(MoneyWatch) COMMENTARY Salary.com's annual "What's a mom worth?" survey is out. The grand total for this year is $112,962. Now doesn't that make you feel all warm and fuzzy? Go give yourself a big hug (if you're a mom), hug your wife (if you're married to a mom), or just give your mom a call to say, "Hey, thanks for doing all of this hard work for free! No one but a selfless, wonderful mom would do that much hard work! You deserve a medal."
That, I suppose, is the goal. Along with reminding women of how oppressed they are that they would do laundry without anyone handing them an actual paycheck for it. Horrors! This annual survey actually makes me have the opposite reaction as I gag and contemplate stabbing my eyeballs out so I don't have to read the whole thing.
For full disclosure purposes I'll lay my cards on the table. I am married. I have two children (8 and almost 4). (The picture is of my family.) I work part time and have since the first child was born. My husband works full time. I am a long-time veteran of the mommy wars, as I get caught in the middle. I'm not chasing down that corner office, nor am I focused on family and home 100 percent of the time.
So, there are my biases. And here is what is wrong with this survey:
Everybody has to do laundry, clean toilets and vacuum. It's not some special mom job. I did laundry long before those little bundles of joy joined our home. Men do laundry. Women do laundry. Even (gasp!) teenagers do laundry. Toilets get dirty even if you have no children. Yes, you can hire it out, but few people do (with the exception of dry cleaning). Hiring it out is a luxury, not a normal thing that only a mom -- out of her great selflessness -- does herself. A once-every-other-week cleaning lady does not eliminate the nightly dirty dishes.
Household decisions are not equal to CEO decisions. I know, I've broken some code of womanhood by saying that, but honestly, it's not. Salary.com defines a CEO as someone who "plans and directs all aspects of an organization's policies, objectives, and initiatives" and says that's worth $171,824, or $55.07 an hour. (No, that math doesn't work, I don't know what they were thinking). Yes, moms and dads and single people and double-income-no-kids people do that too. But the average American woman has about two children. Add in a spouse and even a dog (I'm stretching here) and you've got a CEO over five people -- and that assumes that this wonder woman married one of those dolts that only exist in television commercials (incapable of making a single decision). A CEO over "company" that small isn't likely to make $171,000. And deciding where to go on vacation, whether Junior should take cello or piano lessons, and how to balance that 401k account is nothing like running a company.
A mom is not a psychologist. If a mom talking with her child counts as therapy, then we should get rid of all mental health professionals and just tell everyone with problems: "Go talk to your mom!" See, I've solved the health care crisis by eliminating the need for mental care! Insurance costs should now plummet.
Talking with your kids, your spouse, and your best friend is talking and offering advice. It's insulting to people who have studied and trained to say that their jobs are equal to what any mom is capable of. Yes, it's important for mom to listen to children's problems and meet with teachers to discuss bullying problems. But, if a child needs a psychologist, mom's job will be to find an appropriate provider and drive the child there. Lending an ear is not what a psychologist does.
Being a chauffeur is a choice. There is a certain martyrdom in the "I spend all my time in the mini van! Soccer, dance class, cello lessons, oh my!" Caroline Ingalls never drove Laura to a single lesson and she turned out to be a responsible adult. You don't have to do it. And things you don't have to do are considered "volunteer" work and guess what? You don't get paid for volunteer work.
I could go on, but my blood pressure is rising and this year's survey didn't turn up cardiologist as one of the skills one magically gains by giving birth or adopting, so I should stop.
I chose to have children. I chose who I married and we discussed these issues prior to tying the knot. It's rather insulting to suggest that the only value in motherhood is a monetary one. And that moms (or dads) can be replaced by a paycheck. If you focus on the lack of a paycheck as an indication that your tasks are not important to a well-functioning family, then you'll make yourself miserable.
So ignore the Salary.com survey. Don't tie your worth up into an imaginary dollar figure. Make your choices and either be happy with them or make different choices.