Please be aware that this discussion guide may contain spoilers!
About this Guide This reading group guide is designed to
enhance your discussion and personal reading of Ann Crittenden's
acclaimed work The Price of Motherhood. We hope that this guide
will also be a useful reference tool that will lead you to further
topics of inquiry.
About the Book Women may be more
liberated these days, but mothers aren't. That's the provocative
conclusion Ann Crittenden has drawn after years of research, including
her own experiences as a mom. Revealing the glaring disparities
between mothers and childless women in America, The Price of
Motherhood puts the spotlight on the unspoken ways in which we
have scorned what's often touted as the most important job of all.
Single mothers and married mothers alike experience the financial
impact of the years of unpaid labor incurred in raising kids, but it
doesn't have to be this way. Offering numerous practical solutions,
some of which were successfully implemented in other countries years
ago, The Price of Motherhood has already sparked constructive
dialogues about the exploitation of America's mothers. A compelling
plea for more respect and resources on behalf of mothers, this is a
book that has the power to improve the lives of all Americans, and to
transform a future generation.
Facts and Figures
America's 30-year-old childless
women earn 90% of men's wages, but earnings for mothers of the same
age and education level are only 70% of men's.
The loss of income resulting from
motherhood ("The Mommy Tax") is typically more than $1 million for
college-educated American women.
The U.S. is one of only six
countries in the world that does not provide paid parental leave.
Professional nannies qualify for
Social Security benefits, but a stay-at-home mother will earn a zero
on her retirement-benefit account for every year she spends caring
for her children.
More than one-third of all
divorced mothers have to go on welfare because child-support
formulas don't factor in the cost of being the primary caregiver.
Fathers are statistically less
likely than mothers to spend money on their children's health and
As demonstrated by the Zoë Baird
incident, immigration policy keeps skilled caregivers out of the
country by classifying even highly trained nannies as "unskilled."
Only eight states have laws
prohibiting discrimination against parents in the workplace.
Only 49% of female CEOs have kids,
compared to 84% of male CEOs.
Ann Crittenden states in her first footnote that she defines
"mother" as any caregiver, male or female. How does that detail affect
her portrayal of parenting issues throughout the book? What motivates
society to assume that women are better candidates for caring for
children and the elderly than men?
For female readers: If you and your husband earned exactly the same
amount, but neither of you were allowed to work part-time, would you
feel comfortable becoming the wage-earner while your husband stayed
home with the kids?
How much more would you be willing to pay in taxes if it meant that
the U.S. would implement the Swedish policies, which grant parents a
full year of paid leave and a 3/4 work week until their children reach
school age, and the French system of top-notch government-sponsored
day care for all?
Compare your mother's parenting situation to yours. While things
have improved for women in the past 30 years, how do you think mothers
and children have fared?
For married readers with children: If your spouse weren't in your
life, how would you make up for his or her contribution toward raising
your children? What safety nets, if any, would be available to you?
Consider the story of Tony Williams, the foster child who was
assumed to be retarded but, thanks to a chance adoption by loving
parents, proved to be highly intelligent and even became mayor of
Washington, D.C. What do you think the outlook is for today's Tony Williamses? Is the well of "Irrational" mother love in danger of
What do you consider to be the
greatest hurdle in the road to equal rights and fair treatment of
Almost twice as many male top executives as female have children.
Do you believe that corporate America can change to accommodate
working mothers? Are 80-hour work weeks really necessary, or are they
just a byproduct of workaholic corporate cultures?
Do you think that the number of children a father has, across
multiple marriages, should be taken into consideration when
determining child-support amounts?
Did any of Ann Crittenden's statistics contradict your assumptions
about motherhood? How did The Price of Motherhood affect your
own decision-making and perspectives on parenting?
What has the price of motherhood been for you? Which of the book's
case studies resonated particularly strongly with you?
With few organizations defending their interests, how can
America's mothers create an audible voice for change?
Evaluate Ann Crittenden's proposals for change, listed at the end
of this section. Which ones would be most relevant to your situation?
Which ones do you think are most likely to be enacted within the next
Ann Crittenden's Proposals for
Give every parent the right to a
year's paid leave
Shorten the workweek
Provide equal pay and benefits for
equal part-time work
Eliminate discrimination against
parents in the workplace
Equalize Social Security for
Offer work-related social
insurance programs to all at home parents
Provide universal preschool for
all three- and four-year-olds
Stop taxing mothers more than
Provide free health coverage for
all children and their primary caregivers
Add unpaid household labor to the
Gross Domestic Product
Two-tier marriages, with a full
financial partnership in marriages with children.
Transfer all responsibility for
post-divorce payments to a single federal agency
Provide community support for
parents and parental education
Expand the concept of diversity to
include people with caregiving experience
Reprinted with the permission of Owl/Metropolitan Books.
Unless otherwise stated, this discussion guide is reprinted with the permission of Owl Books.
Any page references refer to a USA edition of the book, usually the trade paperback version, and may vary in other editions.
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