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Glenn Sacks
Jan 10, 2002

Ann Crittenden's popular The Price of Motherhood: Why Motherhood is the Most Important--And Least Valued--Job in America, released in paperback this week, has become the first feminist classic of the new millennium. Crittenden's "mothers' manifesto" is an expose of the so-called "mommy tax," which can include reduced job opportunities and salary for mothers, as well as a lack of appreciation, often from working women themselves.

However, if there is a woman paying the "mommy tax" by sacrificing her earning power to be at home full-time or part-time, there has to be a man in the household supporting the family and, by so doing, paying the "daddy tax." Crittenden, by defining "privilege" and "sacrifice" only in terms of pay and career status, sees disadvantages only for mothers and not for fathers. But what about the price of fatherhood?

The average American father works 51 hours a week. While nearly half of American mothers with children under the age of six do not work full time, even those who do average only a 41 hour work week. American men work the longest hours of any workers (male or female) in the industrialized world. Men work 90% of the overtime hours in the U.S., and are more likely to work nights, weekends, travel for work, and have longer commutes than women. All of these deprive fathers of valuable time with their children.

In addition, men do our society's most hazardous and demanding jobs, in large part because the higher pay allows them to better provide for their families. Nearly 100,000 American workers died from job-related injuries over the past decade and a half, 95% of them men. There were over 100 million workplace injuries in the U.S. between 1976 and 1999, again the overwhelming majority of them suffered by men. Millions of American fathers are financially trapped in these hazardous jobs--what men's advocate Warren Farrell calls the "glass cellar of male disposability."

Men dominate in all stress-related diseases, including a two to one lead in heart disease. In fact, Gloria Steinem once cited this in advising men to support women's careers, saying, "Men--support feminism! You have nothing to lose but your coronaries!"

Less time with their children, long work days and work weeks, job hazards and job stress--all of these are the daddy tax. I know, because I've paid it. As the main provider for my family, I worked 60 hour, six day weeks far from home, sometimes at hazardous construction jobs. I missed my young son so badly that many times, arriving home from work late at night, I would carry him around the house on my shoulder, even though he was asleep. My fatherhood was the hollow, joyless fatherhood many men endure--all the burdens of supporting children drained of the pleasure of actually being with them. At times it seemed the only interaction I had with my son was disciplining him, the one parenting job which has not so generously always been reserved for fathers.

I no longer have to work long hours or do hazardous jobs. My life changed dramatically when my second child was born--I switched from the traditional father role to the traditional mother role. Now my wife enthusiastically pursues her new career and I've cut my work schedule back to care for our daughter during the day. I do all the cooking (and we never eat out or take in), the dishes, the shopping, the chauffeuring, the laundry, and the errands. Exactly as Crittenden did, I pursue my free-lance writing career at home, in between my household duties. Crittenden is deeply bitter about this "sacrifice," but I consider myself to be quite lucky.

Which is better, paying the mommy tax or paying the daddy tax? There are advantages and disadvantages to both. It depends upon the jobs and personalities of those involved. For me, being at home with my young daughter has been the greatest, most fulfilling experience of my life, and I'll always be grateful to my wife for allowing me the opportunity. All of the "firsts" that I missed with my son--the first words, the first steps--I've been able to enjoy with my daughter, as well as countless other magical, irreplaceable moments. And there's nothing better in the world than when my little daughter walks up to me, puts her hand on my shoulder and says "every night I go sleepies right here." I have no desire to return to a demanding work schedule and be away from my kids. Given a choice, I'd rather pay the mommy tax.

Crittenden has several worthwhile suggestions on how to reduce the mommy tax, including universal preschool, a year's paid leave after the birth of each child, and full benefits for part-time work. I'm not sure how practical these ideas are, but I'm certainly interested, since they could help mothers as well as fathers and children. But how dare she, and other feminists, claim that the burden of children falls only on mothers? Yes, Ms. Crittenden, there is a mommy tax, but the daddy tax is just as large.

My latest column, "The Price of Fatherhood--a Father's Reply to Ann Crittenden" ran in the Los Angeles Daily Journal and the San Francisco Daily Journal today (1/10/02). It is pasted below and can also be seen on my website. Please feel free to post it on your website.
Best Wishes,
Glenn Sacks

Glenn writes a regular column for the Los Angeles Daily Journal and the San Francisco Daily Journal. His columns have also appeared in the San Francisco Chronicle, the Los Angeles Times, the Salt Lake City Tribune, the Los Angeles Daily News, and the Philadelphia Inquirer.

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