Crittenden Encourages Economic Rewards for Motherhood
By Kate Kail
Today's newborn could be called "The Two Million Dollar Baby." According to one author, that staggering amount is how much it can cost a family to raise a child, yet mothers rarely receive economic benefits for their hard work.
At a recent University of Wisconsin System forum, economist and Pulitzer Prize-nominated journalist Ann Crittenden argued that the American economic system keeps mothers from gaining the resources they need.
In her book, "The Price of Motherhood: Why the Most Important Job in the World is Still the Least Valued," Crittenden illustrates how mothers forfeit economic rewards if they devote time to their family instead of a career. For example, Crittenden points out that a stay-at-home mom loses out on a salary she could otherwise earn, yet does not earn compensation for childrearing. She argues for an end to this financial penalty.
"Staying at home with children is not considered work," Crittenden said. "We are punished for what everyone agrees is a really valuable function."
Crittenden spoke about the economic challenges of motherhood at a June 13 public lecture during the UW System Work/Life Forum. The event featured a range of speakers who focused on the integration of work and personal life.
Crittenden was a reporter for The New York Times from 1975 to 1983. She was also a Newsweek financial writer and foreign correspondent, a reporter for Fortune and a visiting lecturer at MIT and Yale.
She's also served as a CBS News economics commentator and as the executive director of the Fund for Investigative Journalism in Washington, D.C. Crittenden is a member of the Council on Foreign Relations and serves on the board of the International Center for Research on Women.
Crittenden contends that mothers should be compensated for their role in shaping the next generation of workers, especially in light of findings that mothers directly invest resources in their children.
The modern U.S. economy pivots on a trained workforce, Crittenden said. She argues that without economically equipped mothers, the nation will lose any wealth it stands to gain from future skilled workers.
"It's a matter of self-interest that society invests in mothers," Crittenden said. "We do the opposite. Mothers have very little access to resources of their own."
Crittenden cited Australian and European statistics showing that the time associated with childrearing contributes as much as 50 percent of the economy. This aggregate value of a mother's time remains ignored in the United States, she said.
Among her proposals, Crittenden suggests balancing the scales through a program similar to Social Security, under which qualified caregivers would receive a "child credit." Mothers should be compensated for their full-time work, "just like everyone deserves a check for being old," Crittenden said.
Crittenden hopes a new national grassroots organizationtentatively titled "Mothers Ought To Have Equal/Economic Rights" (M.O.T.H.E.R.S.)will bring the issue of economic compensation for motherhood into the public eye.
"This is the last shoe that is waiting to drop," Crittenden said. "It's the last big step in the feminist movement. We have liberated women. We have not liberated mothers."
Kate Kail is an associate university relations specialist at UW System.