Reading guide for The Price of Motherhood by Ann Crittenden

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The Price of Motherhood

Why the Most Important Job in the World Is Still the Least Valued

by Ann Crittenden

The Price of Motherhood by Ann Crittenden X
The Price of Motherhood by Ann Crittenden
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  • First Published:
    Feb 2001, 323 pages
    Jan 2002, 336 pages

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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 education. 
  • 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. 


Discussion Questions

  1. 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? 
  2. 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? 
  3. 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? 
  4. 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? 
  5. 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? 
  6. 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 running dry? 
  7. What do you consider to be the greatest hurdle in the road to equal rights and fair treatment of mothers? 
  8. 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? 
  9. Do you think that the number of children a father has, across multiple marriages, should be taken into consideration when determining child-support amounts? 
  10. 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? 
  11. What has the price of motherhood been for you? Which of the book's case studies resonated particularly strongly with you? 
  12. With few organizations defending their interests, how can America's mothers create an audible voice for change? 
  13. 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 five years? 


Ann Crittenden's Proposals for Change

  • 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 spouses 
  • 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 anyone else 
  • 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.

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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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