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What is the Price of Motherhood?Aired February 18, 2001 - 9:41 a.m. ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
MILES O'BRIEN, CNN ANCHOR: Now, many parents believe that raising children is their most important job. But we may not understand all that that phrase really implies.
Ann Crittenden is an award-winning author and journalist who has put into perspective in a great new book, "The Price of Motherhood," and she joins us from Washington this morning to talk about it a little bit.
Ann thanks for being with us.
ANN CRITTENDEN, AUTHOR AND JOURNALIST: Thank you. I'm happy to be here.
O'BRIEN: All right. I think the moment where you decided to write this book is kind of a telling moment. Why don't you relate that briefly to us?
CRITTENDEN: Well, to put it in a nutshell, I was at a party and a man very innocently said, "Hey, didn't you used to be Ann Crittenden?"
O'BRIEN: And there you have it. Time to make a book.
CRITTENDEN: I thought it was the perfect metaphor for the invisibility of someone who's raising a child.
O'BRIEN: All right. We pay an awful lot of lip service in this country to how much we value motherhood, motherhood and apple pie after all, right? What -- where -- where does the lip service become disconnected with the reality?
CRITTENDEN: It's totally disconnected. I mean, we -- everyone I interviewed talked about this as the most important job, but we place a zero value on it. It's a zero in the GDP. It's a zero in Social Security. It's a zero in the -- the child support formulas. So we do put value on it, and it is zero.
O'BRIEN: But why? Why is that?
O'BRIEN: I mean, it makes sense when you look at it and take a little bit of time to pay attention to it, and yet time and again, this happens, whether it's at the cocktail party or just in daily life: You find many women having to make excuses for the fact that they're...
O'BRIEN: ... doing this important job, raising children.
CRITTENDEN: Yeah, as I explained in the book, there is no question that is truly the most important job in the economy. The economists now say two-thirds of all our national wealth comes from human capital, from people. And most of that human capital is launched and formed in the home before kids ever go to school. And yet -- so these mothers and fathers are the most important economic producers that we have. And instead of giving them incentives, we actually discourage people from spending time with their kids.
O'BRIEN: Well, I -- do you see this changing at all? I mean, at least anecdotally, I note -- it seems like more and more moms are staying at home these days. That's just in my own personal experience. It may or may not be true. You tell me if I'm wrong.
And are businesses, are people who are hiring authorities not looking askance at gaps in resumes anymore for motherhood?
CRITTENDEN: I think you are a little wrong.
O'BRIEN: OK. That's all right. I can take it, Ann. It's all right.
CRITTENDEN: I think the culture is now putting more weight on raising kids. I think there is an increasing understanding that this is serious, important work. However, the laws and the -- have not changed so that the more -- more mothers are not really staying at home. More mothers are working full-time, longer hours than ever before.
O'BRIEN: So, that's my personal myth that I've been told.
CRITTENDEN: I know it. I think in the upper-middle class, there are a lot of people who are taking time out. But they're still not -- they're still facing or going to face the situation that women have always faced who work at home, that is nannies get Social Security credits but the mothers do not. If there ever is a divorce, they get no credit for the work in the marriage they've done as a caregiver and so forth. The laws have not changed so that most people who take on this task are going to be economically dependent or insecure.
O'BRIEN: You know...
CRITTENDEN: And I don't think that's right.
O'BRIEN: You know, talking about this with our producer this morning before we went on the air -- and she was talking about how many women decide not to have to children because of this.
CRITTENDEN: Right. O'BRIEN: Because it really becomes a handicap to their careers. Is that...
CRITTENDEN: There's no question.
O'BRIEN: Is that once again anecdotal observation or is that for real?
CRITTENDEN: That is totally true. What I call the "Mommy Tax" -- that is the enormous financial sacrifice a person makes who becomes a caregiver -- it's so great in this country that something like two -- 28 percent of college-educated baby-boomer women we now know are not having children, did not have children. And that's the highest percentage we know of. So it's no question.
I call it "childlessness" or one of -- one of the costs that is -- that are so high in this country.
O'BRIEN: All right. We...
CRITTENDEN: And countries that do more for mothers -- I'll just quickly finish. Countries that do more for mothers and make it more a secure a job, they're -- more women have children.
O'BRIEN: So -- all right, briefly. And this is probably not a question you can answer briefly, but there's far-reaching implications to this. An do you see -- do you see this rising to front-burner status on the agenda any time soon?
CRITTENDEN: If women will wake up and understand it, they will. And that's what -- I hope my book is a wake-up call. I really look at it as another round of consciousness raising to understand what -- what is really confronting mothers and what we can do about it. And I think there's a lot we can do about it.
The fact that so much lip service is paid to it is a strength. It's a strength that can be used.
O'BRIEN: Ann Crittenden is the author. The book is "The Price of Motherhood." Thanks very much for being with us on CNN SUNDAY MORNING. Ann. Good luck with the book.
CRITTENDEN: Thank you.
O'BRIEN: All right.
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