The Hidden Costs of Motherhood: What You May Not Know

Jayanthi Gopalakrishnan, Guest Blogger

Motherhood and Money Collage image

Ever thought about what the word “mother” means? Sure, it means a female parent or a person who gave birth. But let’s go beyond that. The word “mother” means giving selfless service to others. And on Mother’s Day, we show appreciation for the selfless service we receive. Yet, do we know what mothers have gone through to provide selfless service—the emotions, physical investment, financial investment, and so on?

Mothers have the most important role in society. To get their job done, they have to make a huge investment—one that is, unfortunately, often unnoticed.

Mothers: Nurturers and breadwinners

Women work to sustain and maintain the lives of those they care for. But you can’t put a quantitative cost to that work. They also take on the role of breadwinner or co-breadwinner. From 1960 to 2015 the number of women breadwinners rose from 10% to about 42%. This trend supports the notion that women contribute to the financial stability of a family. In February 2020, for the first time ever, women held more non-farm payroll jobs than men. That’s quite a breakthrough.

But when the pandemic hit, things changed. Many mothers had to leave their jobs to take care of their kids and support their online learning. The lack of income together with the need to take care of children was difficult for mothers. But they made the sacrifice for the sake of their children. And mothers who continued working during the pandemic also had to work hard to balance work and childcare responsibilities. Single mothers would have had to face tougher challenges than the ones they already face. Imagine how tough their choices would be without wage security.

Why are more mothers taking up the breadwinner role? There’s more to it than just necessity.

Let’s not forget education

There’s been a shift in the male to female ratio on college campuses. The U.S. Department of Education estimates that by 2026, there will be more women undergraduates enrolled in colleges across the nation. This trend suggests that women intend to take on professional careers. But studies have shown that employment for women in the U.S. drops sharply after their first children are born. And being out of work, even if it’s temporary, can set them back in earnings for a few years or maybe longer if they have more than one child.

Mother's Day

While there is an increase in women’s participation in the labor market, there are some areas that aren’t being addressed. Take financial planning as an example. Men still maintain greater control over a family’s long-term finances. For various reasons, women tend to shy away from getting involved in that part of a family’s affairs. But when a mother suddenly finds herself single or widowed, even if she’s bringing home a decent salary, she often has no knowledge of how to tackle the family’s long-term financial plan. Financial hardships can happen at any time and although it’s tough to be fully prepared, it’ll be easier to overcome bumps if you have a smart financial plan in place.

Recognize motherhood

So this Mother’s Day, get pampered, take the day off, and spend quality time with your loved ones. But make the commitment to connect with like-minded mothers. A good place to start is to register for our podcast Motherhood and Money: Money Lessons I Wish My Mom Would Have Taught Me. Financially savvy women bring security to a family and contribute positively to society. Why get left behind?

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