The following is a post from staff writer Melissa Batai. My own editor’s comments are at the end of the post.
I have 3 kids, and I wouldn’t trade them for the world. However, in the process of raising these three kids, I quit my full-time job as a teacher at a community college where I was making a decent salary and instead became a freelance writer working from home. Now, I work about half the hours I did at the community college and make about half the money.
Since we homeschool, I see myself working part-time as a freelancer for the next several years.
(Just to be fair, in the year before I quit my job, I disliked it and likely would have quit whether I had children or not, though if I didn’t have kids, I would have found a different full-time job.)
I certainly could have chosen to continue to work full-time. However, when I did the math and looked at paying the daycare costs for our two youngest who are only 17 months apart and also paying for afterschool care for my oldest, I’d be working almost entirely to pay for childcare. I chose instead to quit the good paying job and take care of our kids myself.
This is a decision that many women make, at least temporarily, before their kids are in school. After the kids are in school, many women find it difficult to reenter the workforce or decide to continue to be stay at home moms.
According to a post on BlogHer, this decision is one that can set women up for a lifetime of poverty. BlogHer notes that according to the US Census Bureau, “In the 50 years since poverty has been tracked, women have had a higher poverty rate than men every single year.” In fact, “a woman in 2012 was 31 times more likely to be poor than a man.” Even more startling, “single mothers are 81% more likely to be poor than single fathers.”
BlogHer explains this difference in the poverty rate between men and women in part because women are often the ones who leave the workforce to be caregivers, both to their own children and their parents. Not surprisingly, “women over 65 are 67% more likely to be poor than men of the same age, as older women hit the cumulative effect of a lifetime of lower wages, more caregiving, (and thus more years out of the workforce), smaller Social Security benefits, and more meager (or non-existent) pensions.”
Making the decision to stay home with your kids is often a good one at the time. However, if the woman decides to reenter the workforce later, she may not be able to, or she may not find a job as good as the one she left previously. Of course, if the couple gets divorced and the woman has lost many of her marketable skills, she is certainly at a disadvantage over her husband.
My Questions for You
Do you think being a mother sets women up for a lifetime of financial uncertainty and struggle, especially if the woman is to get divorced?
Or, would you argue that part of the reason why women earn less over their lifetimes is because of the majors they choose and the careers they pursue?
Editor’s comments from Ray:
I think this is a great topic, as there are probably strong opinions on it. Personally, I don’t think that being a mother automatically sets someone up for poverty.
The reason is that there is no rule that states that the person who stays home to care for kids (or elders) needs to be the woman. A man can do this just the same. It’s a choice that people make together. In a time where women earn slightly more undergraduate and graduate degrees than do men, there is no reason to automatically assume that a woman needs to be the one to cut her work for her family.
Also, if a marriage ends, there are men who end up paying onerous amounts of alimony and/or child support. In that case, one could make the similarly one-sided argument that being a father sets men up for poverty. This could also be the case if the man is the one who sacrificed his career to be a stay at home parent.
Overall, I see this as an issue that is more a matter of choices than gender. I welcome your comments to the post, the questions posed above, and my comments.