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Moms Know There’s More to a Job Than Just the Job

Working MotherDo you have any moonlighters in your workforce? Maybe you have an accountant moonlighting as a van driver or facilities manager. Maybe you have a computer operator moonlighting as a CEO, or even a CEO moonlighting as a computer operator.

Such pairings may not sound likely, but when you consider that working mothers perform one job at work and an array of other jobs off the clock, it’s almost like they’re moonlighting in a long list of occupations.

Almost, but not quite. Real moonlighters get paid for their other jobs. Moms don’t — at least not with a paycheck. Instead, they’re paid in the currency that comes from the knowledge they’re doing important work.

It is fun, though, to think about how much a mother’s work would add up to if it were compensated with a paycheck. That’s why Salary.com uses Mother’s Day as an excuse for an annual survey of thousands of mothers across the country. The organization then calculates how much time moms spend at home doing the work various professionals do on the job.

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High-dollar work
The Salary.com survey includes 10 occupations: CEO, laundry machine operator, psychologist, janitor, van driver, computer operator, facilities manager, daycare center teacher, cook, and housekeeper. Altogether, according to the admittedly all-in-fun survey, stay-at-home moms work 94.7 hours a week and would earn $112,962 a year if paid a typical salary for the hours spent in the list of professions.

Workplace moms work 57.9 hours a week on mom jobs for an estimated annual salary of $66,979, which would be added to an average annual salary of $45,515 for the average 35.7 hours a week spent in their workplace jobs.

Here are just a few highlights of the survey:

  • Stay-at-home moms spend 3.2 hours a week doing the work of a CEO. Moms who work outside the home log 2.9 hours in the not-exactly C-suite. Think it’s a stretch to compare mom tasks to a CEO’s? Salary.com says a CEO is one who “plans and directs all aspects of an organization’s policies, objectives, and initiatives.” CEOs also provide leadership and are responsible for short- and long-term profitability and growth of the organization. Maybe not so much of a stretch after all.
  • Stay-at-home moms report spending 10.7 hours a week as facilities managers, with workplace moms spending 7.1 hours a week in that job. Salary.com’s job description says a facilities manager “ensures optimal functioning of building systems including mechanical, electrical, fire/life safety, and elevators.” In addition, they may manage a staff of maintenance and grounds employees and oversee contractors for renovation projects. What mother doesn’t have a kitchen drawer stocked with screwdrivers, wrenches, and a hammer for those quick fix-it jobs that keep the house running?
  • The survey found stay-at-home moms said they spend 13.9 hours a week working as cooks, workplace moms 8.1 hours a week.

Not all fun and games
It may be fun to think about the special roles mothers play and apply them to employment decisions. But there’s a legal side to everything, and working mother stereotypes can lead employers into costly mistakes.

For example, a supervisor who assumes a pregnant employee won’t return to work or will have attendance problems if she does is on shaky legal ground. Any job-related action based solely on such stereotypes becomes a violation of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, and employers are wise to “check the assumptions, rumors, innuendo at the door,” according to Adria B. Martinelli, with Young Conaway Stargatt & Taylor, LLP in Wilmington, Delaware.

“Just remember to focus on actual performance, not the why, and treat men and women similarly regarding leave and performance problems, and you will avoid Title VII problems,” Martinelli says. “The problem arises when perception does not match with reality and is particularly problematic if men are given more leniency in different situations.”

Martinelli gives the example of a woman who is seen as being absent too often because of child-care issues, but in reality, she hasn’t used all her leave. Maybe a male coworker has been absent just as much playing golf. If the woman is disciplined or terminated based on her absences, the employer would have a Title VII problem, she says.

With all that mothers accomplish on and off the job, it may be tempting for an employer to try to reward working moms by considering skills they use at home in the workplace. That’s a mistake, according to Martinelli.

“Often the assumption is made that the mother spends more time as a caregiver to the family than the father. This may be true in many instances but not true in others. In most cases, I just don’t see how it would be relevant to job skills,” Martinelli says. “To the extent that an employer is surmising that an employee gained some skills through his/her role in raising a family, I would be concerned that the employer might draw that conclusion for its female employees, but not male. Recognition should really be limited to job performance on the job.”