What is a mother's work really worth?

Salary.comSalary.comOne of my favorite quotes in Laurie PK's Mother's Day post comes from the eminently quotable Anne Morrow Lindbergh: "By and large, mothers and housewives are the only workers who do not have regular time off. They are the great vacationless class."

Add to that the fact that mothering work is unpaid, and it's a double whammy. True words like Lindbergh's are why it's both illuminating and depressing to put a dollar figure to the work mothers do at home. Just in time for Mother's Day, Salary.com has done that in its 9th annual mom salary survey. This year, a stay-at-home mom performing the 10 most popular "mom-job functions" does the work equivalent of a $122,732 salary, up 5 percent over last year's calculations. A mom who works outside the home 40 hours a week does work that equates to an annual cash compensation of $76,184, an 11 percent increase. A lucrative second job--if that second shift were actually a paid gig.

How do the folks at Salary.com arrive at such hefty numbers? First, they take 10 jobs that closely match the multiple jobs moms do at home. Think laundry machine operator, janitor, van driver, housekeeper, computer operator, cook, daycare center teacher, facilities manager, psychologist, and chief executive officer. Then they surveyed 12,150 moms to quantify their hours worked in each role for a typical week. Salary.com's compensation professionals weighted the different responsibilities of the job to determine the average mom's overall total compensation.

The (fake) salaries for mothers increased during a year salary increases are rare because Salary.com's researchers found that moms--stay-at-home and work-outside-the-home--are outsourcing less of the around-the-house jobs and, as a result, are putting in lots of "overtime." According to the survey, the working mom had 17 hours of overtime in addition to her full-time hours both at work and as a mom, and the stay-at-home mom worked 56 hours of overtime, bringing her work week to 96 hours. That's a lot of unpaid work.

So, what's the value in calculating the value of a mother's work if there is no way she'll ever get paid for it? Well, in a culture that assigns value in dollars, it's important to see in black and white the many jobs moms do and how those jobs are valued in the job market. It's also a way for Salary.com to highlight how its tools shed light on how employers set salaries for jobs.

"This is our ninth year looking at the value of mom's work. It has become a popular annual event because it not only recognizes the critical value of what moms do, but educates the public on the key factors that determine what employers are willing to pay for a given job," said Meredith Hanrahan, senior vice president at Salary.com, Inc. "We value the job of mom based on her job description and calculate what an employer would have to pay in cash if they were to hire someone to do all that a mom does."

Want to know what you or a mom in your life should get paid? You can use the Mom Salary Wizard, then create a fake mom paycheck and pay stub to be sent on Mother's Day. But here's the dilemma: Knowing how much a mom should get paid can be a good thing if those around her are recognizing the value of all she does. Or, it could just make her very sad that she can't cash that check for real.

What do you think? Is there value in assigning a dollar value to all moms do?