The ridiculous reality of the motherhood penalty


They say motherhood is a blessing. But considering in compositeness the pros and cons of what it means to be a mother and this one faced view of what is a definite identity in itself is starkly inadequate to say the least. Even when motherhood might be a choice happily embraced by women, the rosy depiction of what many believe to be the ultimate fulfilment in life isn’t representative of the many expression of realities that it leads one to experience.

From everything like tremendous bodily changes to an opening up of the chasm in emotional existence, being a mother is a dynamic experience indeed. The world might idealistically fawn over the ‘greatness’ and ‘status’ of what entails all who identify as a mother. Contrast that however to the reality hitting hard this same spectrum of population when it comes to their professional identity and the blessing in supposition isn’t exactly emulated across every sphere of the human existence. In fact so prevalent is this appalling prospect in undermining instead this same set of ‘superhumans’ specifically in context of their worklife that has even led to a certain coinage coming up to characterise that happening. Hard hitting itself is the aspect in representation that alludes motherhood as being a form of ‘blunder’ in fact, implied indeed in that understanding of what is called the motherhood penalty.

motherhood penalty
Source: Forbes India

Inevitably linked though with another aspect of physical identity, that within the gendered assertion of a difference in pay is this fore of motherhood long prevailing in rampant runs of that ‘reputation’. Emerging from out of the 2001 study of sociologists Michelle Budig and Paula England and continuing to curate current affairs like it has always been is this term in corresponding indeed to that consideration of the money. The premise indeed is already set for this unfairness to persist in an obvious aligning of such ideology that has always discriminated against women in pretty much every setting of existence. And for those women who avail for themselves also an additional profile in being a mother, the additional call upon their person only leads to a devaluing of professional worth.

The disparities get more pronounced indeed in the apparent expression of reduced pay and lesser opportunities as well. That though isn’t the only limitation that working mothers find accompanying their new identity/ responsibility, that however should have stemmed in greater consideration instead. It also would be the factors in age and ‘status’ that impact the adverse reception accorded to mothers occurring also as professionals in their individuality. A young mother as well as one identifying as a single parent is more likely to find herself disadvantaged in such assertion of personal choice. The nuances get even more complex if one pores deeper into the actual dynamics of what characterise such behavior in universalness. But even on the surface of it, the encounters that reveal themselves in all starkness are no less discriminative still.

That the women wanting for themselves this parallel status in very personal consideration of their human individualness are made to pay for exercising a choice they have all right to is what makes this unfavourable but unavoidable still repercussion accruing as motherhood penalty manifest in an exploitative nature of happening. The general perception occurs such that holds mothers to be limited by their dual assertion of selves, raising questions therefore on the extent of their productiveness. That itself might be contradictory a notion in postulating, since a very real responsibility augmented by the very identifying as a mother should in fact lead women to find for themselves greater flexibility in the workplace. That of course is far from the truth and what working mothers constantly find themselves stressed by is not just the expected parental responsibilities but also the harsher, uncalled for ‘reprimandations’ owing to their as essential professional standing.

Closely related therefore to an understanding of the motherhood penalty and characterising this fore of the identity as second nature almost in occurring is the expression of the second shift. The coinage of this term predates even the concrete expression in penalty ‘prejudices’ that mothers are subjected to. Invariably deriving indeed their essence out of the other are both of these manners in pinpointing the weight of what makes motherhood a proposition challenging not just in its claim of being a life changing experience altogether. The narrative might unfold as one rather liberal in its acknowledging of the many uniqueties that mothers find themselves dealing with. But to the extent that such acknowledgment only schemes to emphasise the areas and manner in which the already inconvenienced image of the woman can be rendered further ineffective is what makes this entire eloquence in expression assert its ulterior end instead.

The motherhood penalty and its definite existence is in itself a case in immense unfairness. But what establishes even further the discrimination intentionally worked out through such prevailing is the corresponding existence of a fatherhood bonus. Despite the fact that women are more commonly carrying out of the childbearing responsibilities in personal attending, even when they are as active professionals as well, it still is the male workforce who is entitled to benefits of pay and compensation on account of their identity as a father. Also the fact that fatherhood bonus or parallelly motherhood penalty are mutually dependent concepts make the undesirableness manifesting through them, at least as averse to idealistic aspirations, assume even uglier basis in their veritable existence.

The motherhood penalty affects every aspect of the career consideration for women. Apart from a cutdown upon their earning potential, it also is their chances in employability itself that take a hit for reasons not in any way related to their suitability for the position. Promotions follow as well- or they do not rather, since working mothers are not even evaluated on basis of the same set of professional standards as their working but non- mothering counterparts. Not very heartening as well would be the experience of new mothers upon return to their longstanding place of work, as loyalties do indeed go for a flip when business takes over all considerations. No wonder numerous such accounts prevail in which this form of discrimination finds representation, whether in direct or derived evocations of its character. Maternal wall and double burden are similar such concepts in describing, with the greater prevalence of these related phrases and expressions only dictating the universalness of likewise phenomenon.

The main flow of what directs such singular nature in perceiving mothers as being outside of the set expectations in full fledged professionalism would not be very hard to discern. That however does not make a case for its justification. But what it does indeed is ‘upholding’ the common human tendency to view mothers in a lesser light. The exaltation might be limitless when the consideration is one in the mothering responsibility. This however is not the case when motherhood assumes instead the status in occurring as a separate identity itself- one that is viewed outside of its associated hardships for whatever reason of that conjuring.

Working women are seen as less committed to their careers once they embark on the path of motherhood, with everything from low energy to less accountability attributed as reasons to that effect. The proceedings spans also the emotional expanse of the human, who find themselves stripped almost of their capacity in reasoning by fellow people. That there has been conscious efforts at attempting to mitigate the effects of such discrimination is itself proof that motherhood penalty is as real as motherhood itself. The penalty is also as lifelong a ‘distinction’ that working mothers find themselves identified in, making for a revelation in even appalling assertions of what is exploitation out and out.

Motherhood penalty is particularly hard hitting as well and not just in the limitations it can place indeed to a woman’s career. The emotional burden of this unaccounted for discrimination in work policies is specially disruptive for the overall identity of the one subject to such practices, particularly when her life has only just gone through a particularly overwhelming experience. With their entire identity upheaved already by this surreal realisation in bringing a new life in this world, it could prove to be too much to handle indeed for mothers when they find themselves undermined as well in their professional worth. Being a mother in itself is a full time job- in fact one that amounts to working 2.5 of them and when women are more than efficient in shouldering this enormous responsibility by themselves, it does not really make sense should we happen to doubt the professional competence of them. It’s a pity indeed that we do and a dishonor therefore to the entire motherhood manifestation that is otherwise extolled in what is only superficiality then.