The Economics of Motherhood


Before we get too far here, there’s something you must know about me (if you don’t already). I’m a total nerd. I graduated with a Bachelors in Economics and I wrote my Grad School thesis on Securities Fraud. I work in the compliance department….at a life insurance company. I look forward to my morning Ignites e-mail. Nerd, Nerd, NERD.

Okay, now that we’ve got that straight, it’ll make more sense that I want to talk Economics. Specifically, “The Law of Diminishing Returns”.  Basically, it means that at a certain point, if you keep doing more and more of one thing, what you actually get back in return will decrease and have less, if no benefit at all. One thing my nerd-self loves is that economics can be applied to almost all real-life examples:

  • In college, the last drink of the night that you open and don’t really need(…or in rare moments when you’re in your upper 20’s and you for a night ACT like you’re in college, not that I would know…).
  • The second piece of cheesecake.
  • Listening to so many other people’s opinions that you begin to forget you have your own brain.
  • Taking care of others first to the point that you forget to care about yourself.

I’m going to focus on the last point (although if any of you want to come hang out and try #2 with me, I’m game).

I have two distinct versions of myself lately. There’s the version that exists in my head –  the me that walks out the door and heads to work, dressed nice, sipping coffee, breezily heading to my cubicle and putting in a solid day’s work. I return home to my clean house, with my smiling baby, and with him in one arm, cook a delicious meal that magically appears on the table as Papa D walks in the door at night.

Then, I catch a glimpse of my real self in the mirror, and notice I forgot to put on mascara, I thought I was wearing black pants but they’re brown, and subsequently my black shoes look ridiculous. There are circles under my eyes and a stray gray hair that has found its way out of my dark brown hair…looking somewhat like a big ol’ middle finger to my rapidly diminishing youth.

I head back to work and find myself wanting to bang my head on my desk out of sheer exhaustion with the structure, schedule, getting a case off of my desk only to find 2 new ones waiting for me. I get up in the middle of the night to take chicken out of the freezer because I forgot to do it the night before, and I want to make dinner the next day that’s not frozen in the center. I go back to bed only to realize that I forgot to make Baby D’s bottles for the next day, so I get up again. By the time I lay back down, I fall asleep long enough to dream that it’s the weekend, and my alarm clock quickly makes me realize it’s not. Interestingly enough, the “law of diminishing returns” is also referred to as “arrested progress”. Imagine that.

Question: How do you learn to love and not lose yourself?

Answer: I don’t know. At least not yet. But, in true nerd fashion, I have been trying to think in terms of my other favorite economic principal – opportunity cost.

  • Is it worth it for me to forego an extra half hour of sleep at night to sit up and have a glass of wine with my husband? Yes.
  • Is it worth it for me to let the laundry go for another day so I can spend time snuggling with my little baby? Absolutely.
  • Is it worth it for me to take some time away and spend money to go get my hair done? No. It should be….but I’m a work in progress.

I know that the measure of a woman is not what she wears, how she looks, how clean her house is, or how much shit she can clear off of her to-do list. But honestly, I’m struggling with the fact that for once I have no answers – that this is something that can’t be found by using equations or graphs.

So mamas, how do you do it? How do you find your equilibrium?


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