How Much is the Job of a Stay-at-home Parent Really Worth?
Ask any stay-at-home parent who used to be a corporate warrior which is harder, working or looking after the baby full-time, and you might be surprised to hear the answer.
Turns out that being a stay-at-home parent is like being at work 24/7.
While everybody thinks housewives and househusbands are hanging out at home watching Korean dramas, they actually have the exhausting task of keeping an eye on a living-breathing creature every second of the day, all while trying to cook, clean and run errands.
Thought doing the groceries was a hassle? Well, try dragging two 3kg FairPrice plastic bags out of the supermarket with a baby hanging off your neck.
If families could put a monetary value on the jobs that stay-at-home parents do, they would find that the economic value of what is being done is actually quite high.
Here are some jobs stay-at-home parents single-handedly do every day—not all of which can be outsourced to domestic helpers, well, at least not if you care about quality.
With their spouses out working all day, sometimes till late at night, it usually falls to the stay-at-home parent to make sure all housekeeping duties are done.
This doesn’t just include doing the dishes and making sure the beds are made but also sweeping and mopping the floor (you may not realise it, but hair accumulates on the floor very quickly), doing the laundry (the troublesome part isn’t putting the clothes into the machine, but hanging several kilograms of dripping laundry out to dry, and then folding everything and putting it away into cupboards and drawers) and scrubbing toilets that have been soiled by people other than yourself.
Cost: A live-in maid can adequately take care of housekeeping tasks if properly trained, and will cost a minimum of $450 to $550 a month. The quality of the work really varies and depends on how closely the maid is supervised. To hire a part-time housekeeper, families are looking at paying $10 to $20 an hour for freelancers, or $10 to $30 per hour for agency cleaners.
Stay-at-home parents are typically responsible for feeding themselves and the baby in the day, and also their spouses when they get home after work.
When there are family members involved, cooking takes on a whole new dimension. You might be fine with eating cereal for dinner, but don’t expect your family to do likewise. Stay-at-home parents who aren’t skilled at cooking can expect to devote at least 1.5 to 2 hours a day in the kitchen making at least two meals every day.
Cost: Again, cooking is something that can be outsourced to a live-in maid. But anyone who grew up with a maid will tell you that the maid’s cooking pales in comparison with their mum’s. The quality varies wildly and in order for inexperienced maids to do a good job, they need to first be trained by their employers. This is a problem if the couple are not skilled cooks themselves. And once again, supervision is key, as corners are quite easily cut if the employers are never around. The alternative is to eat out every day, which will raise your overall food expenditure.
A stay-at-home parent who interacts with the child throughout the day isn’t just making sure the kid doesn’t get into trouble, but also playing the role of educator.
Parents read to their toddlers, let them watch movies, talk to them, tell them about the world and play games with them, and this contributes to their growth and development. For instance, an anglophone parent who reads often to a child is likely to raise a kid with stronger language and reading skills than one whose child spends 90% of his time with a maid.
Cost: Infantcare and childcare in Singapore is not cheap, and parents should be expected to fork out anything from $300 to more than $2,000 a month, depending on the centre. There might also be concerns about quality and hygiene.
Until your child is old enough to take public buses on his own, it usually falls to the stay-at-home parent to make sure he gets to school, CCAs, piano lessons, tuition, the playground and so on in one piece.
Those who are lucky enough to have a car might soon start feeling like a taxi driver as they wait outside their kid’s kindergarten or primary school hot afternoon after hot afternoon, watching the other parents and maids hover around the entrance.
Those who don’t have cars are left to squeeze on the MRT or brave public buses with a child in tow. They then have to travel home or run errands on public transport after dropping off the kid, continue with their housework for the day and then return in time to pick up Junior. Phew.
Cost: Chauffeurs are expensive in Singapore and you’re looking at paying at least $1,200++ for someone who’s on call 12-15 hours per day, not counting the cost of the car. A cheaper alternative is to use a school bus service once your kid hits primary school age, although this is useless when they have to stay back late in school for CCAs or remedial classes. Of course, once the kids are old enough, you can just shove an Ezlink card in their hands and get them to take the bus or MRT on their own. It’s going to be some 10 years before that happens though.
So your baby is finally one month old, and it’s time to throw his very first party surrounded by friends and family. If only one half of the couple is working full-time, it usually falls upon the stay-at-home parent to organise important events.
Over the years, there will be numerous events to organise, from kids’ and spouses’ birthday parties to family vacations and Chinese New Year/Hari Raya/Deepavali gatherings.
While this sounds like fun and games, it can be exhausting for a stay-at-home parent who already has his or her hands full, sometimes with baby vomit. Who’s got time to search for kid-friendly beach resorts and blow up balloons when the baby is chewing through the wires of the wifi router?
Cost: It’s usually only the most spoiled children who enjoy birthday parties organised by event planners, so it’s quite hard to put a pricetag on the labour of love that is organising activities that friends and families can share, no matter how simple.
These are just 5 major roles…
Those 5 roles alone are worth at least $5,000 a month! Stay-at-home parents are often much, much more than just these 5 roles though. There’s occasions when they have to be counselors, administrators, accountants and even public relations executives. Needless to say, they’re probably the most underpaid and overworked.
This article was first published over at MoneySmart blog on 27 January 2017. It is reproduced with permission.
About The Author (Joanne Poh)
In my previous life, I was a property lawyer who spent most of my time struggling to get out of bed or stuck in peak hour traffic. These days, as a freelance commercial writer, I work in bed, on the beach, in parks and at cafes, all while being really frugal. I like helping other people save money so they can stop living lives they don't like.
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