I was about to go to sleep tonight when I thought I’d just quick check my New York Times app on my iPhone. There in the Latest News list was a piece by David Leonhardt – A Market Punishing to Mothers. My exhaustion from a day of trying to juggle caring for our 9 year old, helping out my in-laws, oh and yes, doing my job disappeared for a moment – replaced by giddiness that someone was calling attention to the economic challenges uniquely faced by mothers.
It’s a great piece. As Leonhardt says,
…our economy exacts a terribly steep price for any time away from work — in both pay and promotions. People often cannot just pick up where they have left off. Entire career paths are closed off. The hit to earnings is permanent.
The fact that the job market has evolved in this way is no accident. It’s a result of policy choices. As Jane Waldfogel, a Columbia University professor who studies families and work, says, “American feminists made a conscious choice to emphasize equal rights and equal opportunities, but not to talk about policies that would address family responsibilities.”
“Family responsibilities.” Hmmm, I believe that term covers things like driving carpool to summer camp, taking three cell phone calls from the 9 year old at camp, calling to arrange overnight care to help my mother in law care for my recovering father in law, scheduling someone to come repair our washer that keeps staining our clothes, and then picking up carpool crew from camp. All while fitting in my job early in the morning, in between carpools, and late at night.
“Women do almost as well as men today,” Ms. Waldfogel said, “as long as they don’t have children.”
Yes, I’m with Mr. Leonhardt. It’s time to take the next step and stop just talking about policies that would address the family responsibilities both men and women have for both children and their aging parents. It’s time to DO something.
(Also see my April post on The Wage Gap Between Mothers and Everyone Else)