Here’s a little newsflash for ya: As a working mom, I’m in the majority—but it’s a shrinking majority. According to this op-ed piece in yesterday’s New York Times, the numbers of working moms of infants (like Tela and me) and preschoolers (like Cara and Sara) are dropping significantly.
The author of the piece, Linda Hirshman, suggests that a major reason for this social shift is “in the last decade … the job of motherhood has ramped up. …The pressure to increase mothering is enormous.”
Man, is it ever. I’ve been reading the British working-mum novel I Don’t Know How She Does It by Allison Pearson, and it’s really reminding me just how much is expected of us — not to mention what we expect of ourselves!
Not only do I want to be a rock star at work, I need to be the best mom I can be to my daughter. Plus, of course, I should be a loving, supportive wife; a reliable (but still fun!) friend; an attentive, thoughtful daughter; the list goes on and on.
Similar to the author of The Feminine Mistake: Are We Giving Up Too Much? (which I discussed last week), Hirshman sees the numbers of married mothers dropping out of the workforce as a real concern:
Should we care if women leave the work force? Yes, because participation in public life allows women to use their talents and to powerfully affect society. And once they leave, they usually cannot regain the income or status they had.
Her proposed solution—at least in the short term—is to change the tax code, making it more advantageous for married couples to file as individual earners. She believes this would alleviate the pressure on married moms to opt out because taxes make their earnings negligible (or even a liability).
I guess that could help … but I feel like Hirshman too quickly dismisses other solutions, such as workplace reforms (flexibility and paid leave) and attitude adjustments about housework/childcare responsibilities.
Between employers, government, and media, a lot more can be done to offer moms choices. It’s going to take more than a tax code change to help create those options.