What's a mommy worth? [Certain Times]

Yesterday my wife tore her meniscus playing tennis. Ouch! Since she's on crutches now, I am solely responsible for doing laundry, making meals, washing dishes, telling bedtime stories and a whole litany of domestic details we once shared. Double ouch...

To say I appreciate her more now than I did the day before yesterday would be an understatement of epic proportion.

So I've been thinking about you stay-at-home moms, and what you do for your family. In fact, I recall a recent conversation I had with a stay-at-home mom and "doctor's wife" who echoed a sentiment I have heard several times over the past 15+ years of serving families like yours.

"I just feel bad," she said. "He works so hard for us and I feel like I don't do anything."

Having stepped into the Mr. Mom role myself, I know this is very far from reality. At the same time, she did use the word "feel" (twice) and I do my level best to honor people's feelings.

I know other moms feel this way too, especially those who left high-paying careers in medicine or technology to take care of the kids while dad is off healing the masses.

To me, this woman's comment feels an awful lot like mommy guilt.

Now, I'm no psychologist but I am definitely an optimist, so let me encourage you to re-focus on what matters most: your child's' well being.

I believe that our job as parents (both stay-at-home and stay-at-work) is to help each of our children achieve their full potential as human beings. For many, that means doing well in school and getting a college education. And THAT means having at least one person who is "on" all the time... making sure your kids are fed, washed, rested and kept on task with schoolwork and non-academic personal enrichment (music, sports, etc.).

I see great value in this because it improves the likelihood that your child will succeed.

Just how much value do I see?

I'm glad you asked.

According to the US Census Bureau's report on the value of education, workers with a college degree earn about $23,000 more each year than those with only a high school diploma, and advanced degrees brought in another $24,000 per year.

So let's say that you ("mom") spend part of your day making sure that each of your three kids are on track for a solid college degree. And let's assume that each kid will become fully employed, earning that extra $23K from their 25th birthday until they reach retirement at age 65.

What's that worth to you?

Let's see... forty years times $23,000 times three kids... that's about $2.8 million more your kids will earn as a result of your effort. And I realize money cannot buy them happiness but it can buy a whole lot of financial security.

Now, since you helped make that possible, let's consider the value of your time as a stay-at-home mom.

If you're on mommy duty for eight hours a day (6-10 am, then 4-8 pm) seven days a week for eighteen years, then you will invest 52,560 hours in your children.

That means every hour you spend with your kids is worth at least $52.51, a figure that's in line with the value we (as a society) bestow upon other hard-working professionals. When you consider the fact that one of your kids might get a scholarship and another might earn an advanced degree, you could easily see your value rise to $60 or $70 per hour.

Not bad for working from home, eh?

Of course, you can't take that to the bank but your kids sure can. It's no wonder that they are probably the only ones who will ever truly appreciate you and understand what you are worth to your family (even if it takes them a decade ore two to realize it).

Wishing you and your family my very best.

W. Ben Utley CFP®

Physician Faimily Financial Advisors Inc.

PS: If you were expecting some hard-hitting market commentary in this newsletter, I'm sorry to disappoint you. However, you might want to check out this CBS News piece about how some investors are panicking about the recent downturn in emerging markets. (I'm not one of them.)

PPS: My thanks go out to a neurosurgeon from the east coast who asked this month's blog question: Should young physicians pay off debt or invest for retirement first?