On Nuggets and Ear Holes

I haven’t blogged here in almost a year, and I have no real excuse other than having to wash my hair, learning how to grocery shop (I am serious), trying to get some freelance stuff going, and just life. Oh life!

So what made me come out of my retirement, asked no one? Well, let me tell you. It is this article describing the “motherhood penalty” and the “fatherhood bonus.” Take a deep breath: after controlling for variables like hours, types of jobs, experience, and salaries of spouses, research shows that men’s pay increases around six percent when they have kids, and women’s pay decreases around four percent when they have kids. And, you guessed it, the majority of this motherhood penalty is because of “discrimination” and “a cultural bias against mothers.”

Mother effer. I wrote about some of this nonsense four years ago here and it’s hard to see where we’ve made much progress. But maybe this hard data—and giving the motherhood penalty a catchy little name!—will help. Maybe?

For one, it should answer questions about why women leave the workforce more than men after having children. No, it is not because our ovaries flip some maternal switch in our boobies, causing us to prioritize nap schedules and diaper changes above all else. It is because, for many families, after paying hundreds, even thousands, of dollars a month for childcare and then dealing with an actual monetary penalty in their paychecks, quitting may be the most rational choice. Throw in the stress of, say, pumping milk in a supply closet in between client meetings, or knowing that your daddy colleagues are getting high fives while you are getting eye rolls, and the decision becomes even more reasonable.

Also, maybe it will encourage supervisors to be aware of what messages they’re sending to their employees and what cultural biases they’re reinforcing. I’ve spoken with plenty of women about that intangible shift that happens in the office when they are preggers. Some of you know what I’m talking about: suddenly finding yourself out of the loop on projects you used to manage, supervisors assuming you don’t want challenging work anymore, people asking if you’re really going to come back to the office after maternity leave. I’ve talked with two women in different fields about supervisors who explicitly said they expected them to have one foot out the door if—IF—they came back from maternity leave. Sigh. I want to believe that these supervisors think they’re being supportive of a massive life change. But assuming that moms don’t care about their careers anymore isn’t supportive, it’s ridiculous. Also, um, discriminatory.

Speaking of that, I will leave you with this little nugget. Sorry, it is not Chuy from Late Night with Chelsea Handler, which I miss.

Picture from TMZ.com.

Picture from TMZ.com.

FYI, that is Chuy (a.k.a. Little Nugget) in a nudie suit swaying slowly back and forth on a swing while Sia, overcome with stage fright, sings “Chandelier” with her back to the audience and her shirt on backwards. It is the most confusing and life affirming thing I have ever seen on television.

I digress. Here’s my little nugget: this summer I was small talking with someone I’d just met while on vacation. Turns out he was a law firm partner. When I told him I had worked at a big firm and was taking some time off, he seemed sympathetic to my decision. And then he said, “Look, I hate to say it, but 30-something moms working in a law firm are the worst. They’re so entitled and think they should get treated like the men, and then they need all these breaks during the day and want to go pick up their kids early. It’s just non-stop drama.”

MOTHER. EFFER. I was enraged, and I am pretty sure smoke came out of my ear holes. But then I used my highly trained analytical thinking skills and realized something: that dude was old. Like, super old. And the fact that he was saying shit like that out loud to lady strangers shows some extremely bad judgment. He is (literally) the old guard, and his days of passing over talented women because he’s sexist (oh yes he is) are numbered. And then what will happen? Well, all of us more enlightened folks will take over, and the motherhood penalty will just refer to something else less devastating. Like when your skinny jeans don’t fit and your youngest child is 7—it’s not baby weight anymore, it’s the motherhood penalty. Or when you hear yourself yelling fancy shit like, “The next person who talks about diarrhea is sleeping in the woods tonight!” you guessed it; that’s the motherhood penalty talking. Sidenote: the fatherhood bonus is obviously balding, and cannot ever be used to refer to penis size. Just needed to establish that now.

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