Stay-at-home spouses get a bad rap.

One of the funniest things I hear is “do you work or are you a stay-at-home wife/husband?”

Seriously? “Do you work?”…because stay-at-home spouses don’t work.

They have it so easy. They get to watch any number of kids all day, and end up with the wonderful responsibility of making sure every square inch of the house is tidy all day, everyday. Because that’s reasonable, right?

My wife is a stay-at-home mom, and I can tell you right now: she works. Harder than I do most days, and I have a “real job.” So let’s see just how valuable stay-at-home spouses are…

An Important Note

First off, I say “stay-at-home spouse”, because there are thousands of awesome moms and dads who stay at home with their children. If it works for you, do it. Don’t let all of the judgment about being a stay-at-home dad affect you in any way (and there is a lot of judgement out there).

Another important note, there are plenty of stay-at-home spouses who don’t have children. That doesn’t mean their job is easy. It’s usually expected that they will keep the house in order, while the other is earning a salary.  But the value of each person is equal at minimum

Either way, male or female, children or no children, it’s not an easy job. And it is a job.

The Value of a Stay-at-Home Spouse

What would it cost you to replace the work of a stay-at-home spouse? Well, let’s look at some figures.

Let’s go ahead and assume that they will take care of the home. Of course, the other spouse should be helping out, but for the sake of numbers, we’ll assume you would have to replace every aspect of keeping house.

A 2013, Business Insider article shows that “Based on the 10 most time consuming tasks listed by more than 6,000 mothers, estimated it would cost $113,586 a year to replace them. That’s a paltry $624 (0.5%) raise since the same study in 2012.”  Dave Ramsey recommends a $400,000 life insurance policy for stay-at-home spouses.  So you can start to see the monetary value.

They save over $100,000 a year by staying home. But how’s their paycheck looking?

If you consider the fact that they have a 24/7 job, it’s not looking too great. Maybe that’s why they often don’t get the credit they deserve. Based on the above savings, a stay-at-home spouse would earn about $13 an hour. That’s a lot of work for $13 an hour.

I can hear it now, “That’s not accurate, they don’t work 24 hours a day. They have to sleep sometime, ya know.”  Well that’s true, but that’s like saying a fire fighter doesn’t work a 24, 48 or 72 hour shift. They’re on call. So it is with stay-at-home spouses. They’re always ready and always on call to handle whatever comes up, be it a sick child or a crying baby.  And it’s often expected that they are the only one who is going to take care of such things.

The Savings of Stay-at-Home Spouses

Do you realize how much money you save (or could save) by having a stay-at-home spouse?

When you factor in the cost of daycare, commuting, and other work expenses, it often makes the most sense for someone to stay home when you have children. Of course, there are times when both spouses want to work. If it’s not about the money, and more about contributing to a cause or just getting out of the house, go for it. Just remember, it may be better to work part-time for financial and parental reasons.

Let’s look at a couple people. Each one have two children. Each have working spouses. We’ll call them George and Maria:

George works full-time and earns the median US income of about $40,000/year and has a one hour (each way) commute to work.

Maria stays home with her children and does not bring in an income.

Here’s a breakdown of the primary expenses George incurs by working full time:

  • Annual cost of childcare for two children: $31,200*
  • Annual cost of commuting (fuel, vehicle maintenance, etc.): $10,000*
  • Annual cost of eating out for lunch: $3,000*

Total annual cost of working full-time: $44,200

Here’s a breakdown of the primary expenses Maria incurs by staying home:

  • Annual cost of watching your own children: $0
  • Annual cost of local driving occasionally: $3,000*
  • Annual cost of preparing lunch at home: $730*

Total annual cost of staying at home: $3,730

Both of these are common situations. I kept the examples simple to make the point.  I could have included many other expenses, but this shows the main idea, and hopefully gets you thinking if you and your spouse both work. I hope you see the main idea, and don’t miss the forest for the trees.

* Figures are rounded and based on US averages.

I know there are exceptions. You may make more than that. You may not have an hour commute. You may pack your lunch. Your kids may be in free public school. But these are examples of very common situations. And I’m not even including the possibility of eating breakfast out, stopping by Starbucks or paying road tolls, and things along those lines.  The little expenses add up.

Hopefully this will help those who have never sat down to calculate the numbers. Often you’ll find that your actual hourly wage is well under minimum wage after expenses.

The Point to All of This

I’m not campaigning to get stay-at-home spouses paid. I’m trying to get them recognized.  Appreciated.  Respected.

You may completely respect your wife or husband for staying home with the children. Hopefully you accept equal (or close to it) responsibility to help around the house and prepare the food.

I think the stereotype that stay-at-home spouse don’t “work” needs to be reevaluated.

Have you ever calculated the cost of your spouse’s and your commute?  Thoughts?  Share below!

Source: Commuter’s Calculator