The Six Figure Babysitter: How Stay-At-Home Moms Can Pay Themselves
A stay-at-home mom is a working mom.
I recently read that the annual salary of a stay-at-home mom for 2019 was $178,201 based on an analysis by salary.com. The figure was based on the multiple roles moms (and dads) take on. From being an Academic Advisor to a Babysitter to Dietician to an Event Planner to a Judge to Staff Nurse to a whole other myriad of functions a mom performs, moms are an invaluable part of the household. I also want to note that many working moms do this same work while also holding down a separate, paid job. Either way you look at it, being a mom is not easy. Add to the fact that it is uncompensated work also makes it a bit daunting.
We know that running a household is core to all of our well being. After all, where would we be if we didn’t have caretakers that sacrificed their time for us. To quote futurist, Alfred Toffler “How productive would your workforce be if it hadn’t been toilet trained?” Thus, it’s time that we start thinking about compensation and it’s up to women everywhere to start paying themselves.
We all need to know our worth. (No, this post is not sponsored by salary.com) We need to set an example for our future daughters that being a mom is hard work and it’s OK to start asking for compensation. Compensation in this case, unfortunately, will not be in the six-figures, but it’s a start to getting some financial footing.
Full Disclosure: I am a six week new mom so I’ve still got a lot to learn, but I’ve been observing and thinking a lot about this.
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Many parents, more specifically moms, will or have already made decisions on what to do with regards to going back to the workforce after the birth of a child. The decision almost, always boils down to the financials. It is unfortunate that in the United States, there are not a lot of programs that protect, pay and encourage longer maternity (and paternity) leave. The U.S. also lacks public programs that lower the cost of childcare so the onus is on many women to stay-at-home to care for children as the most economically viable option for the household. It also bears mentioning that all of tasks and responsibilities of a woman gets compounded after the birth of a child. This puts a lot of stress on her time and well being, sometimes pushing her own needs to the back burner. It’s a shame that this is the case as without this main Household Manager, life won’t be so easy.
Staying at home to care for children (and older parents in the future) has normally been part of the women’s Caretaker role. In our current economy, caretaking is low income work or unpaid. This means that when a woman takes on the Caretaker role full-time, she misses out on potential earnings, skill development and networking opportunities. A lack of earnings means lower Social Security benefit accumulation and a decrease in savings and investments. A double whammy!
The opportunity cost of being a stay-at-home mom can add up quickly. Many women will sacrifice six-figure careers to care for their children. By some definition, women with loads of career experience or advanced level degrees become unpaid six-figure babysitters. It’s a trade-off with the reward of raising kids that grow up to be caring and successful adults.
Pay Yourself Mommas
Unfortunately, the reality is that no matter how much these figures have risen over time, stay-at-home moms do not see a single cent of this salary. Household labor is indivisible labor. Our GDP, which is the #1 economic indicator doesn’t account for all of the work, time, resources and money that goes into managing a household.
So my advice for all the women (and men) (even though I am only in this new mother role for a total of 6 weeks) out there that have not completely ruled out having children is to start paying yourself early on. Let the power of compound interest create a salary for your future self. I know, as a young 22-year old, children were the last thing on my mind, but thinking and planning about future events that have a high probability of happening (i.e. having children) can allow you some freedom later on.
Before you become a someone else’s caretaker, set money aside if for the sole reason to have it as a cushion for when and if you decide to leave the workforce to care for others. A great option is contributing to a ROTH IRA. It has some income limits that you can read about on the IRS website, but in general it is a post-tax savings vehicle, which means you’ve already paid taxes on it and your earnings grow tax free (there are age and withdrawal restrictions). If invested properly, it can grow significantly. While the name IRA, which stands for Individual Retirement Account, has the word “retirement” in it, it has a fairly flexible set of qualified withdrawal options. Currently, the max you can put in for 2019 is $6000. It doesn’t seem like much, but it adds up over time especially if you start early on. You can open and contribute to an IRA as a single individual or as part of a married couple filing jointly. The requirement is that you just need to have taxable compensation.
So, if and when you do decide to leave the workforce for some time, you can continue to use this option as a means of paying yourself. $6000 a year doesn’t seem like much and if we break that down into days, that’s around $16.50 a day, but it’s something and a start to compensating yourself. No, it’s not going to be the six-figure salary quoted, but it’s an exercise in ensuring a secure and financial future for yourself. This is especially important as women tend to live longer and having money in your name can provide security and confidence.
If you start maximizing the IRA at $6000 the year your child is born and continue to contribute $6000 and have a rate of return of 6%, when they turn 18 you’ll have a sizeable savings account under your name.
Of course, as the Financial Manager of the household, you may be saying to yourself, how do I afford to pay myself? Momma, you can find a way. One thing I’ve always been awed at is the ability for moms to stretch budgets. If there’s a will, there’s a way.
There are many other alternatives to save money and pay yourself so discuss those with your partners. Remember that as with anything in life, there’s a trade-off, but planning ahead can make the trade-off that much easier to deal with.
Do you pay yourself as a stay-at-home mom? How have you made this happen with a tight budget? Would you feel guilty taking away that money away from the family finances to pay yourself?
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