Tag Archives: Marriage

Tax Day Question: Can I Make Enough to Pay for Childcare?

When our daughter was born, my husband had just started his second year at a law firm and I had just been laid off from a part-time job. We sat down together to decide whether I should look for a new job or not. The question we asked ourselves was, “Could I make enough to pay for childcare?” If not, we reasoned, it would make sense for me to take care of our baby myself.

Little did we know that the question had nothing to do with the cost of childcare and everything to do with tax policy.

You see, before World War II, the United States used an income tax system of separate filing for married couples in which tax rates applied to each spouse’s income separately.* As Ed McCaffery, author of Taxing Women, explains in his book, when the war ended and the costs of war went away, Congress saw an opportunity to reduce taxes. They did it by eliminating separate filing and replacing it with mandatory joint filing for couples. At the time, Congress also had an interest in wanting families to return to normal. In other words, they wanted mothers who had entered the workforce during the war to go back home. Joint filing would encourage them to do just that. As the legislative counsel of the treasury at the time remarked, “Wives need not continue to master the details of . . . business, but may turn . . . to the pursuit of homemaking.”

Joint filing introduced what McCaffery calls the “secondary earner bias.” The one who earns less, even today usually the woman, will be taxed more, which acts as a powerful but unseen disincentive for her to be employed.

Sue Hill Zamparelli for "This is Not How I Thought It Would Be"

How does it work? Married couples filing jointly are required to combine their incomes, no matter who earns what. However, the money doesn’t go into a common pool that is all taxed at the same rate.  As my friend Kimberly Tso explains in her blog post at The Two Penny Project, “Our federal income tax system uses graduated marginal rates. This is how to think about it: Imagine each dollar that you earn is stacked one on top of the other. Next, picture a large wedding cake next to the stack of dollar bills. Each tier of the cake (called the tax bracket) has a corresponding tax rate that increases as you go up each tier. …You only incur the higher tax rate if your stack of bills reaches that layer.” (See picture for example using hypothetical tax rates.) The policy goal of taxing the top layers more is for individuals who earn more to pay a higher percentage of their income in taxes compared to those who earn less.

For a couple, combining the incomes into one stack and then applying increasing rates to each layer has another effect—the secondary earner bias. When my husband and I faced the question of whether I should find a job or not, we thought of his job and his income as primary because he already had a job and he earned more. So we also thought of his income as first in the stack—where it would get taxed at lower rates. Continue reading


Filed under Economy, Marriage, Money, Motherhood, Remodeling Motherhood

Is a Celebrity Divorce in OUR Future?

David and I got a bit concerned about our own marriage this weekend when we read this New York Times article, Brant vs Brant: Divorce Celebrity Style,  and noted the uncanny similarities between us and the Brants. You see, Peter Brant is a billionaire with his own polo team and Stephanie Seymour is a former Victoria’s Secret model. Just like them, we’ve been married 16 years. Plus, David now works for a billionaire with his own polo team …and I’ve been wearing Victoria’s Secret underwear forever. Since we seem to be the very image of the Brants, I hope we can avoid a celebrity divorce ourselves!

We did share a good laugh. And laughter is good for the relationship right? : )

What do you do to take care of your own marriage? Is it getting as much attention as your relationship with your kids?

P.S. For more on this topic, check out my post Remodeling Marriage: Our Next Wedding.

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Filed under Marriage, Motherhood, News & Commentary

My Mother’s Day Resolutions

My book, This is Not How I Thought It Would Be: Remodeling Motherhood to Get the Lives We Want Today, tells the story of my journey navigating the changes in every aspect of my life after we had our daughter nine years ago.

I have recently admitted to myself that I am in the midst of a set of changes  that are likely to be as difficult and challenging as those I went through nine years ago. Continue reading


Filed under Assumptions about Mothers, Career-Life Fit, Family Work, Marriage, Money, Motherhood, Remodeling Motherhood, Remodeling Motherhood Tips, Resolutions

Why Moms Benefit from Feeling LESS Good at Family Care

Recently MSNBC.com featured a new study in an article titled, Too Helpful Dad, Resentful Mom?: Men involved with child care may hurt women’s self-esteem.

The study found that:

“When mothers perceived fathers to be competent caregivers, the more time those dads spent solo with children, the lower was mom’s self-competence rating [related to caregiving]. But when mothers considered spouses relatively incompetent caregivers, increased father-only time with kids was unrelated to mothers’ self-competence.”

In other words, when dad is good at taking care of the kids, mom perceives herself as less good at it than when she thinks dad is lousy at taking care of kids. But note, it’s not that mom perceives that she’s WORSE at caregiving than dad is, just that she feels LESS good at it if he’s good at it, and BETTER at it if she thinks he’s clueless. Continue reading


Filed under Assumptions about Mothers, Family Work, Fatherhood, Gender Issues, Marriage, Motherhood, News & Commentary

Interview with Equally Shared Parenting Authors Amy and Marc Vachon

Just in time for Valentine’s Day, I’m thrilled to share a special Q&A interview with my friends Marc and Amy Vachon whose book, Equally SharedParenting: Rewriting the Rules for a New Generation of Parents just came out last month. Listen in to our conversation here and then check out their book and the additional resources on my Remodeling Motherhood Tools page!

~ Kristin

Amy Vachon, Kristin Maschka, Marc Vachon in MA

What were the hardest assumptions of your own that each of you had to overcome to make ESP work? And can you each share your most memorable example of a time when your ESP arrangement challenged someone ELSE’s stereotypes about mothers and fathers?

Marc: Early in my career, I presumed that it was my responsibility to maximize my earning power to support a family someday. This led to the standard male prescriptive to forge ahead with long hours and an unbalanced dedication toward work. Letting that assumption go took courage (especially since I didn’t have role models to follow as I approached my boss with a request to work part-time – as a single guy). But it allowed me to create a life that I love daily. My work focus changed from wanting to retire early to wanting to work forever.

Amy: The most difficult assumption I had to shake was probably the notion that I had more responsibility for the home and the children. I still catch myself stressing out about little projects or an upcoming dinner party, and have to remember that these tasks can be jointly planned and handled – as long as I let Marc work alongside me as a true peer.

Both: We can think of two separate examples that highlight how others’ stereotypes can rub up against the notion of an equal partnership. In the first, Amy was picking up our daughter from Kindergarten in the school playground when our then 2-year old son threw a temper tantrum and stomped off a few yards away. A random mother was heard commenting snidely, “Who is that kid’s mother?” Yet a couple of months prior, Marc was handling the same pickup, in the same playground, with the same 2-year old throwing a tantrum (what can we say – a 2:20 pickup time doesn’t always mesh with a toddler’s nap schedule!). This time, a random mom approached Marc to ask if she could intervene to calm our son down. She explained that she was “very good at these types of things.”

The second example happened when our daughter was about 2, and fell off a swing at a friend’s birthday party. She ran right past Amy, all the way across the yard into Marc’s arms for comfort. The other parents at the party were too polite to say anything, but we often wonder if they thought Amy had failed as the “mother” in that moment. Amy felt a twinge of self-consciousness, but we both mark that event as one of those times when we could say, “We did it – we gave her two parents she could go to and this is cause for celebration!” Continue reading

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Filed under Book Review, Family Work, Fatherhood, Interview, Marriage, Motherhood

Remodeling Marriage: Our “Next Wedding”

Sometimes a picture really is worth a thousand words. Like this one of our family. We were dressed to the nines for a special occasion, and I wanted to get the perfect family photo, but our daughter was so excited we couldn’t get her to stand still. When she paused her frenetic movement for a moment, we thought we’d gotten that perfect photo. Until we actually saw the photo later – my husband and I are smiling at the camera and then you scan down the photo to see our Kate – making a face and sticking her tongue out at the camera.

I was annoyed at first. Then I realized the picture was perfect; the photo was the perfect image for the occasion.

You see the special occasion that had us all dressed up was our “next wedding.” Continue reading


Filed under Fatherhood, Marriage, Motherhood

Shared Parenting is Possible – If You Know Why It’s Hard

I’m so happy for my friends Amy and Marc Vachon whose book, Equally Shared Parenting, came out this past Tuesday. Already they’ve fit in a TV interview with Fox News and with New England Cable Channel. Plus a mention in a post on Lisa Belkin’s New York Times blog, The Motherlode, which was the genesis of the book as well. Belkin’s post asks the question “Can parenting be truly equal?” but I think a better question is “Why in the 21st century when so many couples go into parenthood expecting and wanting to share family work and family life do they find it so darn hard?” My  own book, This is Not How I Thought It Would Be: Remodeling Motherhood to Get the Lives We Want Today provides answers to this and several other related questions by using the story of the journey my husband and I took from having fallen into unexpected traditional roles to the kind of family life and team approach we really wanted.

Subconscious assumptions, or mental maps, that  mothers are best at caring for family and fathers are clueless create a double standard and set couples up to fall into a trap where mother still does most of the family work even if that’s not what we want or plan on. This is not genetics at work. So many things conspired to make it hard for us to have the family life we wanted – Continue reading

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Filed under Discussion Topics, Family Work, Fatherhood, Marriage, Motherhood, Uncategorized

Check Out New Book – Equally Shared Parenting

Click to Order a Copy Today!

I’m giving a way one copy of a great new book, Equally Shared Parenting: Rewriting the Rules for a New Generation of Parents, which is  officially released Tuesday, Jan 5. To enter, either leave a comment here about a challenge or success you have had sharing parenting – including childcare, housework, and employment – with your spouse; OR copy and paste this Tweet and send it on to your Followers. Deadline midnight Pacific time on Tuesday Jan 5. Winner to be selected at random, 48 hrs to respond after notification.

Equally Shared Parenting out 1/5! RT 2 win copy from Remodeling Motherhood author @KristinMaschka! #giveaway #books http://wp.me/pBswT-8y

So how did I come to have an extra copy of the book to give away? I connected with the authors, Amy and Marc Vachon while I was writing my book, This is Not How I Thought It Would Be: Remodeling Motherhood to Get the Lives We Want Today. I had already visited their website and included them as a resource in my draft when they were featured in a New York Times article, When Mom and Dad Share It All. I reached out to them after reading the comments to the article online, some of which were downright hostile to the Vachons and the idea that parents could truly share everything about family life.

We started exchanging email encouragement with each other, and when my book was released in October it carried a testimonial from Amy and Marc inside, and they did a Q and A with me on their blog. Then in November, on my own book tour for This is Not How I Thought It Would Be, I got the chance to meet Amy and Marc. They got a babysitter and spent that precious time coming out to my book event in Assabett Valley MA hosted by the Mothers & More chapter there. What a treat to meet them in person, have them dive in to my workshop on identity, and then chat over drinks afterward.

This is a very real couple who has done some hard work and hard thinking about how to fight stereotypes about what mothers do and what fathers to in order to share parenting the way they want to. Not everything will apply to everyone or every couple, but it is sure to challenge readers’ stereotypes and give couples the tools they need to make the changes right for them.  Here’s the testimonial I wrote for them.

Equally Shared Parenting is a one-stop shop for couples who want to share in all aspects of life as parents  and are puzzled as to why that simple desire is often so difficult. Here couples will find the words that describe the goal, the real stories that show what is possible, and a ton of practical tips to get started right away. Marc and Amy Vachon are a godsend for couples who want and need to remodel motherhood and fatherhood to get the lives – and marriages – they really want today. Put this one on your must-read list!”
Kristin Maschka, author of This is Not How I Thought It Would Be: Remodeling Motherhood to Get the Lives We Want Today

I already had an advance, unedited version when I received a full, hardcover version from their publisher so I thought I’d pay it forward by giving that copy away. Even if you don’t win, don’t miss out, order a copy of Equally Shared Parenting today!


Filed under Family Work, Fatherhood, Marriage, Motherhood

Share Family Responsibilities with iPhone App!

As I talk to mothers – and fathers – about my book, This is Not How I Thought It Would Be: Remodeling Motherhood to Get the Lives We Want Today, the topic that comes up most frequently is how to share the family work and stop the nagging and arguments.

Here’s a gadget that can help couples share the responsibility – Grocery Gadget. It’s an iPhone app that friends of ours recommended to us as soon as we got our iPhones this past summer. If you each have Grocery Gadget on your iPhones then you can have a “group” of two that shares lists for all the places you shop. Then you can each add to the list whenever you think of something, and whoever ends up doing the shopping or stopping on the way home has the entire current list on the phone. It even allows you to upload pictures to be sure you are getting the right brand.

Now, my only caution is that technology is only as savvy as its users. This could easily become one more way in which mother takes responsibility – by making the list –  and father takes the task – shopping. Which is fine if that is the division that makes sense right now. I just want to caution you not to fall into that as the default position and instead use the addition of Grocery Gadget as an opportunity to talk about how you want to share responsibility for planning meals, grocery lists, drugstore lists, shopping and meal prep.  Any gadget that can do that gets a thumbs up!


Filed under Family Work, Marriage, Recommendations, Remodeling Motherhood Tips

What the Obamas Can Reveal About Marriage With Children Today

Obamas in KitchenThe New York Times magazine last Sunday ran an article “The Obamas’ Marriage, ” At one point, Michelle Obama says, “This was sort of an eye-opener to me, that marriage is hard. But going into it, no one ever tells you that. They just tell you, ‘Do you love him?’ ‘What’s the dress look like?'”

In openly talking about how marriage today, especially marriage with children, is hard work, the Obamas are blowing the lid off a big secret. At least one of two marriages goes into decline when the first child arrives. When children arrive, contemporary couples are forced into renegotiating a new contract, without knowing ahead of time they would have to, and with no existing framework or role models for how to go about doing it.

My husband and I were married fifteen years ago. We wrote our own vows, promising to be true to each other and the dreams and goals we both share. We had been married for nearly seven years when I got pregnant. I remember the months of my pregnancy nostalgically as an idyllic time in our marriage. Every night David would pull out his guitar and sing. Our friends threw baby showers for us celebrating what was clearly perceived as an event that would enrich our marriage now that we would be a true “family.”

Then somehow we went from basking in the glow to shouting in the kitchen.

Continue reading

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Filed under Marriage, Motherhood, News & Commentary