A dilemma for SA’s working moms

Apr 9, 2011 9:34 PM | By TINA WEAVIND 

Many mothers would rather be with their babies than sitting in an office letting a caregiver have the pleasure of seeing them take their first steps, and be there to comfort them when they graze their knees.

But with the cost of living being what it is, it seems almost inconceivable to do without that second income. Or does it?
Consider the costs of being a working mother and you might find that the amount 
you save by staying at home would offset some of the more significant payments 
you are making each month.
Take a fictitious middle- class South African family living in a R1.5-million home 
in Kyalami Downs estate, north of Johannesburg: Mrs Khumalo is a 33-year-old 
mother of three-year-old Kelly and 18-month-old Paul. Kelly is at a crèche 5km 
from the Khumalo home and Paul is due to start there from next year. 
He stays at home with his nanny.
If Mrs Khumalo gave up her job as a personal banker at one of the big four local banks, 
she would forfeit her R243000 annual salary, from which she brings home R14395 
each month after tax, pension, UIF and union contributions.
This works out to R719.75 a day if she works 20 days a month. Her husband, 
an accountant, covers the medical-aid bills for the entire family.
Because the Khumalos leave for work at 7.45am, their nanny, Joyce Nxumalo, 
lives in and sees Kelly off in the morning with a child taxi service at 8.15am. 
She takes care of Paul and is there to welcome Kelly home after school, 
feed her lunch and settle her down for a nap in the afternoon. She then 
bathes the children and feeds them supper.
Mrs Khumalo is usually home from by 5.15pm and her husband usually 
follows at between 5.30 and 6pm.
By forfeiting Mrs Khumalo’s income, the family would save on the following:
  • The School Link taxi service that takes Kelly to and from school costs R1500 a month. 
  • Were Mrs Khumalo to take her daughter to school herself and fetch her each day, 
  • she would drive 10km a day, or 200km a month. She has a 1.4litre, R150000 
  • Honda Jazz. With her car using 7.7litres per 100km, this would cost her R145 
  • a month with petrol at its current price of R9.42/litre. The taxi service therefore 
  • has an opportunity cost of R1355 a month.
  • The nanny gets a salary of R3000 a month. If Mrs Khumalo were to give up work, 
  • she would assume all of these duties.
  • The bank requires that Mrs Khumalo look presentable, and she has her hair done 
  • once a week at a cost of R150, totalling R600 a month. She would still have her hair 
  • done if she gave up her job, but probably only twice a month. It therefore costs 
  • her R300 a month in salon fees. She has two manicures a month at R70 a time, 
  • costing her R140 a month. It’s an indulgence she would be happy to cut out 
  • altogether if she stopped working.
  • Clothing and make-up for work add up to around R500 a month. This figure could 
  • be halved if she gave up her job.
  • One night a week, the Khumalos treat themselves and the children to a take-away 
  • dinner costing R150. The Khumalos both have a long day at work, and this 
  • indulgence means neither of them has to cook dinner. This R600 a month would 
  • fall away if she stayed at home.
  • Mrs Khumalo has a subsidised canteen lunch costing R25 a day, or R500 a month. 
  • If she made her own lunch at home, it would probably cost her half of that. This is an 
  • added cost of R250 a month.
  • Her 30km/day travel to and from work add up to 600km a month and cost her in the region of 
  • R435 a month.
Her job is therefore costing her about R6330 a month, making her real salary closer to R8065 
or R403 a day.
It’s worth doing the sums if you are a working mom who longs to be at home. 
But there are some other costs that you need to make sure are paid if you 
decide to clear your desk for good.
You need to set up a pension scheme – ideally comparable to the one you 
have, including paying in any additional amounts the company pays into the 
scheme for you – and you should consider life insurance. Many couples only 
insure the breadwinner of the family, but all the costs of child transport, 
a nanny and/or aftercare at school will suddenly become payable should 
something happen to the stay-at-home mom.
Lenerd Louw, CEO of direct life investment company Frank.net, says 
stay-at-home parents perform on average 94.4 hours of “work” each week, 
work that would suddenly need to be paid for if something were to happen 
to the homemaker.
There are also the fixed costs of car repayments and insurance to take 
into account, unless you are able to dispose of the second car altogether – 
an unlikely option for a middle-class South African family.
A good idea would be to try to live on one salary, factoring in all the 
costs and benefits you would accrue if you did leave. For many 
mothers, though, the potential financial hardship of losing a 
second income is preferable to missing out on the big moments
 of their child’s development.