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updated 5/6/2011 7:08:17 AM ET 2011-05-06T11:08:17

There is much discussion surrounding what it costs to raise a child, but a large portion of the expense can be reduced by having a mom stay at home with her kids. This often thankless job doesn't pay in the same way as a traditional occupation, however, leaving the matriarch of the family to garner her wages in snuggles and a somewhat delayed feeling of accomplishment.

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In honor of Mother's Day, we attempt to answer the question of "what would these homebound heroes make if they were paid in dollars?" 

Got kids?
While it's not an exact science, the calculator provided at Salary.com is a nice starting point for figuring out the currency value of a stay-at-home mom. Since the amount of work will multiply with each child added to the household, a mom with a handful of young ones in the home (especially those who haven't entered school yet) will increase her worth.

The value of add-ons
Customizing the value of a stay-at-home mom can get tricky, especially when you factor in the worth of all of the services a typical day may require of her. In addition to the obvious ones, such as cook, babysitter and driver (which can earn a mom between $7 and $15 an hour), there are the ones we may not immediately attribute to our mothers — and which can have a value of $25 or more per hour. They may include psychologist, groundskeeper and event planner.

To work or not to work?
As if a stay-at-home mom's life isn't challenging enough, some moms rise to the occasion of a demanding household budget and earn a traditional living from home, as well. While it's not often logistically possible to be earning two task wages for the same hour, such as cleaning the house and consulting with a client, many moms combined working hours for their "mom job" and their "professional job" would easily put them at over 100 hours per week.

This added strain on a mom isn't usually put there by choice; many single mothers and those who are replacing the income of an out-of-work spouse find that working from home, while difficult, can offer the best of both worlds.

Other professional duties
Many moms have unique lifestyles that help to increase their economic value even further. For the homeschooling mom or one that provides medical care and developmental coaching to a child with special needs, there truly is no replacement value for their work. When the mother with specialized skills does call in for reinforcement, which can take the form of tutoring services or respite care, the bill for such backup could total $10,000 per year or more.

Location, location, location
What salary survey would be complete without the understanding that some parts of the country just demand more cash? The Salary.com survey tool allows for parents to input their ZIP code to get an estimate of the economics for caring for kids all over the U.S. A more rural mom may fetch up to $90,000 less annually than a metropolitan mom.

The bottom line
It's easy to use calculators and spreadsheets to place a value on a mom's time and skills, but doing so may leave you a bit short.

Hollis Colquhoun, an accredited financial counselor and financial survival expert for women, explains that moms "create income, not only by performing tasks that you'd have to pay for otherwise, but by freeing up money to pay for other expenses or to put into savings."

She uses the example of outsourcing the mom's tasks at the cost of $2,000 per month, and needing to earn approximately $2,500 per month before taxes to pay for it. In this case, the mom's services would result in cost savings equivalent to earning $30,000 per year.

More from Investopedia:

5 successful 'mompreneurs'

Debunking 10 budget myths

Keep working or stay at home with the kids?

5 Mother's Day gifts we spend billions on

5 delusions about working from home

© Investopedia ULC

Photos: Mother's Day

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  1. (Nate Beeler / The Washington Examiner, Politicalcartoons.com) Back to slideshow navigation
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  1. Nate Beeler / The Washington Examiner, Politicalcartoons.com
    Above: Slideshow (15) Happy Mother's Day
  2. Image: An Asian elephant calf, born at the Oklahoma City Zoo in April is seen with her mother, Asha
    Sue Ogrocki / AP
    Slideshow (25) Animal Tracks: Mother's Day 2011

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