Cover Story: The Taxing Cost of Reproduction

How having children costs women money

May 9, 2007 at 2:06 pm
Ali Calis

Mothers who opt to stay home with their children and remove themselves from the conventional workplace stand to lose $1 million over their lifetimes, according to Ann Crittenden, author of The Price of Motherhood. Although the figure might sound shocking, it includes missed salaries, tax breaks, pay raises and promotions.

The IRS now allows a $3,000 tax credit for childcare expenses, whether those expenses are for daycare outside the home or a nanny inside the home.

That tax credit isn't extended to mothers who take care of their own children inside the home. Not that $3,000 is enough — full-time daycare expenses run parallel to college tuition — but it's a start.

Tax breaks aside, the government tells you exactly what it thinks of the work you do inside the home by assigning a big fat zero under the "yearly earnings" column on your annual Social Security statement. Even though you're doing what is arguably one of the most important jobs in existence and one of the mostly highly praised by society at large, you earn no paycheck and, therefore, no claim to Social Security benefits.

At retirement, you're either dependent on your husband's income and pension (if you're married and your husband is employed) or you have to rely on a privately-funded IRA, which you might or might not have adequately funded if you were in the workforce before leaving to care for your kids.

"Sixty percent of Social Security beneficiaries are women and, for a majority of these women, Social Security is their major source of retirement income," according to the National Council of Women's Organizations Web site ( "Only 38 percent of women receive employer-provided pensions benefits, compared to 57 percent of men."

Returning to work seems to be the only solution to gaining Social Security benefits, but moms pay a price there, too.

"Young women without children earn more than 90 percent of men's wages, but mothers earn only about 60 percent of father's wages," Crittenden writes in The Price of Motherhood.

Over the pond in Great Britain, mothers are having quite a time with their own tax laws. On the "Alpha Mummy" blog (www.timesonline., after a few heated exchanges about the unfair practice of being allowed to deduct chauffeur expenses and not those of a nanny, one mother effectively summed up what most mothers, whether they work outside the home or not, are probably thinking.

"Yes, it's awful," she wrote. "Let's organise a mammoth political campaign to change the status quo. Oh no, I forgot: We're all too bloody tired." ©