Cheri's Reviews > The Feminine Mistake: Are We Giving Up Too Much?

The Feminine Mistake by Leslie Bennetts
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's review
Mar 02, 09

Read in February, 2009

I admit that before reading this book I secretly envied women who were able to stay at home with the kids for a few years - the motherhood sabbatical. Sometimes I fantasized about one day taking a break from deadlines and the pressures of work to push little jr. in a stroller through leafy parks, as I daydreamed or occasionally pointed out educationally enriching objects ("Look! A red-breasted nuthatch!").

Then I read this book. To say it is life changing is an understatement. It is a must read for every woman - and especially for us daydreaming not-yet-mothers.

Leslie Bennetts holds no punches as she challenges the bucolic myth of the stay-at-home mommie. From scary statistics on divorce rates (50-50 odds are not that great) and sudden health catastrophes to incidences of spousal abuse and the financial ramifications of all those years out of the work force, she lays out the realities of life without a paycheck.

The first half of the book did it for me. The second was merely the older woman you-can-do-it! stories - not nearly as compelling.

I was particularly shocked at the difficulties women experienced trying to get back in after taking even short leaves of absence from the workplace - and how dramatically age discrimination factored into the equation:

- Being out of the labor force for as little as 1.2 years can diminish women's lifetime earning power by 28%.
- Women lose almost 40% of their lifetime earning power when they spend 3 or more years out of the workplace.
- Mothers are 44% less likely to be hired than non-mothers who have the same resume, experience and qualifications - and if they do get hired they're paid an average of $11,000 less.

Bennetts argues convincingly to consider motherhood as 15 years out of 50+ that will be spent in the workforce - "a relatively short period, if you take the long view." Opting out becomes exposed in this view for the risky proposition it is.


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