Social Question

JLeslie's avatar

What do you think about the estimations regarding how much a "housewife's" work is worth?

Asked by JLeslie (56036points) October 15th, 2012

A facebook friend of mine just posted this:

‎$112,692 is the salary a 2012 stay-at-home mom would earn (that is, if she were paid), as determined by The income was calculated by combing the average wages, plus overtime, for the jobs a mom typically performs, including laundress, janitor, driver, cook, facilities manager, psychologist, and CEO (of the household). The results also showed that the average stay-at-home mom works a 94.7-hour week and would make an average of $22.94 an hour.

Do you really feel that work is worth that amount?

Don’t most people do some housework? Do we think about how much we should be paid when we are doing it?

Is it just stay home spouse’s trying to get some credit and value for the work they do, because they feel they are looked upon as not successful or not working hard?

Since they don’t get paid the money, does it matter what someone else doing the job would get paid?

Any other thoughts on the topic are appreciated.

Also, let us know if you are stay at home yourself, or your spouse, or ever have been.

About me: I have not worked in over 3 years, no kids, so now I do all the housework (once in a blue moon I have someone come to clean it) run, the errands, cooking etc. Previously, I had a career outside of the home. For me the thing that I think is the most undervalued is dealing with service people, I don’t think my husband has any idea how much time and frustration is involved with that. I was responsible for it our entire marriage, even while I worked. My life is much much easier and calm not working, even though I have taken on more of the housework. I don’t feel comfortable saying my work is worth $100k, because really what has happened is we lost my salary when I stopped working, and both my husband and I have less to do now that I don’t work. The one expense that might be higher is I had my house cleaned a little more often by a housekeeper at times when I worked. That totalled up to around $1,000 a year when I average it out.

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53 Answers

Coloma's avatar

Yes, I do. I believe work is work and the average “housewife” is worth her weight in gold, although she will never be realized for that. lol
I was a stay at home mom til my daughter was in Jr. High, 6th grade I think when I went back to “work.” Heh, going to work was far easier than staying home.
I felt a tremendous amount of pressure to “prove” my worth and pushed myself really hard to be recognized as having value with my very success oriented husband at the time.

I kept an immaculate house, did all the gardening and most of the heavy yard work, taught a youth group in my home, cared for a mini ranch full of animals, volunteered for several other organizations. Shit…going back to “work” was a fucking VACATION to me!

elbanditoroso's avatar

That’s a complete crock. It’s assigning dollar values based on some wildly waco assumptions, to say nothing of inaccuracies based on regional salaries, cost of living, and quality of effort.

Frankly, this is a rather silly exercise which is meaningless.

pricing/salary is not based on some ideal list of numbers that someone coooked up. It is based on value perceived by the buyer. You pay $600 for an Iphone 5, not because it costs $600 to manufacture, but because people think it has a perceived value of $600.

Same with “housewifery”. perceived value. No one in the world is going to pay $112,000 to a housewife. Maybe she thinks it’s worth that much, but on what basis? The kids and the husband aren’t shelling out that much. They – the consumers – are the ones who set the value of the housewife, NOT the housewife herself.

Again, this is a silly and meaningless exercise. It was clearly invented with an agenda, but it isn’t based on anything resembling realistic market forces.

zenvelo's avatar

The supposition is that one should be compensated for every little thing one does at home. But it does not consider that the “housewife” should compensate the partner for every thing “he” does. Also, a generalist (as opposed to the specialists cited in the calculation) can be hired for much less.

While my ex was on severe disability and I had two kids under 7 years of age, we had a “full time” nanny housekeeper. We paid her $5,000 per month. That’s a lot less than $112K +.

I did much more of the house work, no one ever proposed that I should be compensated.

hearkat's avatar

I get annoyed at such things…
Yes, maintaining a household is work, especially if also raising kids.
However, as a working single mother, I had to do all that plus put in my 40 hours, with a commute that has been at least an hour each way.

Coloma's avatar

@elbanditoroso and….my ex husband makes over a 100k a year taking sales clients to the golf course every afternoon at his plush corp. digs in Houston TX. Rough life, martinis on the green.
Maybe $112k is a little over the top, but really if you do breakdown the cost of all the services a woman in the home provides, well…
I pay my gardener $20 an hour for any extra “honey dos”, I pay my massage therapist $85 for an hour massage. I pay my pet sitter $50 for 2, 30 minute visits when I am away. Most men pay lip service to woman but deep down they always feel superior just because they earn a paycheck for their “work.”: Bah!

Coloma's avatar


I agree that certain “duties” come with territory and that massive amounts of praise and recognition should not be expected for simply doing what needs to be done. OTOH it is also true that anything we do for others that they could do for themselves is a gift and should be appreciated.
I appreciated my ex keeping a roof over my head while raising our daughter and I never expected to be put on a pedistal for simply doing what needed to be done, however…whether the “gift” is financial support or washing someones underware and cooking and cleaning, managing a social calender or mowing the lawn, appreciation and gratitude is key.

From a “spiritual” perspective all things are of equal value IMO.
What I wouldn’t give to come home to a warm, cozy house with dinner on the table and all my laundry done. lol

Seek's avatar

@Coloma Hear, hear!

For serious – it is so much less stressful going to work every day than staying home was. At the very least, I don’t have to put so much goddamn effort into answering to the rest of the planet that I am indeed not eating bonbons and watching As Our Stomachs Turn while the kid stares at a television all day.

NOW I’m a working mother, and the fact that I have a 4 year old with a 1st grade reading level looks downright heroic, especially when you ignore the fact that up until the last two months I’ve spent every day at home with him reading “Go, Dog, Go!” and writing notes to Daddy with alphabet magnets.

Coloma's avatar

@Seek_Kolinahr LOL…right on my friend! I felt the same, talk about sterotypes of the lazy housewife watching soaps and eating cookies all day.
Oh brother!
Not to mention that what other ” career” choice offers ZERO retirement and pensions.
I divorced my ex on the cusp of his greatest earnings and now I am going into my old age with little security while he is at the top of his game, thanks to my support all those years. He traveled extensively and would have paid handsomely for a nanny had he been a single parent.

I have no regrets over divorcing him, my choice, but ironically, he remarried 2 years ago to a never married woman with no kids who now is being supported by him and living the cushy life doing nothing. Still…she can have him. lol

Coloma's avatar

I get such a kick out of calling my gardener up and saying ” Hey Scott, I need a blow job!”
Of course I pay for that blowjob and to think of all the free blowjobs I’ve given.lolol

elbanditoroso's avatar

@Coloma – my cleaning lady isn’t as open to the same offer :-(

Shippy's avatar

I don’t think one can determine accurately what a housewife or house person is worth. Because some might not be doing any traveling for example. I know a lot of mothers who stay at home who refuse to drive. But do other things. Lot’s of housewives too demand bin emptying to be done by someone else. But I do get the drift of the whole scenario. I mean imagine a job you never leave, you are always physically present at that station. Perhaps putting a value on it, is in fact saying it is time to draw clear boundaries of what should be done when. I would love to be a housewife. Sadly I always worked and did housework. I did stay at home for about four months and during that time, also learned to sew, bake bread and so on. But my family was just me and my husband!

jca's avatar

You could also value something by the lowest amount that someone would be willing to do that job for (as the salaries of many jobs are determined now). So if you can hire someone to do all that a housewife does, for say $4,000 per month, then can you say that the housewife’s job is worth $4,000×12 = $48,000 annually?

Coloma's avatar

@jca Very true, although I abhore cheapskates that pay slave wages. Hell, I pay a 12 yr. neighbor boy $12 an hour to rake my yard. I would be humiliated to offer, even a kid, less than a min. of $10—$12 and hour for hard work. People I hire are paid well because I DO appreciate their efforts and want to keep them happy and available.

elbanditoroso's avatar

@jca, that’s just the problem – those numbers are totally made up based on nothing more than dreams.

Take my daughter – for a while she was unemployed, and she took care of her two kids all day. She also made dinner, cut the lawn, and did the laundry. That’s a lot of work. But how can you assign a dollar value?

Coloma's avatar

@elbanditoroso Easy. You assign the dollar value based on the going rate for those services provided by an outside source.
The going rate in my area for a “handyman” is around $50 an hour.
I pay my gardener $75 for a quickie mow and blow and an extra $20 an hour for other, misc. help.

I babysit a 7 yr. old girl weekends and am paid a $100 a day.

JLeslie's avatar

@Coloma But, everyone has to cook and clean to some extent. Or, at leastwe can say ghe average American does those things themseves typicakky, the average American does not pay someone to cook and clean.

I do understand why you put so much pressure on yourself when you were a housewife. My husband has been known to tell me, “that’s your job,” when it comes to domestic chores, now that I don’t wprk, which he never said while I worked full time outside of the house. But, I still don’t relly work harder at keeping the house cleaner, I did add making his lunch onto the house related things, and took over the laundry and other errands he had been doing when I worked full time. I don’t have children, so I certainly can’t compare what I do to mom’s at home. When I worked retail that job was much much harder and much much more exhausting than keeping a house. Compared to a desk job, a desk job is piece of cake next to retail or running a household. I wasn’t a CEO though, but still, sitting all day dealing with mostly extremely competent people is much easier.

jca's avatar

@Coloma: My babysitter charged me $60 per day for a 5 year old. I am just saying that you can look at the disparity and see that you might value babysitting at $100 per day or you might value it at $60 per day, and anything in between. Same for what the OP is asking – a housewife, mother, etc. can be valued at $120,000, $48,000 (as in my previous example) or you can say it’s priceless – the raising of one’s child(ren) is priceless and worth so much you can’t put a value on it.

Seek's avatar

Man, was I getting ripped off during my babysitting days

poisonedantidote's avatar

Is this part of Mitt Romney’s plan to make people think they earn 250k?

The number has been inflated way too much to be credible. Yes it is hard to keep a house, but come one, 100k? I bet you can find someone to do it for 30k or even 20k.

Sure, you may be a janitor, but janitors don’t earn much, and you are a part time one at that. Laundy work is not worth much either, and again you are doing it part time. Same goes for driver, a taxi driver would not earn much on 2 school runs and a trip to the shops.

Then you have the fact, that some of the things the stay at home person does, they have to do for them self anyway. It’s not like single people don’t have to eat or cook and things too.

For 80k, I could employ a team of part time people, who would do the job better and cheaper, and still have cash left over.

I’d value the work at 20k to 50k, depending on size of house, number of kids, etc.

If you disagree, I’ll gladly come clean your house for 50k a year, I’ll even let your kids suck my nipples and call me mama.

Coloma's avatar

@JLeslie Agreed.
@jca Yes, I would say raising my daughter was priceless and I wouldn’t change a thing about that choice. I just think it is totally bogus that a “person” who chooses to be a parent at home even HAS to justify their worth. I also hate how it polarizes women against each other.

It’s such a double edged sword for woman, the stay at home mom is at high risk of poverty after being out of the workplace for years, and the working mom feels guilt for not being there more for her kids at times.
I have had several experiences with conflict with other women over the years for these choices.
I had a “working” neighbor/friend when our kids were young and she was always reminding me how I didn’t really “work”...yet she was more than happy to rely on me to pick up her kids at the bus stop every afternoon,wait for repair people, the ranch vet and other domestic duties she was not available for. Bah humbug!

livelaughlove21's avatar

Um…no. I’m newly married with no kids, I’m a full time college student, and I work VERY part-time/on-call when I’m able. I say all of that because while I do most of the housework, I don’t have children so I’ve got it pretty easy. I don’t have plans to ever be a housewife after I graduate, but you never know what will happen. My husband, the breadwinner, assembles power tools for a living and works 60+ hours per week, so he has very few duties in the house – vacuuming on Saturdays and some dusting in the living room. He brings home anywhere from $45,000—$60,000 per year.

I don’t believe the work I do at home is worth even half of what he makes. And children would certainly not make it worth over double his income. That’s ridiculous. Wives who work do housework and take care of their children, as do most men. It’s a part of life. I think these numbers are just a way for housewives to prove that they work just as hard, or harder, than their husbands.

A housewife’s work IS work, but it’s not worth $120K. And even if it was, she doesn’t bring that much home, so who cares?

ucme's avatar

I think they should be paid with sexual favours from the lord of the manor.
“Get thee below stairs you raven haired temptress, let’s ride to sunrise….hoorah!!”
This answer came to you from the 1884 edition of Vile Sexist Pigs, a monthly journal for ignorant farmers everywhere.

jca's avatar

Add to this whole debate that you can look at the housing and food (room and board) that the wife (mother) gets is worth money, too, in exchange for her labor. What is the room and board worth? Is it worth what a hotel would charge? Is it worth a portion of the mortgage, food, and heat? Or anything in between?

@Coloma: Yes, it’s a shame that women look at each other in terms of their worth. Each does what she can and what she is able to, given her circumstances. Each does her best to provide in the ways she can and each should be commended for it.

JLeslie's avatar

@jca Great point about the room and board.

I think for me I hate dividing up the marriage in the way that putting a number on housework implies. The marriage is a unit, the two people united in their effort to make a happy, safe, hopefully not too much stress, life. However the couple divides up all the chores, whether they be in or outside of the home, or paid or not, is up to them and may change over time.

I did know a woman who worked as a personal assistant for a CEO who flew with him all over the world, kept his appointments, and even ran errands. She made about $70k 10 years ago. She had an expense accpunt also though, she wasn’t paying for her own meals while travelling, and maybe there were some other perks.

Blackberry's avatar

I don’t think they can be compared. Having a kid isn’t as “mandatory” for sustaining a lifestyle the way getting a job to support yourself is.

Coloma's avatar

@livelaughlove21 Who cares? I think everyone should care about labeling others worth based on highly subjective opinion.
Being a trash collector is hardly seen as a lucrative job, yet, what would happen if we had no trash collectors?
If you end up working a job of comparable effort and hours as your husband and yet he feels he is still somehow superior to you I doubt you would agree. I am not saying that a house/wife/husband should command a 6 figure salary, however, they are certainly providing an invaluable service to their families and are certainly worthy of respect as well as more than a minimum wage monetary value.

Hell, Merry Maids charges $200 for 2 hours of housekeeping.

livelaughlove21's avatar

@Coloma If a woman has a husband who does not think her work at home is valuable, maybe she shouldn’t be with him. Being an undervalued spouse is barely a reason to put a dollar amount on work that heeds no income. My comment was not intended to be generalized any further than that. I see no point in putting a numerical value on this, and I doubt any husband who does not appreciate the work his wife does would appreciate it any more after seeing these numbers.

Coloma's avatar

@livelaughlove21 I agree that undervaluing a spouse is an issue in itself, still, I think this work that “heeds no income” can be broken down and given a baseline, monetary value. If a parent finds themselves single they will quickly find out that there is an applicable monetary value to be paid for a child care provider or housekeeper or combo of both, that does heed a substantial monetary compensation.

jca's avatar

I pay my house cleaning lady $80 for my whole house, which takes her anywhere between 2–4 hours to do.

wundayatta's avatar

I think women should go on strike.

Or better yet, get divorced and take half the assets and child support. And alimony.

How’s that deal sound? Would it be fair? Do you get what you want? It’s all just about money, right?

Wages for housework? Wages for gardening? Wages for fixing up the house? Taking care of things? Fixing the car? Making social connections? Being a couch potato?

Yeah. Wages for couch potatoes!

Look. I get the concept, but talking about wages is absurd. It’s not a job. It’s life. Unless you marry your housekeeper so she’ll work for free and warm your bed, besides. But even there, you got your end of the bargain to hold up.

JLeslie's avatar

@Coloma Probably part of the problem is how those jobs are perceived. Taking care of children and cleaning house when paying someone is considered rather menial by many. I know a lot of women who would never “lower” themselves to cleaning, ironing, or cooking in someone else’s house, but basically that is what they do as their major responsibitlites in their own home. It’s interesting that even a lot of women themseves are kind of looking down on the work when it is being done for someone else.

Coloma's avatar

@wundayatta Yes and no. Yes, it is life, but it is also only simple logic and fair play..
The issue is not so much determining a salary for services rendered by a home maker/ parent, as it is about acknowledging there IS a comparable market value for all services on the open market and that choosing to be a stay at home parent does have a monetary value.
This is EXACTLY WHY stay at home spouses are compensated for their services rendered and lost income in a divorce situation. You may not see it that way, but the legal system does. It says this person does have a monetary value and they should be compensated for their years of service that resulted in lost earning abilities. That’s life too. lol

wundayatta's avatar

That’s my point, @Coloma. The legal system values partners in a divorce, and hands out the assets. Those assets are there when the partners are together, too, and that is why you don’t pay wages. The family is like a corporation and the two partners are the main stockholders. They hold the value of the corporation instead of receiving wages.

If you were to hand out wages, you’d have to take them out of the value of the corp. It would be like one partner selling shares to the other. Of course, then they’d put the wages right back in the corp and rebuy their “shares.” Absurd.

But a housewive’s work is already valued. If she thinks it’s too low, it’s because she partnered with the wrong person.

JLeslie's avatar

Well, depending on the state the assets are divided up equally or not, and then there is the question of alimony as a separate matter. I am not sure if alimony has more to do woth maintaining the homemaker’s life style, or how much value who work was worth, or a percentage of the other spouse’s income? Divorce is different than marriage though. In marriage we, or I, am not thinking, how much I should be earning keeping house, but I got divorced I would not want to be dismissed as someone who never earned a penny so I should not get a penny in a settlement.

Coloma's avatar

@JLeslie Alimony, or spousal support is based on the discrepancy between the wage earning parties. The higher wage earner compensates, in a reasonable fashion, the lower wage earner or, the non-wage earner who has lost income earning potential for their years in the home.
It is a form of “welfare” in the truest sense. It is meant to help the lower income spouse survive, not necessarily in the manner they were accustomed, but to survive, period.

When I divorced my ex was making around 80k and I was making about 28k. I was “awarded” a modest amount of spousal support but by no means anything capable of supporting me.
Not even close. No Hollywood divorce here. lol

JLeslie's avatar

@Coloma I think some states have moved towards temporary alimony. I have heard 8 years thrown around a lot.

Coloma's avatar

@JLeslie Spousal support depends on the length of the marriage, age of the parties involved, how many years in the home and what the court determines as earning ability for the “less than” spouse.
Any marriage lasting over 10 years is considered a longterm marriage.
A 50 year old woman who has been in the home for 20–30 years will be awarded lifetime support in most cases, based on a court judgement of her working 40 hours a week at minimum wage. I had been back in the work force for 3+ years when I divorced after 22 years, so my earning “ability” was based on what I was making at the time.

The spouse is also entitled to half of the retirement benefits and continued healthcare benefits if they have any outstanding medical conditions.
I “settled” for a minimal amount of support because I just wanted to be free and done with legalities. I could take my ex back to court and ask for more but, I have no interest in doing that. I only wanted to be fairly compensated, not soak him for a lifetime.
I could freaking be a family law attorney after my education in divorce court. lol

wundayatta's avatar

It is interesting how different people value their past work as compared to future freedom. Some don’t find the fight worth it, no matter how much they might get. I imagine that would be different if the spouse had significant wealth. Then the less than spouse might think it worth fighting for more, since there might be a lot more.

What this shows to me is that the idea of wages for housework is very much a market that is valued differently by different people in different circumstances.

Coloma's avatar

Sometimes you just have to cut your losses, for the sake of sanity. lol
On a humorous note, because there is humor in everything, my first attorney said to me one day…” I gotta get out of family law, it’s killing me.”
He had a heart attack the next day!


I then had to start all over and find a new guy, the whole damn thing took years to get done.

wundayatta's avatar

I totally agree about cutting your losses. But it is a rare person who can actually do that. Most of us hang on far too long. That’s pretty ironic about your attorney. I bet you do a schtick about that.

Coloma's avatar

@wundayatta It was sooo funny, I mean, not that he had a heart attack, he lived btw just got out of family law overnight, obviously, but yeah, it’s one of the stories in the humor archives fer sure.

KNOWITALL's avatar

BS! No, I don’t think it’s worth that much at all. I have never stayed at home, nor do I intend on doing so, it would drive me batty inside a week.

I work at least 40 hours per week and don’t make that much, and that’s busting it out/ hard work. After work I work out, cook dinner and clean the house, take care of pets. Weekends I clean the entire house, do laundry, and often if my husband is not feeling well, will trim hedges, mow lawns and anything else that needs done, like paying bills/ banking.

My grandmother always managed a household for a living and when ‘training’ me to be a good wife and mother I noticed the following:

1) You can stop any time you want for whatever reason.
2) You can work as hard or not as you want, often only you would know if you swept and mopped that day, etc..
3) There is no structure and no accountability (Unless you answer to someone)
4) You cannot be fired which is usually a motivation for good work.

*I want to qualify my statement by saying that I do believe that it’s important work, and necessary and not everyone is cut out for it. On that note, I make about $30k a year.

jca's avatar

@KNOWITALL makes a good point and she points out one reason I often envy people who don’t have to work outside the home- none of the stress of being watched by a boss, having to account for your time and productivity. Even the most lenient of bosses know somewhat of an idea of what you’re up to, and working from home, you don’t have to deal with that.

Coloma's avatar

Well, thing is, we can all choose whatever work we want. Who says work HAS to be hard and structured to be work?
I prefer self employment or working in flexible jobs that afford a lot of freedom and have never done well in highly structured, micro-managing environments. I am far too free spirited and creative to be under delta lockdown by some anal retentive, control freak of a boss.
I was a very creative parent and remain employed in flexible and creative work.

People that bitch and moan about how hard they have to work are not admirable in my eyes in the least. One can find work better suited to your temperament if you really want to. Martyrdom is not an attractive quality in anyone, housewife or employee.

KNOWITALL's avatar

I loved my gma, but when it was ‘story’ time/ soap opera time, she stopped everything, then napped – lol As long as the house was straightened and dinner on the table at 5:30p she was good as far as grandpa was concerned. :)

Sometimes I also think not working outside the home was detrimental to her mental health, physical health and her marriage though. You have to have outside interests and it puts a lot of pressure on the wage earner imo.

@Coloma You’re correct to a degree. Perhaps I’d be happier working with animals as opposed to people, but the current job climate has produced many unhappy employees. I have been on a pay freeze for 5 years while accumulating the work of 3–4 more people. Yes, I could go elsewhere but I’m paid fairly well for my area and shoot, I have 3 weeks paid vacation, sick days accumulate, spirit days and personal days, bereavement leave, etc…I’m no fool.

/exertion or effort directed to produce or accomplish something; labor; toil./

Coloma's avatar

@KNOWITALL I have been challenged myself in this economy, but, I also know myself really well these days and strive for work that is well suited to my natural strengths and personality style. Hating your work is an awful cross to bear for a lot of people who feel trapped by circumstance, sadly so.
I also agree 10,000% if one is not suited to be a full time parent they should not. Better the child is in an environment with enthusiastic and fun loving people that really enjoy being with kids.

jca's avatar

I can’t complain about my present job or boss. She’s as cool as cool can get. Regardless, it’s not the same as if I stayed home, took a shower when my schedule allowed, went to lunch when my schedule allowed, took a walk when my schedule allowed, and all the other things that most jobs no matter how good they are (and how lenient the boss is) do not afford. My boss is not a control freak. I am not bitching and moaning at all and I don’t consider myself a martyr by any means, but it’s not anywhere the same as if I could stay home and make my own schedule.

Coloma's avatar

@jca I was just generalizing, I hope you didn’t think I was talking about you, specifically. :-)
I agree, the flexibility of working at home trumps going “out there”, any day of the week.

KNOWITALL's avatar

My dream job is to proofread manuscripts for a major publisher out of my home via Fed Ex, but I can’t find any openings that aren’t in NY or a major city. I’m a speedreader and misspellings in printed books drive me insane, I’d LOVE IT! So anyone knows of anything like that, hook a sista up plz!!

jca's avatar

@Coloma: Yes, I did kind of think you were talking about me. Thanks for clearing it up! :)

Coloma's avatar

@jca Good! :-)

Coloma's avatar

@KNOWITALL I thought about that too once upon a time, I have no resources though, sorry.
Edit @jca Just to be really clear, my mind jumps into seemingly random connections at times, your sharing just reminded me of how I have known so many people that complain about their work but don’t even try to find better suited employment. Just to clarify.

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