This is in no way whatsoever a “stay at home parent vs working parent” thing. I’m also not going to talk about what I do all day and how important that is – if you’re a parent, or you’ve met parents, or you have a parent, you probably have a fair idea of what keeping children safe, fed and entertained all day involves.
Despite the fact that those conditions covers pretty much everyone the value that a stay at home parent bring to a household is still frequently called into question. Especially when the children at home are no longer infants – or even school aged.
As someone who has previously provided care for children in exchange for money I absolutely believe that there is a dollar value to what stay at home parents do – and in this capitalistic world we lived in that is apparently the only value that counts.
So, for a moment I am going to set aside the true value of what I do and look only at my financial contribution to my household as a non-earning-parent.
The first way to look at this is the most obvious and I also feel the least accurate but I’ll break it down anyway.
As someone who has worked as a nanny it’s automatic for me to imagine what I’d be paid if these weren’t my children. As a full time nanny and housekeeper, who prepares all the meals, does laundry and general cleaning I think $30 per hour would be reasonable remuneration for that level of care I provide. Lets say at least 55 hours a week because that is at least the number of hours that my partner is away from our home for work: $1650 per week (before tax)
I also do all the night time care. Considering the intensity of the night time care I provide for our frequent-night-waking daughter I’d say that would actually continue to be $20+ an hour, however, I’m feeling generous, so a flat rate of at least $100 a night is I’d expect to be paid for overnight babysitting. SO, that’s another $700 per week.
Which is up to $2350 per week (assuming I get weekend day times off – which I do not) or $122,200 per annum before tax and super. Lets just say my partner can’t afford me.
However, they are my children and I’m not their nanny, so while it’s an amusing calculation, it doesn’t really represent the actual contribution I make to this household.
Instead a better way to calculate what I’m worth to our family as a stay at home mum is not to imagine the children aren’t mine but to work out what would happen if I wasn’t here to do what I do.
So, if my partner arrived home from work this evening and I said “I’m leaving and never coming back – have a nice life” What happens next?
He would have to call his boss and quit his job effective immediately. He wouldn’t even be able to work tomorrow despite being rostered on because there is simply no one who would be able to take our children at that short notice.
Even IF he could somehow get full time placement in childcare for our daughter (it would be impossible in our area) and 5 days a week before and after school care for our son (also unlikely) there is only one shift on his rotating roster that would allow him to be home in time to pick them up before either of their care providers closed.
IF he could then also hire a reliable nanny on that short notice who would be prepared to pick up the kids from care every evening, bring them home and stay until up to 10pm, and also provide weekend care for those shifts I don’t believe he could maintain his job and also attend to our daughter’s night waking as a solo parent. Which is why I get up to her and let him sleep – but without me to do it, he’d be on call at night.
And even if he made all this work, as it is we get by okay, we do a little better than living week to week but we have to be careful with how we spend our money. With those added expenses of care the household would be struggling. And being poor is expensive. At the moment we can buy in bulk if something is on special, we can plan ahead with our money, we can pay our bills on time to avoid late fees, we don’t have to rely on credit cards to survive (and then be pushed even further down with interest payments). Struggling a bit can turn into struggling a lot very quickly.
There is another thing that I contribute; I make a lot of our food from scratch. Not because I’m a perfect parent and housewife, but because it’s cheaper. A simple cake cut up and frozen can provide a week’s worth of school snacks for a couple of dollars. Despite his many skills my partner can’t really cook many meals, much less bake – so they would be eating a lot more convenience foods. Convenience foods are expensive. We discovered when we were both working that a portion of the money I was earning was being funneled into our food budget simply because didn’t have the time to prepare meals. I was also walking in the door at dinner time already hungry and tired. The less time I was at home the more expensive our grocery shopping was.
The other scenario to consider is if I wasn’t a stay at home parent – if I was working as well. I’m a qualified child carer and at this stage I can’t earn enough working in childcare to be worthwhile. Plus all of the above issues wouldn’t go away. Someone would still need to drop off and pick up the kids from care (and child care hours are often longer than the after school care hours provided at my son’s school) and cook the food, do the laundry, and deal with night time waking – and that someone would still be me. So it’s just not practical – if not impossible – for me to be working at this stage.
So my dollar value is the same as his, because without me he couldn’t contribute financially to the family either.We need each other equally and we contribute equally, even if our contributions look quite different.