Ask any small business owner or manager why they don't offer more family-friendly policies and they're not going to tell you it's because they hate babies and want to stress out parents. They're going to tell you it's too expensive.

Some would argue that they're just flat out wrong. Happy workers and increased retention mean these policies often mostly pay for themselves. But even if you accept that it can be costly for a company to be generous, there's a another reason many businesses may be miscalculating the costs of offering a helping hand. Lots of employees would be happy to chip in to cover the expense.

How much is a little support worth?

Raising kids in America is notoriously hard. While parents in the rest of the world (really, every country but us, Papua New Guinea, and Lesotho), expect and receive months of paid leave when they welcome a new member of the family, here in the States, "generous" companies earn cheers for offering a comparatively modest three months of paid time off. Daycare costs more than college in much of the country.

No wonder, then, that when Bright Horizons asked working parents whether they'd trade some of their pay for a little more help juggling it all from their employers for their third annual Modern Family Index, just a hair under half (49 percent) said they'd sacrifice a slice of salary for more family-friendly policies. (Hat tip to Quartz for the pointer.)

And don't think it's just moms that would be willing to make that trade. Bright Horizons found that nearly 70 percent of men expect that fatherhood will prompt a job change as they seek out a more understanding workplace. New dads apparently want support and acceptance too.

What policies exactly are parents craving? If you really want to make the parents on your team happy, Bright Horizons' research suggests you consider flex time and on-site childcare, which would get the attention of 81 and 69 percent of mothers respectively. While on-site childcare can get complicated due to tons of regulation, flex time is happily on the rise, Bloomberg reports, so you'd be in good company.

Changing the calculus

The Bright Horizons report doesn't delve into the specifics -- we don't know, for instance, how much exactly parents would sacrifice for more support -- but the results do suggest that employers might want to rethink their math slightly when it comes to considering what policies they can afford. Not only should they weigh up the knock-on benefits of a happier team, but they should also consider if they've got the correct balance between salary and benefits.

Ideally, we'll all one day live in a country where we figure out how to support working families on a national level, taking the pressure off individual companies and parents to make these hard choices. But until that day comes, it might be time for a little more dialog between working parents and their employers about their priorities.

Working parents, would you be willing to trade a slice of your salary for more family-friendly policies?