I worked from home part-time for the first six years of my son’s life.
I was very lucky in many ways to have this option as it meant I didn’t miss a single step, a tooth, a word. I was there for everything. But all the while, I have to say I felt a level of anxiety about the fact that I wasn’t paying into a pension, my income was a mere fraction of my husband’s and I was acutely aware of my financial dependence on him.
When I started working full-time outside of the home a year ago, I felt a huge sense of relief. I’m now making enough money to support myself and my son if I ever needed to, I’m paying into a pension and I feel like I’m a whole lot safer financially.
That is not to say that my husband has ever made me feel like I had to worry. It’s just that being in that situation made me feel very vulnerable and I didn’t like it. I feel stronger, safe and more empowered now. And as it turns out, I have every right to feel that way. According to former New York Times economics reporter Ann Crittenden, in her book The Price of Motherhood, women lose up to $1 million over a lifetime in lost income, pensions, savings and so on, by making the decision to stay at home with their kids, to work part-time, work lower-paying/more flexible jobs, and so forth.
That’s a pretty significant sacrifice we’re making for our families. While I think most of us feel it’s well worth it, we can’t ignore the fact that motherhood is the single greatest risk factor for poverty in old age. Many women are a divorce away from real financial trouble.
The courts, our partners, and society in general needs to recognize this sacrifice and look for ways to offset it. At the very least, we as mothers need to go into our decisions knowing the risks.
How about you? Have you made financial sacrifices to accommodate your family? Did you feel vulnerable too?
Karen Bridson is a journalist, TV producer and author of Stunned: The New Generation of Women Having Babies, Getting Angry and Creating a Mothers’ Movement (HCI, 2009). She blogs at http://angrymamas.blogspot.com. She also produces a parenting show for Canadian Public Television.