Image: Yard work © Mike Watson Images, Corbis

She's a teller of bedtime stories, a packer of lunches, a dispenser of wisdom and a dryer of tears. From bandaging skinned elbows to helping out with homework, nobody does it like Mom.

Mom typically juggles the many jobs necessary to keep a household running smoothly, even if she works outside the home. You may think all of this devotion and TLC are priceless, but the market value of the tasks we commonly associate with motherhood has declined slightly during the past year, according to data from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.

Like many professions during the current recession, motherhood has taken a pay cut.

For the 2012 Mother's Day Index, Insure.com took an informal look at the work mothers do and how much a family would have to pay to hire others to take on Mom's duties around the home.

Our review of wage data found that an assortment of common tasks is worth $60,182; last year's Mother's Day Index found those same tasks to be worth $61,436. That's a drop of $1,254 (about 2%), but still much more than most families could afford to pay. It's also a reminder of why mothers need adequate life insurance.

Based on comparable BLS data on Mom's duties back in 2003, she earned about $51,812 for the same tasks. However, factoring in inflation, that's the equivalent of about $64,593 in 2012 dollars.

The value of moms who focus on child care and homemaking was driven home recently when Democratic strategist Hilary Rosen criticized Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney's wife, Ann, for being a stay-at-home mom. There was an immediate backlash as people rushed to Ann Romney's defense. Even first lady Michelle Obama joined the discussion, offering a defense of mothers on Twitter.

She's irreplaceable

In addition to the loss of her services in the home, many families would lose an important source of income if Mom was no longer around. Although there's still a gender gap when it comes to pay, it is narrowing. In 2007, about 22% of wives out-earned their husbands, compared with only 4% in 1970, according to a study by the Pew Research Center (.pdf file).

Although Dad often earns more than Mom, there is no doubt about who is more valuable in the home. Insure.com's 2011 Father's Day Index found that it would cost only $20,415 to hire someone to take over Dad's duties, roughly one-third the cost of replacing Mom.

Jamie O'Boyle, a senior analyst for the Center for Cultural Studies & Analysis in Philadelphia, says fathers aren't nearly as important to families as mothers. In recognition of this, men typically concede most major family decisions to their wives.

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"The woman decides where you are going to live, where your kids are going to go to school," says O'Boyle. "Women are the ones who are there to make that family unit work. Men are essentially fungible, meaning you can always get another one."

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