilamo-Ramos, V., Jaccard, J., Dittus, P., & Bouris, A. M. (2006). “Parental expertise, trustworthiness, and accessibility: Parent–adolescent communication and adolescent risk behavior,” Journal of Marriage & Family, 68, 1229–1246.

Does behavior and emotional stability improve with deeper relationships with a mother?

  • Children’s attachment to mothers associated with behavior of children in later life. Kathleen McCartney et al., “Testing a Maternal Attachment Model of Behavior Problems in Early Childhood,” Journal of Child Psychology & Psychiatry 45, No. 4 (2004): 765-778.
  • Mothers’ interactions in early childhood predicted social skills and behavior through childhood. National Institute of Child Health and Human Development Early Child Care Research Network, “Social Functioning in First Grade: Associations with Earlier Home and Child Care Predictors with Current Classroom Experiences” Child Development 74, No. 6 (November/December 2003): 1639-1662.
  • A mother’s response to children’s needs provides those children with a sense of security. Ainsworth, M. D., Blehar, M. C., Waters, E., & Wall, S. (1978). Patterns of attachment: A psychological study of the Strange Situation. Hillsdale, NJ: Erlbaum.
  • Disrupted relationships between mothers and children leads to later psychopathology in the life of the child. Bowlby, J. (1944). “Forty-four juvenile thieves: Their characters and home life.” International Journal of Psychoanalysis, 25, 19-52, 107-127.
  • When a child does not have a relationship with his or her mother for a significant period, the child “lacked feeling, had superficial relationships, and exhibited hostile or antisocial tendencies.” Kobak, R. (1999). “The emotional dynamics of disruptions in attachment relationships: Implications for theory, research, and clinical intervention.” In J. Cassidy & P. R. Shaver (Eds.), Handbook of Attachment (pp. 21-43).New York: The Guilford Press.
  • Mothers contribute to children’s religiosity which, in turn, leads the children to less delinquency. Pearce, L. D., & Haynie, D. L. (2004). “Intergenerational religious dynamics and adolescent delinquency,” Social Forces, 82 (4),1553–1572.
  • Mother’s help children develop appropriate understandings of other people. Schore, A. N. (1994). Affect regulation and the origin of the self: The neurobiology of emotional development. Hillsdale, NJ:Lawrence Erlbaum.
  • Mother absence is related to depression, anxiety and aggression in children. Sroufe, L. A., Carlson, E., & Shulman, S. (1993). “Individuals in relationships: Development from infancy through adolescence.” In D. C. Funder, R. D. Parke, C. Tomlinson-Keasey & K. Widaman (Eds.), Studying lives through time: Personality and development (pp. 315- 342). Washington, D. C.: American Psychological Association.

Does taking the time and effort to nurse a newborn matter?

  • Nursing mothers provide the following health benefits to children: increased immunity , decreased risk of infections and allergic diseases, protection from sudden infant death syndrome, increased intelligence, decreased risk of diabetes and obesity (including over the long term). American Academy of Pediatrics, Policy Statement, “Breastfeeding and the Use of Human Milk,” Pediatrics vol. 115 no. 2 (February 2005) pp. 496-506.

Obviously, lucky are the children who have more time with their mother. These studies illustrate the positive effects on children when their mothers spend more time with them. This is, after all, the most important work of all. As C.S. Lewis said, “The homemaker has the ultimate career. All other careers exist for one purpose only – and that is to support the ultimate career.”