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Book Review: The Price Of Motherhood

Posted in Book Reviews on August 14th, 2011

The Price of Motherhood: Why The Most Important Job In The World is Still The Least Valued by Ann Crittenden

The Price of Motherhood was an alarming book, and an important one for anyone who is thinking of becoming a parent or who already is. I do not have any children, but I would like to one day. The idea of “mommy wars” always seemed too simplistic to be valuable, and my suspicions were correct – there seem to be few if any differences between children whose parents work, and those who are cared for at home.

Crittenden shows that no matter what choice women make, they’re in for a raw deal. It’s not just that a gap in employment could lead to lower wages and difficulty finding a job when returning to the workforce, there is a penalty for having children at all – even if they return to work very soon after giving birth.

The idea behind the Price of Motherhood is that our society undervalues child care, whether it is provided by parents or outside the home in day care centers. The most astonishing part of the book was that even husbands of working mothers face a penalty:

A survey of 348 male managers at twenty Fortune 500 companies found that fathers from dual-career families put in an average of two fewer hours per week – or about 4 percent less – than men whose wives were at home. That was the only difference between the two groups of men. But the fathers with working wives, who presumably had a few more domestic responsibilities, earned almost 20 percent less.

A 4% decrease in hours worked led to a 20% loss in income. For men.

This book is an important one for everyone to read. Crittenden presents a fascinating case of what a divorce settlement would look like for a family where the husband works and the mother stays at home with the children where the income is divided in such a way that keeps all people at the same percentage above the poverty line as they were when the marriage was in tact. The amount the husband has to pay is sizable, and the anecdote makes it clear why divorce often leads to poverty for women and children.

I felt an overwhelming sense of doom when reading this book. The truth is that no matter what, in the United States it is not easy to raise a family. I think that this book is valuable for answering questions that a lot of young women have before starting a family but are unsure where to look for answers. Many women were raised to believe that since motherhood is rewarding and natural, everything will work itself out in the end, and might feel that our financial concerns are not valid. They are. Securing resources is a part of taking care of children. I would recommend this book for anyone curious about or planning for the financial aspects of parenthood.

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