Joint Accounts

How Can I Talk About the Motherhood Tax With My Husband?

We’ve always kept our finances separate, but now that we have a baby, it feels like the cost is disproportionately falling on me

Kristin Wong
Forge
Published in
4 min readNov 18, 2019

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Illustration: Laurie Rollitt

Welcome to Joint Accounts, a weekly advice column about money and relationships of all kinds. Have a question? Email jointaccounts@medium.com.

Dear Joint Accounts,

My husband and I have always kept our finances separate, and I’ve never had any complaints about it until a couple months ago, when I had a baby. I’m currently on maternity leave, and it’s radically changed the balance of things: I’m luckier than many women in that my leave isn’t fully unpaid, but I’m still bringing in a reduced income. My health insurance has gotten more expensive because I now have a dependent. My husband, meanwhile, is currently primed for a raise. I’m missing out on my company’s 401(k) match; my husband is taking advantage of his.

Even in an otherwise equal relationship, the cost of raising a kid seems to fall on women by default. To make matters more complicated, we also have different ideas about spending on certain baby expenses, like childcare. How do we make things more equal? How do we share these costs, including the cost of maternity leave, in a more equitable way? It seems we need to rethink our budgeting system, but I’m not sure how to get started.

Sincerely,

New Mom With Less Money

TThere’s a larger conversation to be had here about the unequal financial burden of parental leave and how parenthood exacerbates the gender pay gap, but let’s stick to your situation: Yes, your husband should be helping you recoup these costs. And yes, that means reconfiguring your budget to account for the motherhood tax, or the financial penalty faced by women who have children.

It sounds like your husband is currently a bit oblivious to the unfairness of your current arrangement. To make him understand that, you’re going to have to lay out the evidence. I recommend using this baby cost calculator, which breaks down some of the more common expenses of parenthood, including health care, hospital stays, and the financial…

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Kristin Wong
Forge
Writer for

Kristin Wong has written for the New York Times, The Cut, Catapult, The Atlantic and ELLE.