THE BRAZEN CAREERIST- Stay at home: What's mom worth? A lot

I don't usually write question-and-answer columns. Although I do read every single question that people send me. And these are two of the questions I've been answering a lot lately.

Q: Why do you pay $50,000 a year for a house manager?

A: The short answer is that I am buying a stay-at-home wife. Most people, who are at a similar spot in their career and have young kids at home, have a stay-at-home wife. (This is, of course, because I have the type of career that is dominated by men, and by women without kids.)

I know you are thinking that most stay-at-home wives are taking care of kids. But almost all kids are in school most of the day. But the women are still busy. They are doing the infinite number of things required to run a household. Here is a sampling of things that I am sure that none of the startup CEOs I met with last week thought about for one second:

• What should we get my niece for her birthday?

• Who is the best teacher to request for third grade?

• Should the kids have private swimming lessons, or is group okay?

• What's the best way to train the dog not to pee on the sofa?

Those questions actually require thinking and planning– and they are constant. Running a house is like running a business, and very few people can do both well.

And then there's grocery shopping. Do you actually enjoy it? Why not decide what your time is worth, and decide if you are actually going to grocery shop over the million other things you could be doing. It's all a question of priorities; and for me, most things that are high priorities do not cost money, they cost time.

So instead of asking yourself why I'm paying $50K for household management, ask yourself why you are not paying for that, because it's a bargain. says that a stay-at-home mom is worth $135,000 a year. Also, for those of you who have the coveted stay-at-home spouse, thank that person, because you're getting all the work done for free, and you're getting sex, too.

Q: How can I change careers without taking a pay cut?

A: You cannot change careers without taking a pay cut. It is childish to ask this question. So stop asking it. Instead, live below your means so you are not a slave to your career choice. Everyone can cut back on what they are spending. Everyone. Life is about difficult choices, and if you are not willing to cut back on anything– your big house, those expensive dance lessons, fun family vacations– then you essentially are cutting back on your workplace engagement. You are saying that it's more important to buy all the stuff you're buying than it is to be engaged in your most rewarding work.

In most cases, really, you get more bang for your buck by switching to a career you like than staying in something else for 20 years just to live what is your fantasy of adult life. Because really, adult life is not about getting all the things that make you look stable and successful. Adult life is about constantly making difficult decisions about what you are going to give up.

Some of you will say that you switched careers without a pay cut. Bravo, but I challenge that. I think people who make career changes without pay cuts actually do both careers at the same time in some capacity, for a while. In that case, the cost– the pay cut– is really your time: all the other things you did not do while you did both careers. (I did it that way. It's a great way to ensure you don't take a pay cut, but also it removes all time for friends.)


Penelope Trunk has started several companies and worked for many more.