Define Your Riches

JoAnna Bennett

JoAnna Bennett, O’Brien Communications Group

22 August 2019

A headline on LinkedIn recently caught my eye: “Is pregnancy an obstacle at work?” The headline glared at me from the right side of my news feed. I’ve written about pregnancy in the workplace before. And I’m a single mother of two wonderful humans, so the topic is near and dear to me.

Aside from the logistical obstacle of having a large belly in the workplace, this news item was about the monetary setbacks. I was one of the lucky few to have plenty of time home with my kids and let them flourish into the terrific humans they are becoming. I won’t argue with the notion that family comes first. While I love my career and an income is beyond necessary for a woman in my shoes, their lives matter more to me than anything else in the world.

I’ve taken time off at work when they had fevers, dentist appointments, and other things for which I’m parentally responsible. I do realize another employee without children wouldn’t have had to make those sacrifices, but then I think of me when I was childless. I think about all the lessons motherhood has taught me about strength, perseverance, humility, and faith. I may be a less reliable worker on some occasions, but I’m also a much more loyal and appreciative worker than I was five years ago.

The purpose for my paycheck used to be for a new car, a vacation, or a few nights out on the town. My paycheck’s purpose has evolved to a variety of snacks, school clothes, and diapers (hopefully only for another few months). And I wouldn’t change it (my situation, not the diaper) for the world. My personal purpose has evolved too. I no longer strive to make more money and get a higher-paying gig. Above the inevitable economic part of working, I embrace having stability and the flexibility to be the mother I want to be.

While I think it would be amazing to make as much money as my male and motherless female counterparts, I also wouldn’t trade my position as a mother to be in their shoes. Motherhood has given me more than I could have ever gained from a career. Being a mother has been an experience that’s worth more than $100,000 or the title of Chief [insert discipline here] Officer.

As Maria Shriver said, “Having kids—the responsibility of rearing good, kind, ethical, responsible human beings—is the biggest job anyone can embark on.” And perhaps monetarily the gig is pretty gloomy, but the other rewards are endless. The added neuroplasticity of my brain, development of motherly traits, and overall life purpose could never be replaced by a Mercedes, a trip to Las Vegas, or five shots of tequila.

Enjoy your extra vacations and fancy meals. If that’s what makes you joyful, more power to you. But I’m not going to argue when it comes to whose life is more fulfilling. I get to hug, kiss, and snuggle two of the most adorable salary-stagnating creations known to man. Every single day.

Who’s richer? I know my answer to that one.