Although pundits and politicians, usually male, often claim that motherhood is the most important and difficult work of all,
women who take time out of the workforce pay a big career penalty.
Only 74 percent of professional women will rejoin the workforce in any capacity, and only 40 percent will return to full-time jobs.
Those who do rejoin will often see their earnings decrease dramatically.
Controlling for education and hours worked, women's average annual earnings decrease by 20 percent if they are out of the workforce for just one year.
Average annual earnings decline by 30 percent after two to three years, which is the average amount of time that professional women off-ramp from the workforce.
If society truly valued the work of caring for children,
companies and institutions would find ways to reduce these steep penalties and help parents combine career and family responsibilities.
All too often rigid work schedules, lack of paid family leave, and expensive or undependable child care derail women's best efforts.
One miscalculation that some women make is to drop out early in their careers because their salary barely covers the cost of child care.
Child care is a huge expense, and it's frustrating to work hard just to break even.
But professional women need to measure the cost of child care against their future salary rather than their current salary.
Anna Fieler describes becoming a mom at thirty-two as "the time when the rubber hit the road."
A rising star in marketing, Anna was concerned that her after-tax salary barely covered her child care expenses.
"With husbands often making more than wives, it seems like higher ROI to just invest in his career," she told me.