What Would It Take to Pay Back Mom for All She Does?

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young mother and son in kitchen ...
BlueOrange Studio/Shutterstock
One day out of 365, we pay homage to our sainted mothers. Those of us who are members of this long-suffering, uncomplaining, self-sacrificing class may get some soggy French toast in bed, (don't worry, kids; mom will clean up the kitchen), a chance to read in peace, or perhaps time to indulge in a long, hot bath.

Bringing Home the Bacon

If you really want to pay back mom for all she's done, get ready to pony up big. A card and some carnations (the official flower of Mother's Day, who knew?) just won't cut it. The cost of replacing mom as nurturer, nurse, cleaner and cook -- according to Insure.com's 2014 Mother's Day salary index -- would run you $62,985 a year, up from $59,862 in 2013. Breaking down the price of having someone else handle her various duties:
  • Cooking and cleaning, $12,230
  • Child care, $21,736
  • Homework help, $7,290
  • Chauffeur, $5,672
  • Shopping, yard work, party and activity planning, finances, etc., $15,019
  • And my personal favorite, finding out what the kids are up to (paid in the equivalent value of a private detective), $1,036.

Salary.com placed a higher value on moms in its 2014 Mother's Day salary survey, concluding that stay-at-home moms were worth $118,905 and working moms worth $70,107 (this does not include any paid salary from their job), with both groups putting more than 56 hours of overtime at home. These numbers are all up from last year's survey.

Cooking It Up in a Pan

Mom helps to pay for other things, too. Thanks to the Department of Agriculture, you can see what it costs to raise a child in the U.S. to 18. As of August 2013, the average cost is $241,080. This does not cover college, and hopefully dear old dad is contributing. In 2012, there were 10.3 million single U.S. mothers with children under 18, and one-third of women who gave birth in 2012 were single moms.

By becoming moms, women give up time to do other things, what economists call an "opportunity cost." Particularly if your mother stayed at home when you were young, there are years or decades of lost wages, lost contributions to her Social Security, and missed chances at career advancement. Forbes used the example of a public school teacher, comparing her financial outcomes if stayed home or continued teaching. Becoming a stay-at-home mom would cost her an aggregate $700,000 in work benefits, and halve her Social Security benefit.

The Census Bureau says 76 percent of moms are working moms, and that the number of stay-at-home mothers has slightly declined since 2008.

Mothers, Priceless

This year is the 100th anniversary of Mother's Day in America. A gesture by Anna Jarvis to remember her dear departed mother has escalated into an annual sales boon for businesses, small to large.

Florists like FTD Companies (FTD) and 1-800-Flowers.com (FLWS) rank Mother's Day second only to Christmas, accounting for 25 percent of flowers and plants bought for holidays, surprisingly ahead of Valentine's Day.

On average, Americans spent $168.94 on their moms last year and, according to the National Retail Federation annual Mother's Day Consumer Spending survey, are expected to spend $162.94 this year. Two thirds of us will buy flowers; 81 percent will give her a card; and a third will buy her apparel, with outings, books, housewares and jewelry among other popular gifts. Almost $20 billion will be spent.

What Moms Really Want

Of course, mom doesn't expect you to pay her back for all those years and dollars spent on you. Moms only want for us to be happy, healthy and appreciative: A mention in your Oscar speech like Jared Leto's beautiful tribute to his single mom, a moving quotation a la Abraham Lincoln ("All I am, or hope to be, I owe to my angel mother") or a dedication in your best-selling novel.

If you can't pull those off, I suggest you go to Salary.com's mom salary wizard to print out a pretend check for Mom for the real-world equivalent of all she does for you. Slip it -- along with a gift card -- into the prettiest greeting card you can find, and let Mom know you truly understand what she's worth. It's the least you can do.

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