Following the American Psychological Association’s Guidelines
Review: The Prices of Motherhood
Today the shelves of bookstores appear to be littered with propaganda either glorifying or demoralizing the job of being a mother. It has become less of a true stance in the world, and more of a political debate, standing alongside people who disagree on smoking in public, or abortion. We no longer argue the real issues when it comes to motherhood, but simply pass off whether or not motherhood is “hard” or “worth it” in terms of our own lives. We generalize the rest of the population’s stance based on our own views in terms of this summation, and go about our day. When met with an opposing view, oftentimes we find ourselves without cause to argue, other than we somehow know we are right, and they are wrong. This is the pattern most books follow, but the same cannot be said for Ann Crittendon’s, “The Price of Motherhood: Why the Most Important Job in the World is Still the Least Valued .” Rather than pass of the job based on her own assumptions or views, Crittendon dawns her argument with real facts and statistics in order to form a case the likes of which many do not bother to attempt today. Though some may not agree with her stance, they must agree her argument is passionate, and she is fervent about being heard because of what is true, not for what is loudest.
Somehow, above the rabble and the noise of unappreciated mothers, and self-centered individuals unwilling to look past the true sacrifice motherhood is, Crittendon has managed to be heard. Her book is relevant to scholars spanning across many subjects, from women’s and gender studies, to sociology. Mothers everywhere can rejoice in having a conduit, while those unwilling to listen will be forced to do so. The book itself is not so scholarly that the average Joe will be unable to understand it. Despite this, her use of scholarly facts allow her prose to remain convincing and informative to her readers as she attacks the often unfair attitude and demeanor of the suffocating world encloses around mothers, suffocating them, and closing them off from the rest of the world .
It appears one of Crittendon’s primary messages is to the part of the world, i.e. anybody who is not a mother, who does not notice how lonely and alienating motherhood can be. She verbalizes that many mothers and mothers-to-be often feel as if something about their lives is not quite fair, whether it is within their marriage, or between themselves and their childless friends. Crittendon manages to explain this very simply by clarifying the attitude many different parts of society has toward families, but specifically mothers. For example, while many companies claim to be family friendly, they are in reality only after a desperate mother’s money, often taking advantage of how tired and overworked she is . Terrible public child care is mentioned numerous times, as this is often cited as an easy way out for the mother. While it is, child care is often overpriced. Even bad childcare is often expensive and with a mother who is not bring money into the household, her job quite literally is to take care of her children, which expounds upon the argument that motherhood is a thankless, underappreciated job. Others go out into the world, taking advantage of women who work exhaustive hours making sure their children are fed, clean, safe, and rested. They pay their bills, in fact, by charging to take the place of the mother, while the mother is never paid a dime for doing the same or often better job than the caregiver. It becomes difficult, as Crittendon continues to drop facts like these throughout her book, for anybody to argue against a mother’s stance that she is indeed working a job and it is underappreciated.
These are facts Crittendon uses. She has not merely written an entire book that reads like a journal entry, as many other authors have done. She also has not documented how mothers feel about the way they are treated, and called it an argument. While feelings have their place in the situation, they are hardly factual and do not root the argument in fact, allowing the other side to quickly disembowel anything that is said. However, because it is clear Crittendon feels so passionately about the issue, some of her prose does reek of bitterness. Despite this, they are facts that reek of bitterness, rather than snide remarks or rhetorical statements disguised as an argument. The argument itself may have been stronger had she not allowed her personal feelings to show; an impartial speaker is always taken more seriously. However, with the facts proclaimed clearly for all to read, one can hardly blame her for stating, “It’s not fair,” nearly 100 times throughout the book. Some of her statements are unclear, making it sound as though she believes motherhood itself is the burden. Later she makes it clear she believes motherhood itself is wonderful and rewarding, but society and its lack of appreciativeness toward mothers is the issue. While she makes her views clear later, the uncertainty momentarily mars her case.
After reading the book I do agree with many of the author’s statements. The most resounding of which, “It’s not fair,” is the most palpable . It is not fair mothers must work as many hours as they would a fulltime job, and then many more which would be considered overtime or off the clock, without any pay. It is also not fair that they do not receive recognition while their employed spouse, bringing home a paycheck is often the one met with the accolades. There is obviously something to be said for bringing home the food, but what is to be said for the one who cooks it and sets it on the table? For the one who clears the table, does the dishes, puts them away, cleans the children, picks up their toys, washes their faces, brushes their teeth, tucks them in, reads them a story, and sings them to sleep? These are only the things that happen after dinner. It is true the spouse that brings home a paycheck is important; money is needed to survive. A mother does not see all of the things her husband or wife is doing at the office all day, however. And still, she thanks them in some way anyway. The mother seldom receives thanks unless it is directly related to the spouse’s comfort. The mother will clean the working spouse’s office, which will earn recognition, but when the mother rushes the child to the emergency room with a fever, it may only earn a nod or even perhaps frustration depending on the situation. Something I had no considered often enough before reading Crittendon’s work was one can leave an office job, drive home, and unwind. One never leaves being a mother. While the working spouse should receive fair recognition for caring for the family financially, perhaps the mother should receive fair recognition, that is to say more recognition for making sure the children live through the day. She is charged with their health, their education until they leave for school, their hygiene, their routine, their safety, and many other things we would not consider until we had a life to take care of. While I had always agreed that mothering was a difficult job, I understand now, more than ever, why it is difficult and entirely underappreciated.
In sum, Crittendon’s book is a poignant view into the world of motherhood and why it is difficult and underappreciated. She manages to speak clearly and simply, outlining the problems mothers face and what we must do to correct these issues. Other countries have corrected them making it more outrageous mothers go unappreciated and overworked here. It made me understand the struggle mothers face, and while I agreed they are underappreciated, I now understand even better what it means to be completely exhausted while raising a child while receiving no recognition for working twenty-four hours each day. The imbalance between mothers and the rest of society must end as we work toward changes like that of Sweden and France, recognizing the value of women before and after they bear children. Society and the government must get involved in an effort to realign the economy of the family, as well as the economy of society if we are to have any hope of improving the loss of resources we see when a woman is unable to meet her full potential due to the obstacles surrounding motherhood . Motherhood itself is beautiful and rewarding; society does not make motherhood easy however and this is a travesty that must be corrected.
Crittendon, A. (2010). The Price of Motherhood: Why the Most Important Job in the World is Still the Least Valued. London: Picador.
Moe, K. (2003). Women, Family, and Work: Writings on the Economics of Gender. New York: Wiley-Blackwell.