Friday, August 28, 2009

The Worst Mistake Women Can Make

Slowly a lot of my friends are getting married and bearing children. One of the most neglected areas of discussion and thought are finances and looking at the big picture amid the excitement of wedding planning and greeting the joys of parenthood.

Among my group of friends who are mothers, some work and some don't. My sister is also hoping to have children soon and we had a passionate debate about why it's very important to keep working, at least part-time, even if you have young children. She didn't think it was a big deal or necessary if the husband made enough so the wife didn't have to work. I took the other stance.

More than anything, women have the desire to stay home and raise their own children. I completely understand that and support that decision. The problem arises when women choose to stay out of the workforce completely for a few years thinking they can get a job at a drop of a hat when they want to return.

While motherhood is a great reason, and probably one of the best, to explain a long employment gap, unfortunately, what many companies only see is the following.

1) This candidate has no current computer or technology skills.

2) This candidate isn't up to date on the current trends and the pulse of our industry.

3) This candidate hasn't functioned in a professional or corporate environment for years and doesn't have the knack for office politics or basic business acumen anymore.

4) This candidate's relevant job experience is so outdated it's equivalent to not having any experience.

5) This candidate is too much of a risk to hire.

As my sister and I were having our discussion, I shared with her what I learned through all of my reading of business and financial planning books. At the heart of my argument was this.


You can't argue with death. I'm sorry.

The solution is to stay at home to raise your young children, but also stay involved with the workforce somehow. Work part-time, have a challenging and consistent volunteer position, continue to take classes for certification, return to school, or start your own at-home business. The goal is to have something to write on your resume to show you weren't professionally stagnant.

Another argument against both parents working is the high cost of childcare. The 2nd working parent's income will barely cover it, if at all. Logically and financially this is a good argument regarding time and PNL. However, qualitatively speaking, the tremendous value of participating in the workforce is not something that can be bought. A working mother shouldn't look at staying employed for the benefit of the paycheck, it's insurance that should something bad happen, she can provide for her children in the absence of her husband.

Albeit controversial upon first glance, everyone should read this book. It is one of my favorites.

The Feminine Mistake, The: Are We Giving Up Too Much?

From Publishers Weekly
It would be easy to dismiss this as yet another salvo in the mommy wars-—the debate over women opting out of careers to be stay-at-home moms. But Bennetts, a longtime journalist and writer for Vanity Fair, is more interested in investigating what she sees as the heart of the matter: economics. Through impressive research and interviews with experts and with real women, Bennetts shows that women simply cannot afford to quit their day jobs. Long-term loss of income has a cascading impact in areas such as medical benefits and retirement funds, not to mention a woman's sense of autonomy, derived from financial independence. Further, a career supplies a woman with a measure of security for herself and her children in the event of unexpected sickness or divorce. As any woman who has tried knows, returning to the workforce and finding a well-paying job after an absence of years, or even decades, is difficult. Not so long ago mothers would pin a dollar bill to their daughters' underclothes when they went out on a date in case, for some reason, they needed carfare home. Those mothers knew all to well that without money of your own it's easy to be left stranded. As Bennetts expertly shows, it's still true. (Apr.)
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