This year, give Mom the gift of time

Provided by Amy L. Chen, CLU, Director of Multicultural Market Development (1-800-767-1000, Ext. 42056); courtesy of Massachusetts Mutual Life Insurance Company (MassMutual).


It’s May, and in schools all over the country children are putting into words and pictures, sometimes with the aid of glitter, poster paint, colored macaroni and the like, just how much their mothers mean to them. On the second Sunday in May, many mothers will be treated to breakfast in bed, dinner at a local restaurant, flowers, candy, toiletries, and all manner of handmade gifts and cards. Moms are clearly appreciated, but do children really understand how much their mothers do for them?

In 1920, less than a quarter of American women age 16 and over were gainfully employed. For most women during that period, “home housekeeper” was a full-time job.[1] Today, on the other hand, over three-quarters of mothers of school-aged children are gainfully employed in addition to raising their kids and maintaining a home for them.[2] Modern moms seem to “do it all!”

Some mothers work for personal reasons: they don’t want to give up their careers once they’ve started a family, or they want health benefits. But the vast majority—nearly three-quarters of full-time working moms—report doing so to provide a better future for their children.[3]

Most children understand the concept of work: getting paid in exchange for performing certain services for an employer. They may know that Mom is a registered nurse, a florist, a teacher, or a clerk in a grocery store. They may understand that she has education, training, skills and experience which enable her to take on these responsibilities. What’s harder for kids to understand is that raising children and maintaining a home is “work” as well. Time is money, and if Mom wasn’t doing all that she does, somebody else would have to be paid to do it for her!

Image courtesy of Flickr user Din Jimenez. 圖片來自Flickr用戶Din Jimenez。

Image courtesy of Flickr user Din Jimenez.

This year, how about trying a little game to help your kids put a dollar value on Mom’s contributions to their care and feeding?

Have kids list the things that Mom does for the family. Some suggestions:

  • making meals
  • doing laundry
  • driving
  • helping with homework
  • reading stories
  • shopping for food and other necessities.

Now estimate the amount of time spent on these activities. Use the same time period (for example, one week) to calculate each activity. So if Mom spends an average of two hours per day making meals, that’s 14 hours per week. If she spends an hour each school night helping with homework, that’s five hours per week. Add everything up to get a total number of hours.

Discuss what mom’s “salary” should be. There are several ways you could figure this:

  • Use mom’s current hourly wage if she’s employed outside the home.
  • Use the current federal minimum wage of $7.25.
  • Use your state’s minimum wage, which might be different from the Federal rate.
  • Use whatever rate the kids feel is appropriate.

Now multiply the hourly rate by the total number of hours to calculate what Mom’s time is worth to the family. Explain to children that time is money. Each hour is a unit that may be used to earn money, to perform a job around the house, to volunteer, to engage in a leisure activity, or to sleep. If there aren’t enough hours in the day to do everything, something will have to be given up, or somebody else will have to be paid to do it instead.

Perhaps the children would like to give Mom the gift of time this Mother’s Day. They might make I.O.U.s for services around the house that Mom usually performs. Depending on their ages, they might help with meal preparation, run errands, or drive a younger sibling to an after-school activity. Or perhaps they’d like to offer an added service, such as giving Mom a backrub or reading her a story for a change. Kids may whine about chores, but really they enjoy being able to contribute something of value to others. They’ll learn a valuable lesson about money, and also a lesson about family togetherness, which no amount of money can buy.

Making a Plan Work for You

When thinking about time and costs associated with it, consider your household’s financial situation and ways in which putting a plan in place may help. To learn more or access helpful materials, speak with a local financial professional or visit

[1] Census Monographs I-XI, 1922-1931 IX – Women in gainful occupations, 1870 to 1920. 1929. 416p.

[2] 2010 US Census, Facts Profile America: Facts for Feature”, February 22, 2012.

[3] MassMutual’s State of the American Mom study, released 2011.


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