The Price of Motherhood

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

Ann Crittenden

Picador

A newspaper reporter told me that his wife used to be his boss before she quit to raise their two children. She now makes one-fourth of his salary, working as a part-time consultant. "It was her choice," he says.

But mothers' choices are not made in a vacuum. They are made according to rules mothers didn't write. Married working mothers pay the highest taxes in the country on their earned income, which powerfully affects their choice of whether to work or not. And what many mothers really want is a good part-time job, yet there is no rich and vibrant part-time labor market in the United States.

To most women choice is all about bad options and difficult decisions: your child or your profession; taking on the domestic chores or marital strife; a good night's sleep or time with your child; food on the table or your baby's safety; your right arm or your left.