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The Stay-at-Home Mom Salary: What Are You Worth?

I was sitting on the couch when my husband told me his idea. I was in pure mom mode: I hadn't showered in two days, and the baby had just launched a fresh batch of warm spit-up on my sweaty workout shirt. The two older boys yelled for more "oatpoint" (oatmeal) and a fresh batch of "Bubble Guppies" from their kiddie table, as I tried to focus on what my husband had just said.

"Wait, what?" I responded.

We were talking about life insurance policies. My husband was launching a new company, and as a result, he had to set up new policies for the family. He's had a life insurance policy for several years. But after meeting with the insurance agent, my husband seemed to think that I needed one, too—and not just a small one.

"I want you to get a million dollar policy," he said.

I laughed out loud.

"What?" I cackled. "You are on crack! You must be joking."

"I'm not," he said.

"But, I'm not worth anything! I don't even work!" I said.

And there it was. I knew it sounded bad.

"But it's true," I thought to myself.

As a mom, I know I'm valuable to my family on an emotional level. In that respect, I'm totally irreplaceable, and my stay-at-home resume is second-to-none. But, my worth isn't in dollars and cents. So there's no need for an insurance policy on my life.

"But I don't make an income. So if I die, you're fine," I said.

"No, I wouldn't be," he said. By the look in his eye, I knew he'd really thought this through.

"You are what holds our whole family together. We would be in pieces if you were gone," he said. "And monetarily, yes, I'd continue making the same amount of money, but I would have to pay someone to do everything that you do."

It's a morbid conversation. And, it took me a minute to register what he'd said. Then, I was quiet. Internally, I was cataloguing my daily mom tasks—all that my husband would need to hire someone to do if I was gone. True, it's a lot.

What would the job description look like?

Motherless family looking for substitute mother. Must be available 24/7. Job never starts and never stops. You will have one shift that is never-ending, and you will never clock out. At the bare minimum, everyday, you must be able to cheerfully make kids breakfast, get kids dressed, drive kids to school, take kids to fun activities, spend quality time with each child, serve kids lunch, change kids' diapers, get kids down for naps, manage family finances and rental properties, do laundry (minimum two loads per day), make dinner, serve dinner, and clean up dinner. About one week a month, you'll be up all night with puking toddlers or fussy babies. Must function well on 5 hours of sleep or less. Experience with potty-training toddlers and preschoolers' tantrums is preferred but not required.

Wow.

Turns out, if push came to shove and I really was gone, it would cost my husband a pretty penny to replace me. In fact, if he paid my replacement $12 an hour (which is conservative), 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, all year long, that person would be making $105,120 a year. A six-figure salary. So, if I had a $1 million policy, in all reality, that money would actually only last him 10 years. Wow, that's crazy. I may not put money into our bank account, but if I'm gone, it would be very, very costly to the family.

So, there you have it. I may not have more than three adult conversations per day; I exist mostly in yoga pants; and I owe any good hair days to dry shampoo, but I'm not only emotionally valuable to my family. It turns out, I'm valuable in dollars and cents, too.

Cha ching.

On that note, I'm ready to buy a designer purse or something now.

Kidding. (Kind of.)

Formerly an Emmy-nominated TV news reporter, Janie Porter is now a stay-at-home mom to three boys under 4 years old. She chronicles her less-than-perfect parenting journey on her blog, She Just Glows.

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