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Trade Offs: The Influence of Motherhood On Work

Posted on Posted in Blog, Parenting's Not Easy

Trade Offs: The Influence of Motherhood On Work

What working mama trade-offs have you made?  My sophomore year in high school my mama took a job out of town.  The job offered her a lot of career advancement and more money, but it also required that my mama stay out of town during the week.  At the time I didn’t think much of her move. I was full to the brim with teenage angst.  I only saw her commute as a way to not have to argue about clothes and cleaning up.  With my mama lens I now see her decision as so much more.
As a full fledge grown up with my own family I now get the benefits of having ‘grown woman’ conversations with my mama.  Which, quite honestly, can sometimes be a little uncomfortable, but most times eye opening. A few years ago she told me that while we were in grade school she’d turned down job offers, primarily because she knew the challenge of moving an entire family.  I get that.  Sure you can find another school and babysitter.  But a working mama needs invaluable after school help.  Scheduling pickups, practices and finding someone you trust to keep an eye on idle hands is like signing up for a round the clock intravenous drip of crazy. 
My mama being leery about moving her entire family for her career also stemmed from knowing she’d have to deal with the mommy tax.  Mamas often receive a 4% wage penalty for having one child and a 12% penalty for having two or more children. As a result many mamas make the decision to not work, work part-time, choose family-friendly occupations, or pass up promotions.  Additionally, women of color in general do not make as much as their white counterparts.  A recent report by the Center for Global Solutions revealed that:
  • In 2007, White women had a median wealth (wealth meaning what we own minus what we owe) of $45,400, compared to $100 and $120 respectively for African American and Latina women.
  • In 2014 Latinas and African American women earn approximately 54% and 64% of White men’s wages, respectively, while White women earn 78% of White men’s wages.
I had no idea that while my mama made our peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, fixed us a big Sunday dinners and took us out to buy our school clothes and Easter outfits that she was swallowing opportunities to advance her career.  A hard, dry reality to swallow when you need the career advancement to provide more opportunities for your children, but know that in doing so it will take away time you can spend with the family.
  • Time picking them up from school to hear the first hand hot off the press accounts of what happened that day. 
  • Time spent helping with homework or standing nearby to oversee the problems that they need to work on more.
  • Time shuttling them back and forth to soccer practice/ dance lessons/drama class to observe their progress.
I too feel the imbalanced need to be there for the kiddos but to also make the money needed to stuff them with as many academic and cultural opportunities as possible.  But right now, if I see the perfect job announcement in the newspaper and it requires me to move to another state I forward it to another friend.  With the kiddos still so young I figure the trade off is too much.  Wishful thinking has me believing that one day I won’t have to trade off.  That one day I can give and get at the same time.


What working mama trade-offs have you made?


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