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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Too much stress

No matter how much you pay her, being a mother is a tough job.

"Moms are taxi drivers, and that is a huge responsibility," says psychologist Elizabeth Lombardo, the author of "A Happy You," a book about finding true happiness. "Kids are in so many more activities now, and they need to be driven around. That is a big-time commitment. If you have more than one child, scheduling can be complex and extremely stressful."

Most women are unable to meet their own expectations, says Amy McCready, a mom and the author of a book on parenting called "If I Have to Tell You One More Time . . ."

"They just carry a tremendous amount of guilt," McCready says. "We all need to just lower our standards a little bit. Perhaps I am not making homemade cupcakes for the school party, but I can buy a dozen cupcakes, and that is just fine."

Mom needs more life insurance

Despite the fact that Mom pulls her weight and then some, she's often underinsured. Only 57% of women have some type of life insurance coverage, according to LIMRA, a research and consulting firm.

Women typically have smaller amounts of individual life insurance than men of similar ages do. On average, women have $129,800 of individual life insurance, while men have $187,100 in coverage, LIMRA reports. And both men and women are less likely to own life insurance today than they were in 2004.

Catherine Theroux, a spokeswoman for LIMRA, says single mothers have an especially high need for life insurance "because they have so little in terms of a safety net. That is what life insurance is there to do: provide protection for her family and peace of mind."

 
Mom jobBLS occupation usedHours per week/weeks per yearHourly wageAnnual mom cost
CookingCooks14 hours/52 weeks$9.08$6,607
DrivingTaxi drivers and chauffeurs9 hours/52 weeks$13.83$6,470
Helping with homeworkOther teachers and instructors10 hours/40 weeks$18.48$7,390
Taking care of the kidsChild care worker40 hours/52 weeks$9.58$19,916
Nursing woundsLicensed practical and licensed vocational nurses2 hours/12 weeks$18$432
Cleaning upMaids and housekeeping cleaners10 hours/52 weeks$9.80$5,096
Planning partiesMeeting & convention planners64 hours a year$22.30$1,427
Summer activity plannerMiscellaneous community and social service specialists40 hours/12 weeks$16.90$8,112
HaircutsHairdressers, hairstylists and cosmetologists0.5 hours/52 weeks$11$286
Shopping for the familyPersonal care aides3 hours/52 weeks$10.18$1,587
Family financesAccountants and auditors0.5 hours/52 weeks$23.90$621
Yard workGrounds maintenance workers1 hour/52 weeks$10.63$553
Fixing up the houseDesigners40 hours a year$20.40$816
Finding out what the kids are up toPrivate detectives and investigators40 hours a year$21.73$869
   Total:$60,182

Wage data source: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

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