Everyday when I turn on my computer I’m inundated with articles related to the economy, to housing prices, to unemployment, to new investment strategies. The plethora of financial and economic information floating around the internet is exhausting. I recently came across an article focusing on how women need to fight to advance themselves in the workplace, which led me to another article about how making a $100,000 income is no longer a big deal.  I found this article very interesting. Do you know that fewer than twenty percent of American households make more than $100,000 annually? The article detailed how increasing costs, such as health insurance, inflation, housing expenses, food costs, and geography erode the value of a $100,000 income.

The $100,000 income article led me to yet another financial article that focused on the various ways to screw up your retirement plan, which finally lead me to “The Rich-O-Meter.” The Rich-O-Meter is a tool on the Wall Street Journal that includes interesting statistics on various income percentiles, as well as a calculator that tells you how rich you are, both by household income as well as by net worth. Please keep in mind that when using this tool touchy-feely goodness is not factored in, which I understand provides many people with happiness and allows them to feel “rich” in many ways.

As a working mother are you aware of your net worth or how well off your household is? Do you have a retirement or investment plan? How are you saving for your children’s college education? Do you truly have a sense of how valuable your job is to your household? If you don’t you should.

When my second daughter was born my husband asked me if I wanted to return to work. As a financial analyst I cost out the financial implications of not returning to work. The equation is much more complicated than simply taking your salary and netting out daycare expenses. When making this decision I took into consideration: future earnings, pension, health care costs, investment income, the cost of re-entering the workforce at a later date, and additional expenses that I would incur from being home all day. It’s a complicated and complex equation, and unless you have taken the time to delve into its components, you are probably not fully aware of how valuable your job is. I do understand that there are other non-financial considerations to take into account, and that there really is no dollar value you can assign to spending time with your children…or is there?

In case you haven’t noticed our country is in a major financial and economic crisis. Bankruptcy and foreclosure rates are at all time highs, unemployment is a concern for many families, and the job market is tough!

Why then, I continue to ask myself, are working mothers criticized, questioned, and judged in an accusatory manner? I’m befuddled! Don’t people get it?! My job is valuable. I don’t work because I have to, and I’m seriously offended when stay at home mothers simplify my situation as such. I don’t approach stay at home mothers and question them about lost wages, conservative investment strategies, or sacrificing financial planning, because of their choice to stay home, spend more time with their children, have a flexible schedule, and make life easier for their husband.

I work because I enjoy my career, I want my daughters to understand how a mother can play a multifaceted role in the home, and I work because I like the money that I make. By working I am able to provide my family with a lifestyle that is significantly different than staying home. I have not over simplified my decision to continue working by placing a dollar value on extra time with my children, but what I have done, from an economics perspective, is to weigh the utils (a frilly economics term used to represent preferences over some set of goods or services) assigned to my children’s experience in daycare and preschool, the utils I derive from my work experience, the utils that my family derives from my income, and offset that against the lost time that I have with my daughters. For every single member of my family, it makes sense for me to work.

Readers, I ask you, are economic and financial issues on your mind? Have you used the Rich-O-Meter? Have you delved into the difficult equation of choosing between your job and staying home with your family? How do you address rude comments made from stay at home parents?

In this tough economy I hope that all working mothers who are providing for their families realize how valuable they are, not just to their family, but to the greater economy.

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