The Price of Motherhood, a widely acclaimed bestseller, was listed by the Chicago Tribune as one of the Top Ten feminist literary works since publication of Betty Friedan's The Feminine Mystique in 1964. The book argues that although women have been liberated, mothers have not. Drawing on hundreds of interviews, and the latest research in economics, family law, sociology, history, and child development, this provocative book shows how mothers are uniquely disadvantaged economically. Unlike most other nations, the United States systematically refuses to value or support unpaid caring labor. As a result, mothers, children, and society as a whole pay an enormous price. Crittenden makes a forceful argument that the anachronistic, dependent status of mothers and other caregivers is the finished business of the woman's movement.
We now know that roughly two-thirds of GDP is created by "human capital" - by curious, capable, skilled human beings. We also know that human potential is stimulated or stunted during the earliest years. This implies that mothers and other primary caregivers of children are society's greatest wealth producers; they literally do have "the most important job in the world."
Evidence from all over the globe also shows that resources in the hands of mothers are more likely to be invested in children's health and education than resources controlled by anyone else, including fathers. The conclusion is inescapable: economic empowerment of mothers is the best recipe in the world for producing prosperity and a healthy, thriving society.
Yet to this day those who rear children are denied access to economic resources of their own. Motherhood is paid lip service, and very little else. The Price of Motherhood reveals the myriad ways in which our institutions ignore or devalue the vast amount of work it takes to produce a well-raised child.
Mothers are routinely marginalized on the job. Mothers who can't or won't work long hours can be shunted aside, denied promotions, eased out of jobs, and even fired. This situation means that the average college-educated woman will lose more than a million dollars in lifetime income if she has just one child.
The great majority of married mothers become economically dependent on their husbands but family law does not grant them financial equality in marriage, or recognize marriage as an equal economic partnership. So-called family income in fact belongs solely to "he who earns it." This means that most mothers who divorce suffer a dramatic drop in income and standard of living, far greater than the loss suffered by most fathers. Even property is not divided equally in most states, if there is significant property to divide.
The social safety net does not protect divorced or single mothers from poverty. Those who do unpaid work at home are officially "not in the labor force." Unless a mother is employed full-time she is not eligible for first class social insurance. A mother earns a zero toward her Social Security for every year she works at home. She is not eligible for unemployment insurance if she works part-time or at home; and she is not eligible for disability insurance; ie: workman's compensation. The government leaves her economic contribution out of the GDP. If child care is paid, it is classified as "unskilled," a decision that explains why there is such a shortage of trained nannies in the U.S. -- as unskilled workers, they can't enter the country legally.
This treatment of those who care for children is justified on the grounds that it is women's "choice." The Price of Motherhood attacks this rationale, by making the case that women choose to be mothers, but they do not choose the adverse consequences of that decision. Mothers didn't write the rules that govern how their work is treated - and rendered invisible - by employers, by the law, or by government. The book concludes with some suggestions on how those rules can be changed.
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