DOASKDOTELL BOOK REVIEW of The Price of Motherhood


Author (or Editor):  Crittenden, Ann

Title: The Price of Motherhood: Why the Most Important Job in the World Is Still the Least Valued

Fiction? Anthology?  

Publisher:  Henry Holt

Date:  2001

ISBN:  0805066187

Series Name:

Physical description: hardbound

Relevance to DOASKDOTELL:  family values

Review: An argument similar to that of Hewlett/West The War on Parents  is proposed by Ann Crittenden, The Price of Motherhood: Why the Most Important Job in the World Is Still the Least Valued (New York, Henry Holt, 2001), ISBN 0805066187.  She writes a lot about the supposed harshness of employers in making allowances for mothers, and argues that the whole “individualistic” calculation of the notion of motherhood as a voluntary choice with no economic reward of its own is wrong-headed;  all other economic and expressive activity is freeloading on parenting, in her view.  She makes valuable observations, such as the lack of valuation of childcare as “work” and the link between childcare and other kinds of caregiving, as well as the link to other kinds of “social duty” such as military service.


At times, she seems to want to have it “both ways” for mothers in the workplace, and this is understandable enough.  Mothers are supposedly often “penalized” if employers keep them on the “mommy track” and deny them promotions, although some conservatives would turn this around into a criticism of two-income families. Some of her bullet point suggestions in the last chapter are fair enough: a shorter work week for everyone, allowance for childcare in social security benefits.  But some of them, following a rather socialistic spirit, would require more sacrifice from those who do not choose to have children: to wit, if employers had to give paid leave for parents (as they must in many European countries), they would be paid for partly with the wages of the childless.  And this gets back to our idea of “choice” and whether having children is a “lifestyle choice” that falls under individualistic ideas about “personal responsibility.” At a certain level, one cannot get beyond postulation in dealing with this. For indeed the idea that many people (including often enough gays and lesbians—and their relation to parenthood issues gets conveniently left out of her discussion) will use sexuality for their own expressive purposes and not allow society to channel it into a more communal, even tribal, version of parenting, must complicate the arguments over “choice” and over making some people subsidize the “choices” of others for the “common good.”  Her notions will work in a society where everyone is like everyone else, and that just isn’t the case any more.  


Related reviews:  Hewlett/West: The War on Parents;  Burkett: The Baby Boon ; Anya Kamenetz  Generation Debt


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