Soon after we had our daughter, I read that elderly women receive far lower Social Security benefits than men due largely to motherhood. Having just become one, I visited the Social Security Administration website. At the top of the page, they reassured me “Social Security is neutral with respect to gender.”

I proceeded to use their calculator to find out if my Social Security benefits would be affected if I were out of the workforce for five to seven years to care for our daughter.

Response? I would lose a half-million dollars. That didn’t sound so “gender neutral” to me.

And that’s because

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In the last weeks of my pregnancy my friend Beth, who didn’t have kids yet either, came to my door bearing good wishes and a stack of novels. “I thought you might like to read these once the baby comes and you stop going to work,” she offered. That made sense. I should have tons of time on my hands. So I gave her a thank-you hug and set the stack on the table. Of course, once our daughter was born, my bubble quickly burst. I had no time to myself. Every minute was spent taking care of her or doing stuff around the house. I rarely had a minute to read the headlines on the front page of the newspaper let alone a novel. Every once in a while, I looked at the stack of books, sitting on our table for months, unread, in the exact same place I put them down. Where did all that time go that Beth and I thought I would have?

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Fork in the Road in my hometown Pasadena, CA. Photo by wakitu, on Flickr

I want to stick a fork in the W.O.R.K. act.

The W.O.R.K. act was proposed recently by a Democrat in response to the media feeding frenzy over Hilary Rosen’s comment that Ann Romney had “never worked a day in her life.”  It would allow low-income single parents to count time spent raising children under three years old as part of the work requirement for receiving support through Temporary Assistance to Needy Families (TANF).

I fully support the goal of the proposed W.O.R.K. act and will do what I can to get it passed.

And I want to stick a fork in the anachronistic title, the “Women’s Options to Raise Kids” act.

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I recently conducted a webinar for Mothers & More on the 6 Biggest Money Mistakes Mothers Make, and I wanted to share my answer to a participant question because it so neatly ties to the also recent – and recurring – media flare up about the “mommy wars” and “SAHM’s” and “working mothers.”

Q: Is it correct to assume that, as with your example, most women are neither a SAHM or a full time working for pay throughout life? We seem like hybrids while everyone is trying – especially the media – to put us into a box.

A. Yes! Excellent observation!

Credit Sue Zampareilli - for This is Not How I Thought It Would Be

Mothers are usually described as either “stay at home” or “working mom” –  both of which are terms I hate. I prefer “mothers who are employed” and “mothers who are not employed.” (Read why here.)  Our employment patterns are far more complex.

If I had a backyard barbecue for twenty couples and their kids (and we actually do this regularly)

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Tax Day 'Stack O'Money!' photo (c) 2011, doctorwonder - license: http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0/Equal Pay Day and Tax Day often fall in the same week. But the connection between the two is no coincidence.

Equal Pay Day is the day that symbolizes how far into that year a woman has to work to match what the average man made in in the previous year. The typical wage gap statistic used to illustrate the wage gap is that women make 77 cents for every dollar a man earns.

But that statistic is misleading.

The wage gap has dramatically closed between young men and women who do not have children. Some data indicates young women with no children now earn 90 percent or more of men’s wages.

Today, the biggest wage gap is between mothers and everyone else. 

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Join me on Wednesday April 18, 2012 at 10:30 a.m. Pacific/1:30 p.m. Eastern for my FREE webinar hosted by Mothers & More as part of their annual Power of a Purse campaign.

The 6 Biggest Money Mistakes Mothers Make

Motherhood is still financially riskier than fatherhood.  Elizabeth Warren and Amelia Warren Tyagi conclude from their research in The Two-Income Trap that “[h]aving a child is now the single best predictor that a woman will end up in financial collapse.” In The Price of Motherhood, Ann Crittenden concludes, “motherhood is the single biggest risk factor for poverty in old age.”

As mothers we have our own financial issues, and our very own set of mistakes we often make. Kristin Maschka goes beyond coupon-clipping and budgeting to get at the big mistakes and outdated mindsets that impact our lifetime financial health and well-being.

Normally a paid Mothers & More member benefit, this webinar and one other (Networking: Building Connection through Conversation with Michelle Tillis Lederman) are being offered FREE to all mothers as part of the Mother’s Day Power of a Purse campaign. The goal of the Mothers & More campaign is

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March is women’s history month and I wanted to share a few tidbits of women’s history that are even less commonly known than most, and history that is still impacting the lives of women and mothers today.

Did you know that…

  • When the Social Security act was adopted in the late 1930’s, the Council that recommended its structure wanted to discourage women from employment so they noted that their proposal would ” take away the urge [of married women] to go back to work.” in addition they argued for lower benefits for widows since a single woman “is used to doing her own housework whereas the single man has to go out to a restaurant.”
  • When the Social Security act was amended in 1939, they proposed giving an extra benefit to men with dependent wives that was equal to 50% of the man’s benefit. The person eligible for “Primary insurance” was referred explicitly in the text as “husband,” “he,” and “him.” The terms “wife,” “she,” and “her” were used when referring to the “Wife’s Insurance Benefits.” However these benefits weren’t really hers at all because the check for the wife’s retirement benefits was written and sent to her husband and not to her.
  • It was Ruth Bader Ginsburg

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Today I had great fun as a guest on The Intentional Parent TV chatting with Tina Bryson and Greg Matuskiewicz. We talked about why mothers and fathers today still end up in a tug of war over who does what around the house and who’s working harder – and most importantly we talked about how to fix it. We also talked about how both mothers and fathers experience shifts in their identity when they become parents – in part because of the way other people interact with us as “mothers” and “fathers.”

Grab a cup of coffee and listen in on our conversation. And here are links to the resources I mention during the show.

~ Kristin

dad child bubblesToday’s mothers and fathers have an uphill battle. Here we are struggling to share parenting and employment in a world that still expects us to be in traditional family roles, and a government institution comes along to tell us that when dad takes care of the kids it’s “babysitting”, but when mothers do it, well, it’s just what mothers do.

A recent post to the Motherlode blog at the New York Times,  The Census Bureau Counts Fathers as ‘Childcare’ highlights the practice of the Census Bureau to assume that the mother is always the “designated parent” so if the father is caring for the kids while mom works, that’s officially a “childcare arrangement.” But as the author notes, “if Mom is caring for a child while Dad’s at work, that’s not a ‘child care arrangement,’ but something else. Parenting, presumably.”

Wow. Just, wow.

Just goes to show how much we still confuse mother (the role and the relationship) with family work (the activities necessary to care for children and family). Over time, the two have become one and the same.

Mother = Caring for family

Caring for family = Mother

 And the corollary,

Father = Helper

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Photo by djaquay

In my life before motherhood, I led time management training sessions for employees of a big company. I indoctrinated everyone in the Franklin-Covey system for managing time. Before the age of iPhones, I kept my own binder-size day-planner and later a Palm Pilot at my side to manage my own time. But they were no match for what happened to my time once I had a child. No matter what I tried, I couldn’t make it all fit.

Even now, in order to save time I strategize how often I really need to shower before someone notices, as in “I won’t see anyone tomorrow, so I can put on a baseball cap and wait to wash my hair until Saturday.”  I’ll tell you a secret, families do the same with our kids. One mother told me, “We do a lot of ‘rinse offs’ in our house—where we count to thirty and focus on the ‘pits and privates.’”

For all this insanity we blame ourselves saying things like, “There must be some secret to it all, maybe in this magazine” and “We just have to figure out a way to manage our time better!”  I had trouble thinking I was a time management failure, and I just didn’t remember my own mother, or father, being this rushed. Why do we feel like we are more squeezed for time than our parents were?

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I’ve always been a New Year’s Resolutions sort of person, but the process became so much more powerful about ten years ago when my husband and I started making them together. Our New Year’s Resolutions ritual was one of many experiences that helped me realize one of the key points of my book, This is Not How I Thought It Would Be: Remodeling Motherhood to Get the Lives We Want Today –  I couldn’t remodel motherhood on my own; my husband and I needed to work together to remodel motherhood and fatherhood to get the lives we wanted.

Getting a Balcony View Together

Taking the balcony view means stepping back far enough from the drama of life to get a different perspective, which I’ve found is a key step for any personal change. Especially at the end of 2009, a year that was uncertain and unsettling for our family like so many others, I know we will need to break out of our routine to get a balcony view.

My husband and I ask my parents for gift certificates to new restaurants every year for Christmas so that we can try something new together, a proven way to recapture that just-fell-in-love feeling. We start by looking back at the scribbles in my journal from the previous year’s New Year’s date. Those notes are usually just enough to transport us back twelve months and help us reflect on the year gone by. The new restaurant, new food, and a bit of wine are usually just enough to give us a fresh perspective on the future.

Involving Our Daughter

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Puppet Show Team

Ok, so my morning. David’s gone. Kate and I both need to shower & get her to school at 8 and me to coffee with a friend on the other side of town at 8:15.

7:45 she realizes she hasn’t printed the script for her puppet show performance this morning. Also has not printed the color photos she needs for art. Because she snuck around the auto time limits on her Mac to find the photos late last night by logging into it as a guest, they have been deleted from the computer. Oh, & printing in color in our house requires moving files from the Mac to the PC connected to the color printer.

8:00  we are in the office printing. Printer jam on the scripts. Redoing Google search for photos & printing. Get in car, race to school (Note: first time this year she’s been late.)

8:19 I am nearly to my coffee destination and cell phone rings. “Mommy you’re going to be mad at me. I forgot my box of puppets in the back of the car.” Hit next U-turn back to school. Call friend – whose child has ALSO forgotten something so we agree to meet for coffee back near school.

8:30 Meet Kate in front of school to drop off puppets.

8:40 Make it to Starbucks and yes, I believe I did earn that peppermint mocha.

Happy holidays!

Kristin

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In “Creating a Family Vision: Part 1” I described how my husband, daughter and I spent part of our vacation in January creating vision board collages.  We each thought about the day of our daughter’s high school graduation and then collected magazine images that reflected our feelings and dreams for our family. As promised, here’s what we did next.

After we’d shared our vision board collages, we ate dinner and then returned to the magazine-covered floor to continue creating a family vision.

We reviewed the list of words we’d written down as each of us talked about our vision board collages. Bold, over the top, party, humor, joy, travel, contentment…

“Our next step,” I said, “is to brainstorm how we would finish these three sentences.”

  • We are…
  • We believe…
  • We want…

“We are…” is what makes our family unique.

“We believe…” is what we believe in and value.

“We want…” is what we want for our family over the next 8 years.

“So let’s start with ‘We are…’ What makes us unique?” I asked.

“We do vision boards,” my husband deadpanned.

When the two of them finished laughing at me we talked about what that really meant. Was that really unique? Probably, we agreed. So we put it on our list as “We are purposeful.”

And then a beautiful thing happened. Our daughter took us on a total tangent.

She said, “I want to ask about something. We are not religious. Can we talk about why?”

Absolutely.

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