Your maternity leave is up, or your baby has turned into a toddler and you think it's time to head back to work. Either way, jumping back into the workforce post-baby has a lot of challenges. You probably didn't realize making less money than you would have if you'd stayed child-free would be one of those, huh?
A piece in The New York Times that highlights the fact that the last three women to be nominated for a seat on the Supreme Court have been childless gives working moms some more bad news: Even as the disparity between women's and men's pay grows smaller, the gap between working moms and the rest of the workforce gets wider.
Why? Well, feminist tactics for one.
And 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.”
As a working mom and proud feminist, I can agree with Waldfogel.
Initially workplace gains were not about making the workplace different so working moms could fit in easier, it was about just getting the dang door open. But now, we need an overhaul so that working moms and dads, and workers of both sexes who must take care of sick or elderly family members, don't lose needed income simply because they must care for another human being.
Family leave should encompass all genders and all types of family care-taking. If your partner, mother, aunt, or uncle is ill and needs care, you should be able to take off work to care for your loved one without penalty or financial ruin. Babies fall into this category as well.
A well-cared for society is a productive society, and productivity equals more tax dollars and higher standards of living. A sharp contrast to the state of exhaustion, stress, and inevitable ill-health for caregivers who must work and pull the second shift, or simply live in poverty.
Rather than punishing women financially, who make the choice to care for their child, we need to encourage ALL people to care for their children and other loved ones. Paid family leave, flexible work places, and yes, universal health care are all part of that package.
It's time for the next feminist movement, which is really a humanist movement.
Do you think working mothers deserve to make less money than everyone else?
Image via mudpig/Flickr