By Wesley Brown
The Augusta Chronicle, Ga.
Meredith Lambert gets up every day at 6 a.m. to nurse her 8-week-old daughter, Cara, back to sleep. Shortly after that, her 2-year-old son, Gabriel, is raring to go, waking the Augusta family’s oldest son, Caleb, 4, while breakfast is prepared.
It’s not until after the two boys have eaten and are watching Curious George that the 29-year-old stay-at-home mom gets a short coffee break. Then, it’s off to run errands — usually until about noon, when it’s time to fix lunch, nap, and begin to make
dinner and clean the house.
Stay-at-home mom is a full-time job and it would be a high-paying one, too, if it was treated like other jobs.
Taking into account overtime pay and using income data provided by employers, the average stay-at-home mom should earn $118,905 in 2014. That is up more than $5,000 from $113,586 in 2013, according to Salary.com’s 14th annual Mom Salary Survey.
“Sounds good to me,” Lambert said last week at her home off Stevens Creek Road. “If there could be a lump sum put on stay-at-home mom, six figures is probably a good starting place.”
Using the Web site’s Mom Salary Wizard, more than 15,000 mothers worldwide quantified their hours by job description to compute a yearly average. Based on the data, Salary.com determined that the average stay-at-home mom went from working 94 hours per week last year to 96.5 hours on 10 household and childcare jobs in 2014.
The breakdown for the past year included housekeeper (14.6 hours), cook (14.5 hours), day care teacher (14.3 hours), facilities manager (10.9 hours), computer operator (8.6 hours), psychologist (8.3 hours), van driver (7.8 hours), janitor (7.8 hours), laundry worker (6.5 hours) and CEO (3.2 hours).
In all, each profession’s wages totaled for an hourly rate of $18.32, a base salary of $38,126 and $80,779 of time-and-a-half overtime pay.
The hypothetical stay-at-home pay for moms was the highest since 2009, when calculations showed they should’ve earned $122,732 for 96.4 hours of weekly work.
More women are staying home full-time because of rising child care costs, a struggling job market and an overall ambivalence toward the effects of working mothers on young children, according to a Pew Research Center report.
The study, released last month, found that the share of mothers who do not work outside the home increased to 29 percent in 2012.
That’s up from 23 percent at the turn of the century, according to the report. At the height of the recession in 2008, Pew estimated 26 percent of mothers — which includes women who are married, single, disabled, enrolled in school or unable to find work — were home with children.
Meredith Lambert and her husband Casey, a plant manager with Progress Rail Services in Jackson, S.C., had their mothers at home through their formative school years, and they agreed when they wed in 2007 that they would parent their children the same way.
“For me and my husband, we knew going into this that it might hurt us more financially if we did not have two salaries, but we also knew the value of me staying home was high, if we could make it work,” Meredith Lambert said.
When discussing what they wanted their family to look like, Jenny Wilson and her husband, Ryan, a computer scientist at Fort Gordon, agreed she’d stay at home at least until their children — Hannah, 7, Caroline, 5, and Nathan, 2 — had completed elementary school.
“You can’t put a price on being able to be there to see your child’s first steps, recitals and ballgames,” Wilson said. “I feel like I am investing in the people they will become later. You are forgoing monetary gain for long-term benefits. It’s priceless.”
After nursing three children back to health while fighting the same stomach virus herself last week, Wilson conceded that she had discussed with her husband of 11 years what a stay-at-home mom would earn if the countless loads of laundry, house cleaning and health-care sessions were lumped into an annual salary.
“I would love to know that number,” the Augusta stay-at-home mom said at her home off Wheeler Road. When told the salary was calculated to be $118,905, she said “that sounds about right.”
“I think my words this week to my husband were that I don’t get paid enough for what I do,” she said. “I told him I needed a raise from nothing.”
Lambert and Wilson said the qualities of a successful applicant for stay-at-home mom would include having a strong stomach, being able to work long hours without eating or sleeping, and having extraordinary patience and discipline to be persistent, calm and prepared for repeated and unexpected messes.
Wilson said a major part of her job is chauffeur, citing the many trips from Westminster Schools of Augusta, where her oldest are enrolled, to the extracurricular activities they enjoy.
“They’ve been asking to do other sports, but mommy just cannot handle that right now,” she said.
Meredith Lambert said the list of jobs was “right on the money,” but that maybe she would add Sunday school teacher, because of the nightly Bible stories and daily verses she and her husband read with their children.
Lambert said the job has its difficulties and admitted she enjoys the alone time she gets every now and then to work out, take in a Bible verse or have an uninterrupted phone call with a friend. She also said the job is “worth every penny you don’t make.”
“You’re there for all the little moments: the new discoveries and lessons learned that adults take for granted,” she said. “I find those moments the most exciting. That’s what keeps me going.”