There is one very big expense that career moms have that stay-at-home moms don't: daycare. On average, Americans pay about $679 a month, or $8,148 per year, on child care expenses. That's a pretty big chunk of livelihood, considering the average monthly expenditure on housing in 2009 was $1,425.
If we're taking a hard look at exactly how much income an American family loses when the mother opts to stay home, we must factor this in, too. Remember, we arrived at $39,300 lost on the last page? Subtract another $8,148 previously spent on daycare and we're at $31,152. Another way to look at it is that the hit your family's monthly income took at its worst level just got bigger -- by $679 per month.
Beyond the numbers lies a different value that's harder to factor in. Economists have long struggled to quantify esoteric, but very real, factors like personal and familial well-being. These play a role in deciding the real cost of staying at home to raise children. Remember that survey that found 80 percent of working mothers said they work because they have to? That same survey also found that 48 percent of working moms report wanting more time to spend with their kids. For some working moms, there's a certain amount of guilt associated with juggling a career with a family.
There is also a long-standing struggle over studies delivering mixed results when examining how kids fare with moms at work or home. For example, a recent British study in the Journal of Epidemiology and Community Health found that kids whose moms stayed at home ate healthier and were more likely to play in organized sports. While these studies tend to raise a larger debate over women's role in society, not everyone has the option of staying at home. Just as the amount of actual income lost is different for each mom who opts to stay at home, the factors involved in choosing to work or not work vary as well. For a mom who longs to spend more time with her kids, it may be worthwhile to take the time to crunch the numbers on exactly how much staying at home will cost, and if her family can afford it. The answer may be pleasantly surprising.