The Cost Of Staying Home
At the height of the feminist movement, the idea of staying home with the kids was very unpopular. The thrust of this argument was that you'd had four years of expensive education to ready you for the career track, and if you didn't go back to the workforce, you were throwing it all away. Funny how it turns out women who mother children and work full time, are still doing most of the childcare and housework.
After awhile, however, the pendulum was swinging in the other direction and women were sticking close to home and pulling in their belts. It wasn't just that the kids needed a stay at home mom; it was that the challenges of working and raising a family just seemed much too difficult. Besides, most of the salary a working mom received was going to pay for childcare costs.
Are you seeing a pattern here? Damned if you work, and damned if you don't. That's the thrust of Ann Crittenden's book, The Price of Motherhood: Why the Most Important Job in the World Is Still the Least Valued.
Crittenden was once an economics reporter for the New York Times, so she knows of what she speaks as she details all the ways in which the combined forces of government policy, corporate ideology, and our tax system punish moms who work and moms who don't. Here's one little tidbit: working moms make 20% less than do childless working women. But the hell of it is that the stay at home mother risks the greatest financial penalties.
What happens when a mother leaves the workforce? There is the obvious: she gives up her income. But there's so much more. She also gives up her pension, retirement savings, and any other benefits that would accrue during her time of employment. Crittenden estimates her own losses at approximately $700,000. If that seems like a lot of money, hold on to your hats—economists state that moms who give up their careers can lose as much as $1 million dollars over the course of the years spent at home, mothering their children.
Crittenden is at peace with her decision to remain at home to raise her son, and the women she interviewed echo these sentiments. Still, the statistics underline the sorrowful facts of a mother's financial vulnerability. Before you decide to stop working for good, weigh the financial pros and cons of leaving the career track for good. Once you get off, it's not so easy to get back on.