Dr. Jennifer W. Shewmaker

Parent, Teacher, Author

Motherhood Penalty?

The work going on at Stanford examining what they call The Motherhood Penalty is interesting to me both academically and personally. Anyone who works with me knows that I work hard and do my best to do excellent work. Most of the mothers that I know are the same. And yet, there seems to be an economic penalty for mothers in the U.S., even those who continue to work when they have young children. And, the more children you have, I believe the impact is stronger.

I have seen this situation a few times in my own life. When I was pregnant with my third daughter, an older woman who I deeply respect was heard to say, “She’ll never get tenure with three children.” Hmm…now that’s not encouraging to a young faculty member! Well, I did go on to get tenure, but it bothered me that another woman would believe that my work ethic and quality would suffer from having a third child. I love my third child immensely, and I’m so thankful to have her in my life. And, I’ve maintained or even increased my productivity. I’ve lost job and promotion opportunities because of my status as a mother.But, I’ve also been able to push toward great achievements and opportunities.

I wonder if the Motherhood Penalty occurs in other industrialized countries. I wonder if the breakneck U.S. work mode has something to do with this. After all, people really must take care of their children and build relationships with them. If working until all hours of the night is what is expected of all employees and a woman has a spouse in the same type of work environment, then someone’s got to give.

But what if we didn’t look at work like that? What if families could be more flexible, so that if they wanted to, both parents could play a part in raising their children and contributing to their professional fields? In this article about transitions in the American family, Stanford fellows introduce the idea of both parents being able to “switch hit.” Meaning, both men and women examine their professional opportunities and family needs and work in partnership to make the best choices for their family. I love this idea! It gives families the chance to weigh each need and really make a considered choice.

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This entry was posted on April 3, 2015 by in Acting and tagged , , .
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