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May 08, 2021

What's a mother's work really worth?

By Gordon Powers, Sympatico / MSN Finance

Viewing the raising of children as ‘doing nothing’ ignores the economic fact that mothers are providing and nurturing the human capital that drives the economy, argues Ann Crittenden in her landmark book The Price of Motherhood.

Ok, but can you really put a price on a mother’s work? Stay at home mothers provide services to themselves and to their families, not to a marketplace of customers. After all, what we do for personal benefit is quite different from the labour we auction in a day job.

Nonetheless, based on a survey of more than 12,000 women, has determined that the time mothers spend performing 10 typical job functions would be worth somewhere around $135,000 in Canadian dollars for a stay-at-home mom. A working mom's 'at-home' salary would be about $83,000, in addition to the salary she might earn in the workplace.

The job titles that best matched mothers’ definition of their work are (in order of hours spent per week): housekeeper, day care center teacher, cook, computer operator, facilities manager, van driver, psychologist, laundry machine operator, janitor and chief executive officer.

Although the methodology is a bit suspect (running a family and running a company aren't really comparable in terms of size and scope of responsibility, regardless of gender, and there's no offset offered for the economic benefits stay at home mothers enjoy in the form of food and shelter)'s analysts weighted the different job responsibilities to determine the overall compensation due.

What’s the point in assigning such a subjective value of a mother's work if she’s never going to see any of the money? Well, at least somebody else will know -- and that's a start.

Newly appreciative families can also use this handy tool to come up with a more customized maternal pay cheque. Although it uses U.S. data, you can price each unpaid task, based on location and the personal hours worked in each of the 10 roles. You can even create a pay stub, which can be printed or emailed to introduce a new view of Mother's Day.

Mothers across the country can either frame their faux pay cheques, have the pleasure of tearing them up or consider opening up labour negotiations.



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Gordon PowersGordon Powers

A long-time fund company executive, Gordon Powers now heads up the Affinity Group, a financial services consulting firm. Gordon was a personal finance columnist for the Globe & Mail for many years, has taught retirement planning...

James HaversJames Havers

James is the senior editor of MSN Money living in Toronto. He has worked for the Nikkei Shimbun (Tokyo),,, Canadian Business and other publications. Havers turned to journalism after teaching overseas.

Jason BucklandJason Buckland

The modern-day MC Hammer of money, Jason can often be seen spending cash that isn’t his with the efficiency of a Wilt Chamberlain first date. After cutting his teeth as a reporter for the Toronto Sun, he joined the MSN Money team with...