You’ve likely seen the “mom salary” story: what is a stay at home mom worth in dollars if paid by an employer for her daily duties? The most recent figure was just under $117k. While this is certainly flattering to a stay at home mom, it is irrelevant when evaluating the cost of going back to work since it is calculated by aggregating full time salaries for professionals such as a daycare manager, chef, driver, housekeeper, etc.
Some moms do not have the option of staying at home; they may be the primary breadwinner of the family or the only parent with health insurance. Others simply do not desire to stay at home for various reasons. Many moms, however, would love to stay home but are unsure whether it is financially feasible. The primary cost to consider is childcare; and it varies significantly depending on your choice of childcare and where you live.
According to the National Association of Child Care Resource & Referral Agencies (NACCRRA), the annual cost for an infant in a daycare center ranges from $5k to $18k, depending on the state (you can find the average for your state on the NACCRRA website.)
- Pros: Easily verifiable credentials, high level of socialization and independence-learning opportunities.
- Cons: Lower level of individual attention, high exposure to germs, inconvenience of driving them and packing their stuff every day.
A licensed daycare run out of someone’s home is another good option; just be sure to verify their credentials. Typically there are a few other children in this type of setup, but not always. The annual cost is $4k to $12k depending on the state.
- Pro: Usually the most cost effective option.
- Cons: For some, childcare is another’s home may be outside your comfort zone, inconvenience of driving them and packing their stuff every day. Socialization and individual attention is mid-range.
The cost of an in-home nanny varies not just on the cost of living in your area, but also the age and experience level of your nanny. Other points to consider are whether you will provide health insurance or pay their taxes (some choose to pay “under the table”); and what other services they provide (housekeeping, cooking, etc). Generally, the annual cost of an in-home nanny is somewhere between $18k and $36k.
- Pros: Highest level of individual attention; convenience (no driving them or packing their stuff everyday).
- Cons: Most expensive, little socialization with other children.
There are additional costs associated with going back to work that are less impactful, but worth mentioning, such as fuel costs, eating meals outside the home, and wardrobe maintenance (new clothes and shoes, dry cleaning, etc.)
Find out the average cost of your childcare choice specific to your local area, then sit down with your partner and go over your budget. Evaluate whether or not his salary can support the household bills and expenses alone (don’t forget retirement and college savings). If the answer is “almost, but not quite”, are there any sacrifices you can make in order to get there (drive a less expensive car, eat out less, do your own nails, etc.)? You may reach the conclusion that you simply can’t make it work as a single-income house, and you have no choice but to return to work. However, if you think you can swing it, go for it. The value of a stay at home mom is beyond measure, as it’s the non-numerical kind.