Limits to itemizing mom

In mid-April, Democratic strategist Hilary Rosen agitated the age-old debate about the value of a stay-at-home mom when she asserted that Ann Romney, mother of five and wife of Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney, “never worked a day in her life.” Although she later apologized for “words poorly chosen” Rosen’s comments perpetuated the antiquated notion that mothers who work outside the home have some higher societal value than those who don’t. You can imagine that Mrs. Romney wasn’t the only one who took exception to the remarks.

Whether they’re leading a meeting in a Fortune 500 boardroom or facilitating the cleaning of a bathroom, all women deserve respect — especially from each other.

Each year salary.com publishes the results of a survey that attempts to put a monetary value on the work of a stay-at-home-mom. Frankly, we’d love to meet the nearly 8,000 moms who actually had the time to participate in this study (after working the 97-plus hours each week the study suggests). Here in the real world, most mothers we know (whether they work outside the home or not) don’t have time to track how many hours they spend as a housekeeper, janitor, psychologist, teacher, cook, taxi driver or day-care worker. They’re just too busy.

While we imagine that most would love to bank the $112,962 annual salary the study says a stay-at-home mom is worth; we hope they realize that their true value could never be measured in dollars or cents.

Like many in the work-a-day world, our fictional $113,000-a-year-stay-at-home-mom took an imaginary pay-cut this year in spite of working nearly 57 hours of overtime every week. As her working counterparts struggled with pay and benefit cuts, her fake paycheck dropped too, it’s down from $115,000 in 2011 and $118,000 in 2010.

Those interested in learning more about the study, or in personalizing an assessment of the arbitrary value of their own real life mother, can log on to an interactive tool at http://www.salary.com/ There individualized information can be entered about the activities that fill the day of your favorite mom, as well as the zip code to mark a geographic designation (because, of course, hypothetical moms are worth more in urban areas).

To take the exercise to the extreme, you can also print out a personalized six-figure “mommy paycheck” for Mother’s Day from the site. We would caution, however, that this artificial paycheck should never be construed as a proper gift. All moms really want is quality time with the people they love and maybe a day off now and then.