Reflections on Identity

The Diminishing Value of a Stay-Home Mother After Divorce

My monetary worth on the open market

Laura Friedman Williams
15 min readAug 10, 2021

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Age 29, with my first baby

I hate to run, but today, I run. I am angry, the kind of anger that can make a person smash plates or scream with primal rage, and I have nowhere to release it save the ground beneath my feet. I haven’t run since the pandemic forced the closing of gyms and I took to running laps around Washington Square Park, dodging jumpy dogs on too-long leashes and panting into my cotton mask. Now, I lace up my sneakers and set off along a road lined with rambling shingled houses. I jog slowly, testing my legs out to see how fresh the batteries are, passing buxom women wearing hot pink tank tops, couples riding side by side with wind-blown babies strapped into seats in the back.

I jog by a young woman struggling with two children. She appears aggrieved, holding a scooter steady for a toddler boy while his older sister scoots away down the street. Her pale face is flushed, droplets of sweat forming along her hairline where pale yellow hair is swept into a messy ponytail. She frowns down at the boy and then at the girl in the street, her eyes flicking back and forth. I wonder if she is an inexperienced nanny or an exhausted mom.

I reach the end of the road and turn around to make my way back. I pick up speed, my legs gaining confidence and my anger making its way into sweat that drips into my eyes and mouth. The little girl on her scooter comes toward me, dreamily coasting along. A moment later, I pass the young woman again, this time with the toddler on her back. She carries his scooter in one hand while he clings to her, pulling taut the skin around her neck, his legs locked around her waist. The scooter bangs against her thigh as she walks purposefully to catch up with the girl. My jog becomes a sprint and I tear ahead.

I once had a job like hers, but I have just been laid off. My employer decided, after 21 years of loyalty, that my work was no longer worth the salary I had come to command. When I had first started, my salary barely supported me, but the work was meaningful, so I stayed; as the business expanded, my compensation increased. Now parts of my job had become obsolete and other parts weren’t as valuable as they once had been. I…

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Laura Friedman Williams

Author of AVAILABLE: A Very Honest Account of Life After Divorce (Boro/HarperUK June ‘21; Harper360 May ‘21). Mom of three, diehard New Yorker.