The Price of Motherhood: Why the Most Important Job in the World Is Still the Least Valued

Overview

In the pathbreaking tradition of Backlash and The Second Shift, this provocative book shows how mothers are systematically disadvantaged and made dependent by a society that exploits those who perform its most critical work. Drawing on hundreds of interviews and research in economics, history, child development, and law, Ann Crittenden proves definitively that although women have been liberated, mothers have not.

Bold, galvanizing, and full of innovative solutions, The Price of ...

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Overview

In the pathbreaking tradition of Backlash and The Second Shift, this provocative book shows how mothers are systematically disadvantaged and made dependent by a society that exploits those who perform its most critical work. Drawing on hundreds of interviews and research in economics, history, child development, and law, Ann Crittenden proves definitively that although women have been liberated, mothers have not.

Bold, galvanizing, and full of innovative solutions, The Price of Motherhood was listed by the Chicago Tribune as one of the Top Ten Feminist Literary Works since the publication of Betty Friedan's Feminine Mystique. This "bracing call to arms" (Elle) offers a much-needed accounting of the price that mothers pay for performing the most important job in the world.

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Editorial Reviews

From Barnes & Noble
This stunning read addresses the harsh reality of a society that, while glorifying motherhood in theory, relegates mothers to second-class status. In fact, the author identifies motherhood as the "single biggest risk factor for poverty in old age," a chilling assertion. With a mix of outrage and sensibility, Crittenden pinpoints the failings of society toward mothers and offers suggestions for improved treatment of this marginalized sector.
From the Publisher
“A landmark book.” —San Francisco Chronicle

“Powerful and important . . . Written with a fine passion, The Price of Motherhood challenges the received ideas of economists, feminists, and conservatives alike and ought to be read by all of them.” —The New York Times Book Review

“A scathing indictment of policies that cheat mothers . . . Crittenden turns out a fresh, persuasive argument. Sure to inspire vigorous debate.” Megan Rutherford, Time

“Fascinating . . . shows how women have been consistently denied social and, more important, monetary equality for raising their families.” Susan Straight, Los Angeles Times

Paul Starr
. . . challenges the received ideas of economists, feminists and conservatives alike and ought to be read by all of them. —The New York Times Book Review
Ben Dickinson
A bracing call to arms . . . a mind-blowingly sensible alteration of America's present parenting arrangements. —Elle
Susan Straight
Fascinating . . . shows how women have been consistently denied social and, more importantly, monetary equality for raising their families. —Los Angeles Times
Megan Rutherford
A scathing indictment of policies that cheat mothers . . . Crittenden turns out a fresh, persuasive argument. Sure to inspire vigorous debate. —Time
Paul Starr
Written with a fine passion and at times a biting wit, it challenges the received ideas of economists, feminists and conservatives alike . . . As informative and engaging in its details as it is compelling in its overall argument.
New York Times Book Review
Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
Americans extol motherhood as "the most important job in the world," yet when couples divorce, mothers' and their children's standards of living usually decline precipitously, while fathers' rise. Crittenden, a former economics reporter for the New York Times, lays out the going rate for a woman's time: "$150 an hour or more as a professional, $50 an hour or more in some businesses, $15 an hour or so as a teacher, $5 to $8 an hour as a day-care worker and zero as a mother." Mothers (whose labor is not calculated in any official economic index) have no unemployment insurance to tide them over after divorce, no workers' compensation if they're injured and no Social Security benefits for the work they do, although a housekeeper or nanny paid for the same work would earn such benefits. In a breezy, journalistic style, Crittenden chronicles how the Industrial Revolution created the idea of the "unproductive housewife," how this concept penalizes women after divorce and how tax policies encourage mothers to quit work. Crittenden proposes several remedies, some available in most industrialized countries (paid maternity leave, flexible work hours for parents, universal preschool, free health coverage for children) and others seemingly utopian (Social Security credits for mothering, remedying the tax bias against married working mothers). This thoroughly documented and incisive book is must reading for women contemplating parenthood or divorce, and could prove an organizing tool for women's organizations. Copyright 2000 Cahners Business Information.
Library Journal
Crittenden (Killing the Sacred Cows: Bold Ideas for a New Economy) draws upon hundreds of interviews to illustrate the irony of American society's praise of the "profession" of maternal love/care while undervaluing and exploiting mothers. Even as late as 1995, "married working mothers in the United States with children earned half of what their husbands earned." These economic dependents have been paying the dreaded "mommy tax": lost income (more than $1 million) owing to the "wages foregone by the primary parent." Obviously, well-educated, high-income individuals are the most severely penalized. This exemplary book covers the economic myths of motherhood through the stark testimonies of childcare hardships and financial inequality in marriage: "The pay $580 a month was barely enough to cover the bills for a family of four, but not enough for decent day care .Her ex-husband never paid a nickel in child support." A wonderful resource for students of economics, women's studies, politics, and for parents-to-be, this book should be a wake-up call to America. Kay Meredith Dusheck, Univ. of Iowa, Iowa City Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780312655402
  • Publisher: Picador
  • Publication date: 11/23/2010
  • Edition description: 10th Anniversary Edition
  • Edition number: 1
  • Pages: 336
  • Sales rank: 620,532
  • Product dimensions: 8.14 (w) x 11.70 (h) x 0.90 (d)

Meet the Author

Ann Crittenden is the author of Killing the Sacred Cows: Bold Ideas for a New Economy. A former reporter for The New York Times and a Pulitzer Prize nominee, she has also been a financial writer for Newsweek, a visiting lecturer at M.I.T. and Yale, and an economics commentator on CBS News. Her articles have appeared in Fortune, The Nation, Foreign Affairs, McCalls, and Working Woman, among others. She lives with her husband and son in Washington, D.C.

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Read an Excerpt

A newspaper reporter told me that his wife used to be his boss before she quit to raise their two children. She now makes one-fourth of his salary, working as a part-time consultant. "It was her choice," he says.

But mothers' choices are not made in a vacuum. They are made according to rules mothers didn't write. Married working mothers pay the highest taxes in the country on their earned income, which powerfully affects their choice of whether to work or not. And what many mothers really want is a good part-time job, yet there is no rich and vibrant part-time labor market in the United States.

To most women choice is all about bad options and difficult decisions: your child or your profession; taking on the domestic chores or marital strife; a good night's sleep or time with your child; food on the table or your baby's safety; your right arm or your left.

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Table of Contents

Preface viii

Introduction 1

1 Where We Are Now 13

2 A Conspiracy of Silence 28

3 How Mothers' Work Was "Disappeared": The Invention of the Unproductive Housewife 45

4 The Truly Invisible Hand 65

5 The Mommy Tax 87

6 The Dark Little Secret of Family Life 110

7 What Is a Wife Worth? 131

8 Who Really Owns the Family Wage? 149

9 Who Pays for the Kids? 162

10 The Welfare State Versus a Caring State 186

11 The Toughest Job You'll Ever Love 202

12 An Accident Waiting to Happen 218

13 "It Was Her Choice" 233

Conclusion: How to Bring Children Up Without Putting Women Down 256

Notes 275

Acknowledgments 305

Index 308

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Reading Group Guide

About this Guide

The following author biography and list of questions about The Price of Motherhood are intended as resources to aid individual readers and book groups who would like to learn more about the author and this book. We hope that this guide will provide you a starting place for discussion, and suggest a variety of perspectives from which you might approach The Price of Motherhood.

About the Book

In the pathbreaking tradition of Backlash and The Second Shift, this provocative book shows how mothers are systematically disadvantaged and made dependent by a society that exploits those who perform its most critical work. Drawing on hundreds of interviews and research in economics, history, child development, and law, Ann Crittenden proves definitively that although women have been liberated, mothers have not.

Bold, galvanizing, and full of innovative solutions, The Price of Motherhood was listed by the Chicago Tribune as one of the Top Ten Feminist Literary Works since the publication of Betty Friedan's Feminine Mystique. This "bracing call to arms" (Elle) offers a much-needed accounting of the price that mothers pay for performing the most important job in the world.

About the Author

Ann Crittenden is the author of Killing the Sacred Cows: Bold Ideas for a New Economy. A former reporter for The New York Times and a Pulitzer Prize nominee, she has also been a financial writer for Newsweek, a visiting lecturer at M.I.T. and Yale, and an economics commentator on CBS News. Her articles have appeared in Fortune, The Nation, Foreign Affairs, McCalls, and Working Woman, among others. She lives with her husband and son in Washington, D.C.

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Customer Reviews

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Sort by: Showing all of 8 Customer Reviews
  • Anonymous

    Posted July 6, 2001

    A new way to encourage divorce

    In short, Ann Crittenden's new book encourages divorce and therefore female poverty by arguing for more gov't action and programs to support single female parents. She makes the very old fashioned socialist argument that since women do such important unpaid work,i.e, raise society's children, then society should recognize the value of that work and support women financially or doing it. But, the divorce rate has shot up from near 0 in 1960 to 50% today, not by bad luck or pure chance, but precisely because we have already supported divorce too much. We have insured that most kids in America now come from confusingly tragic broken homes wherein the mother (the plaintiff in most divorce cases) decides she no longer loves the father she chose for her children. If kids suffer from divorce; if nearly 100% of men in jail were raised in broken homes by single mothers, why on earth would we want to further encourage even more single motherhood? Since 1960 we have had male bashing feminism, welfare, Medicaid, WIC, section 8, child support, alimony, no fault divorce, and exclusive female child custody, all of which have encouraged women toward our 50% divorce rate. We have encouraged hate, rather than love, as an environment for our children and quite simply we should stop. The best book I know about how to encourage familial love in today's complex environment is: The 91% Factor. The Mars/Venus books are also good and groundbreaking in that they encourage us to use the differences between husbands and wives to strengthen our families rather than weaken them.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted March 25, 2001

    Wake Up U.S.

    This is what is wrong with our world today. No one has their priorities prioiritized. People have children and pay others to raise them because they claim they cannot afford to do it themselves. I left my career to have children and to devote myself (fully) to this and I now I will suffer with the consequences later BUT I will also, some day be rewarded. Not with money but in other ways that money could not reward! The government needs to 'Wake Up' and realize this IS the most important fact for the future of our children and DO SOMETHING ABOUT IT! The government needs to look at other countries laws and rights on childbearing. (example, Canada & Netherlands) This book says it all to a tee!

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted March 31, 2001

    Whiny?? Try A Long Overdue Dose of Reality!!

    This book goes right to the heart of the deliberate and systematic use of motherhood to keep women economically dependent and, therefore, unable to support themselves if need be. I love the women who say money and motherhood should not be spoken of togther...oh fools, oh naive little fools...what the heck do you think PAYS for all of the things you and your kids have???? By all means read this book and get your head OUT of the sand..

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted April 12, 2001

    Universal preschool?

    I loved the idea of Social Security Benefits for SAHM's. I watched my mother struggle for the last 14 years on a fixed income after my father passed on. She had no skills and had to drop her health insurance. She become ill in her 60's and the hospital took everything she had. She was a devoted SAHM. I am also a SAHM who wishes society would respect that choice. But I am taking care of my future. I am going back to school part-time and hope to one day become a teacher. When my children are in school, I will be also. But for now no one can do the job I am doing to raise my child. Universal Preschool? My child is in two day preschool and it costs only 50 dollars a month. What this socity wants to do is institutionalize children at an earlier age in the name of 'Education' but it is really for the working mothers who do not want to pay for child care. Head Start is a government program that all poor children can attend and 50 dollars a month is not much to pay for early education. Are we really talking about Universal Government subsidized 'Day Care' fulltime 40 or 50 ours a week between the ages of three and five? Who will pay for that? We all will in the form of taxes? Government programs are not 'free'. Working moms will still have to pay for child care and the husbands of SAHM's will be paying for some elses kid to go to preschool or day care. Think about that! We moms do pay a price but often it is up to each of us individualy to form our own destiny. Yes it is outdated to think that that you will always have someone taking care of you. Take control of your own life. Keep your skills up and think about returning to work after your children are in school all day.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted May 22, 2001

    Bravo!

    Just finished 'The Price of Motherhood.' It is the kind of book that puts names, places and numbers on things that we have always known, but need to know better. At the same time it opened my eyes to ways in which my thinking contributed to everything from the poverty of children to the 'glass ceiling' still experienced by half of society. If every woman and open-minded man read this book, we could change the world for our sons, daughters and their children. Profoundly disturbing, for me it puts together studies I have read on fathers, teen violence, children's poverty as well as the many discussions I have had with friends about why women seem to be striving for something more even when we seem to have it all. I think it also addresses the male backlash against what both sexes feel are unfair divorce and child custody laws. Societies have choices and we have consistently chosen to turn our backs on our children, apparently in an attempt to spite women. Other cultures do it differently and by implication Crittenden shows how to involved both men and women more in raising our children, to the profound benefit of all three. Her research in how other cultures address childcare and 'feminine' issues is concrete, understandable and broken down into legislatable proposals, if we have the will. The argument, as always, would be 'How can we afford it?' The standard social answer, 'How can we not?' always falls short of cash. So, let's look at the numbers one, oversimplified way. Four teens were recently arrested in Las Vegas for beating a homeless man to death. The district attorney has decided to prosecute them as adults -- the current trend in dealing with juvenile offenders who commit murder. Assume they are convicted and sentenced to life imprisonment, which is very likely because of the brutality of the crime. Concervately, it costs about $36,000 per year to keep a prisoner. Again, conservatively, they average 40 years before they die (none of them will have reached 60) costing $144,000 per year to total $5,760,000 over their lifetime incarcerations. But that isnt' the only cost. Given an alternative scenario they would have each earned approximately $1 million over their lifetime, paying $300,000 in taxes over their lives. $300,000 x 4 = $1,200,000 plus the cost of their incarceration = $6,960,000 to society for these four boys. Just as you can't compare apples with oranges, you can't compare social costs with real money. But you can compare real money with real money. I think we have to start fighting the radical right on social justice issues the same way, comparing real costs to real costs. Police organizations across the country have stated that providing safe, productive, interesting places for children and teens to go is more important than increasing the number of police. They know that increasing the amount of adult and parental time spent with children is the most cost effective way of reducing crime and teen violence. Unions need to bargain for flexible schedules and part time work paid at the same rates and with the same benefits of those doing the same work full time, so that both parents can increase the time spent with their children. Businesses need to learn that the opportunity costs of losing top level executives to excessively demanding schedules are greater than the costs of accomodating employee's family needs. I am recommending this book to every person I care about. Crittenden provides us with the first round of ammunition to use in the fight to improve the lives of our children, our spouses and ourselves. I think this book is that important and would love to hear your thoughts on her work.

    0 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted April 5, 2001

    Motherhood has a price

    I thought the book was priceless.... A reality check for all parents.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted March 29, 2001

    Too much whine

    Too much whine with this author can make anyone shut the book rather quickly. The woman is very hung up on money vs. motherhood. Hello - there is no correlation in today's society nor in the previous past years to this choice and should not be expected. If you have chosen to stay home and raise your children, do it and be happy with the acceptable terms upon which a sahm (stay at home mom) endures. The New York Times and others who have given this a high recommendation are strange to say the least; but par for the course. Too much whine and a lot more action towards positive thoughts is what poor little Ann needs to act upon.

    0 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted July 28, 2011

    No text was provided for this review.

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