Sheryl Sandberg on Mother’s Day

Now that we’re sufficiently distant from the obligatory sentimentality around Mother’s Day, let’s look at Sheryl Sandberg’s Facebook posting on the subject:

Being a mother is the most rewarding – and hardest – job many of us will ever have. The day you become a mom, you also become a caregiver, teacher, nurse, and coach. It’s an all-in-one kind of role that comes with no training.

Apparently she and Bill Burr are destined to disagree regarding the difficulty of a job that can be done in pajamas.

For most moms, it’s only one of many jobs we have. Over 40% of mothers are the primary breadwinners for their families – and in many, the only breadwinner. We all have a responsibility to help mothers as well as fathers balance their responsibilities at work and home.

Celebrating the heroism of single mothers is a stock item for politicians so perhaps Sandberg will soon run for office? But can she be right about a significant number of single moms being the only breadwinner? If this is a low-income mating situation, the taxpayer will be providing the single mom and her children with a subsidized (or free) house, free health care, and free food. If this is a high-income mating situation, the child support defendant will be sending a stream of cash into the mother’s checking account.

Companies can do a lot to lead the charge, and I’m proud of the steps Facebook has taken. But not everyone has the opportunity to work for a company that supports working parents. It’s time for our public policies to catch up with what our families deserve and our values demand.

To start, it’s long past time to raise the federal minimum wage. Two-thirds of minimum wage workers are women. Raising the wage would reduce pay inequality and help millions of families living in or near poverty.

Sandberg is concerned about “pay inequality.” Her reported net worth is $1.6 billion. Thus we can estimate that she has been paid $2-3 billion pre-tax by Facebook, money (or the stock equivalent) that otherwise could have been paid to employees lower down in the bureaucracy. Why not reduce pay inequality at Facebook before asking for government intervention in the labor market for other employers (let’s assume that Facebook, being in Silicon Valley, is forced by the market to pay well above the minimum wage, so a change to this law will have no effect on Sandberg’s personal wealth).

We need paid leave. The United States is one of the only developed countries in the world that doesn’t guarantee paid family leave – and we’re the only developed country in the world without paid maternity leave. That means many moms are forced to return to work right after giving birth to keep their jobs. They deserve more support. So do dads, LGBTQ parents, adoptive parents — families of all kinds.

So those Americans who haven’t been fortunate enough to find a mate or have a child are going to be further disadvantaged by a forcible transfer of income to those who have been blessed with a mate (at least for a few hours) and children?

All of us will have times when we need to take care of ourselves and our relatives. We shouldn’t have to risk losing a job or being able to meet the basic needs of our families to do that.

And we need affordable child care. Child care for two children exceeds the median annual rent in all 50 states. How are parents supposed to work if they don’t have a safe and affordable place to leave their kids?

More wealth transfer from the childless will be required!

On this Mother’s Day, even more than ever, I feel deep gratitude for my amazing mom Adele Sandberg, who has given me her love and strength my whole life and these past two years especially. I am also grateful for the love and support of my mother-in-law Paula Goldberg who dedicates herself not only to her own family, but to families with children with disabilities through the PACER Center. For those for whom this day can be more painful than celebratory, I hope – as Connie Schultz would say – that it lands gently.
This is an emotional day for so many reasons – because we thank the mothers we have and remember the mothers and the children we’ve lost. I hope we can also use this day to commit to do more for all the mothers who have given so much and deserve even more.

Sandberg proposes to hit women who couldn’t find a mate and/or couldn’t have a child with higher tax rates to subsidize their sisters who were fortunate enough to become mothers. But Sandberg offers them some kind words in exchange for their higher tax payments!



24 thoughts on “Sheryl Sandberg on Mother’s Day

  1. The treadmill story was always highly suspect. Dave Goldberg had enough of this crazy broad and checked himself out.

  2. Sheryl Sandburg sounds like a real hypocritical blowhard — so she should probably be president of the good ole US of A– combining the best attributes of Hill and the Donald. I like her point that being a mommy is the hardest job — but didn’t Louis CK suggest that perhaps being a coal miner might perhaps be a bit more challenging?

  3. More wealth transfer from the childless will and should be required because money doesn’t ensure society survives, children do.

  4. re: Tiago… in case you haven’t noticed, Phil only understands money. Everything else doesn’t matter. Sex and kids only make sense as a profitable career choice in his version of reality. So, he’s either a robot or simply likes to provoke some thought experiments, depending on how seriously you take his posts.

  5. Regardless of Sandberg’s opinions, sometimes I don’t really get if PhilG is poking us or really believes in what he is saying (as Jernej puts it), in particular regarding the “wealth transfer from the childless”.

    I am European, so my social-democratic views are many times at odds with American conservatism and low-state present, but putting child support as a transfer of wealth from childless to non-childless members of society is a extreme. First of all, the vast majority of Americans do have children throughout their lives. According to Pew [1] «In 2014, 15% of women ages 40 to 44 had not given birth to any children. This is down from 20% in 2005 and similar to the rate of childlessness in 1994.». Since the worse life expectancy for women in the USA is 77.99 years (in Mississipi) and assuming that men are well distributed as the generators of these children. That means that, roughly, 80% of Americans have children. So putting it as childless financing the non-childless is rather misleading: why not put it as wealthy (some of whom are childless) financing non-wealth.

    Now, you can argue that you didn’t say only childless are financing family leaves, but that childless are forced to pay for other people’s child care anyway. Sure, but what about health insurance and paying for other people’s disease care (you can argue, as some Republican congressmen, that you shouldn’t pay for people that eat junk food or don’t exercise)? And why pay for other people’s unemployment, if you’re employed? Or other’s people roads if you don’t use them? Or even other families’ kids education, if yours go to private schools? Why contribute for financing public transportation, if I always use my car? Of course you can say that no one chooses to be unemployed or to be sick, but education or public transportation are definitely choices.

    Societies have deemed some transfer of wealth beneficial for the society itself. You can argue if this justification makes sense or not, but just putting is as “someone that doesn’t use it paying for someone that uses it” is, at minimum, childish. Also, having children may affect family economic outcome, with low-income families being hit harder. And even if you don’t want to focus on low-income families that already receive “free housing, healthcare or food” look at middle class families: if a woman has two or three kids in three or four years, without any job protection, it puts her in a more precarious position. Paid maternal leaves can relieve some of that precariousness. Also, if the mother has to abandon her job and forego income to care for a child, say, during the first 4 or 6 months, such family is at high risk, in case the father looses his job (particularly dangerous if healthcare is tied to the job). This, of course, will affect more low middle-class family that does not have much disposable income, when compared to high income families. But even if you disagree with “helping others” for the sake of helping, or just to increase life quality standards, you can argue that there is societal economic benefit to having child support, just as you may have in supporting other people’s education or public transportation.

    By the way, as Sandberg says, most developed countries have some form or maternal and/or parental paid leave in more generous terms than the USA. However, one thing you’ve never (to my knowledge) seen, is demonstrations of childless people complaining about these conditions.

    [1] –

  6. “Sure, but what about health insurance and paying for other people’s disease care”

    Great example of a slippery slope. Now everyone has to fund everything.

    “Societies have deemed some transfer of wealth beneficial for the society itself.”

    For how this actually is deemanated, see Public Choice theory. Welcome to the sausage factory, my lambs!

    “you can argue that there is societal economic benefit to having child support”

    Sure. Who doesn’t like free money? Who doesn’t like paid leave? Supplementary reading: Bastiat, What is seen and what is not seen.

  7. Will Sheryl Sandberg ever STFU ? Sorry – she just makes my skin crawl.

    Very entertaining commentary in the Japan Times:

    Sheryl Sandberg: world’s most annoying person

    “As far as I can tell, the only media outlet not to be shilling Sandberg’s pabulum is Islamic State’s online magazine, proving that terrorists aren’t all bad.”

    “Option B: Facing Adversity, Building Resilience is the best-selling sequel to her best-selling 2013 tome ‘Lean In,’ which is a best-seller because every media outlet is pushing it and advises women in the workplace to get ahead the same way she did: Be born the child of a well-off medical specialist in a rich enclave, go to Harvard without having to take out a student loan, suck up to a future U.S. Treasury secretary (who thinks women are dumb) while you’re there, snag an MBA and become best friends with Facebook mega-billionaire Mark Zuckerberg.”

    “Coming the same week I’m reading about the inner workings of Hillary Clinton’s dysfunctional, out-of-touch campaign in the book “Shattered,” I had to ask myself if, as a middle-aged white male, my annoyance at Sandberg (and Hillary) owes something to misogyny. Perhaps. I hope not.”

  8. I think Tiago, Jernej, and Francisco have contributed comments that are illustrative of the current American political mindset. Anyone who opposes any proposed subsidy for parents is a radical Libertarian/Ayn Rand-follower. A working parent already gets tens of thousands of dollars in tax deductions and tax credits. A non-working parent gets free housing, free health care for the child (and him or herself, for that matter), and free food. All parents, regardless of wealth level, are entitled to $200,000 to $600,000 in free K-12 education plus another $100,000+ in direct subsidies for college, e.g., at a state-run university, plus additional tax subsidies for college savings (529 plans). A parent who dies will find that his or her Social Security benefits may be collected by a child. In round numbers, therefore, this is close to $1 million per child transferred from the childless to an American with a child. The citizen who says “I think $1 million per child is enough and I am opposed to an additional $100,000” is anti-child.

  9. SNAP, EBT, medicaid, school lunches, and the earned income tax credit and so forth are radically dysgenic. That’s the real problem. Whether middle class families get tax breaks or not, I couldn’t care less. It probably doesn’t matter. The issue is our national population is being rapidly replaced by people who cannot actually afford to have the number of kids they do.

  10. BTW, a reasonable estimate of the long term environmentally sustainable population for CONUS is probably around 170 million. We are at higher numbers now because we are mining down irreplaceable topsoil and fossil fuels and fish stocks.

    Interestingly enough, American reproduction dropped down to replacement rates when we hit about 170 million. It is only through highly unpopular immigration programs and welfare programs that anti-democratic powers have forced the population up over 300 million. The projected trends indicate Indian subcontinent level population densities, which absolutely no voter ever agreed to, and is obviously a horrible idea.

  11. Philg, if you believe that children are a net drain/cost on society and primarily benefit the parents, how do you justify efforts to restrict legal access to abortions? Abortions, even if fully funded by taxpayers, cost much less than the $1 million that you claim we commit to spending per child that is born.

  12. Yz: Nobody has asked me to “justify efforts to restrict legal access to abortions” if only because I have never proposed any! But the arguments that I can remember from those who are anti-abortion is that their opposition rests on moral grounds, not economic. So even if would make economic sense to kill some adult Americans (e.g., because they don’t work or don’t earn enough), they would also be opposed to that.

    Separately, I’m not sure how a state’s abortion restrictions can be effective in our age of discount air travel. The cost of a plane ticket to a place in which abortion is available is so low that groups passionate about providing abortions (often for free) can also hand out plane tickets without a substantial increase in overall costs. In a globalized world economy, couldn’t a pro-abortion group simply mail out pills from a place where the pills are legal and inexpensive? (see )

    [time updated by moderator for sequence]

  13. Philg – You are right that we probably disagree on subsidies for parents and we are likely do disagree on whether more or less is necessary. I do make a bit of an argument for paid leave on my penultimate paragraph, and we could go on discussing whether after those $1 million, you should add an additional $100,000 or not, as you put it (or, for what it matters, discuss on how to allocate those $1 million).

    But what I take issue in your post, is that you make this a case of childless paying for parents. And you do it again on your comment: «In round numbers, therefore, this is close to $1 million per child transferred from the childless to an American with a child.» You cannot seriously say that the entirety of the support on your example comes from the childless to Americans with child?! My point was precisely that since the vast majority of the Americans will have children, they are the main contributors to other child-bearing Americans. Yes, childless Americans do contribute for something they do not need, but that was my point with the other examples, like using taxes to pay for Public transportation.

    And then Tom says I state example (the even more than ever contentious paying for healthcare) that implies that everyone has to fund everything: «Great example of a slippery slope. Now everyone has to fund everything.» One can discuss if you have a model like Scandinavia, where state transfers to citizens are much higher, a model which is certainly at odds with the American one – it is a valid discussion. But my point was to highlight that whether in Scandinavia or in the U.S., to a higher or lower degree there is society-wide funding that is made by everyone. I may lean towards a Scandinavian model, but by arguing for one socialised expense, I’m certainly not saying that “now everyone has to pay for everything”.

  14. Alexis de Toqueville, Democracy In America, Volume 2, 1840:

    I seek to trace the novel features under which despotism may appear
    in the world. …

    Above this race of men stands an immense and tutelary power,
    which takes upon itself alone to secure their gratifications, and
    to watch over their fate. That power is absolute, minute, regular,
    provident, and mild. It would be like the authority of a parent, if,
    like that authority, its object was to prepare men for manhood; but it
    seeks on the contrary to keep them in perpetual childhood: it is well
    content that the people should rejoice, provided they think of nothing
    but rejoicing. For their happiness such a government willingly labors,
    but it chooses to be the sole agent and the only arbiter of that
    happiness: it provides for their security, foresees and supplies their
    necessities, facilitates their pleasures, manages their principal
    concerns, directs their industry, regulates the descent of property, and
    subdivides their inheritances–what remains, but to spare them all
    the care of thinking and all the trouble of living?

  15. If being a mother is harder for her than dealing with the execs and boards at Facebook, her kids must be real jerks.

  16. >Yes, childless Americans do
    >contribute for something they do not need

    We live in a complex interdependent society. Everybody depends on other people to produce most of the goods and services they “need” and want. Raising children is how we ensure that the complex interdependent society continues to function into the future. Most childless Americans (those who are fortunate to survive) will eventually depend on the goods and services produced by the children of their peers. Perhaps they are contributing to something they do not need now, but it is definitely something they will need in the future.

  17. Neal: “Most childless Americans (those who are fortunate to survive) will eventually depend on the goods and services produced by the children of their peers.”

    How can this be true in a global economy? Would people in China die if they didn’t have access to American goods? They couldn’t fly on an Airbus A320 (made in China now!) instead of a Boeing?

    What about services? You hate immigrants and insist on getting services from a native-born American? Or you think that on a planet of 7.5 billion there aren’t enough people who would be willing to provide you with a service at a fair price? (Certainly robots and machines won’t be able to provide us with any services!)

    I like kids, especially my own, but if I am doing such a wonderful service for other Americans by having them why aren’t I entitled to walk around with a big sign on my chest demanding thank-yous from the childless worker drones who are funding their public K-12 education?

  18. Francisco, I think you’re right that the real divide here isn’t between those who have children and those who don’t – it’s between those who are rich (and pay the most taxes) and those who aren’t. Naturally rich taxpayers (like Philip) would be inclined to react skeptically to any proposal for new tax-funded programs, whether Obamacare or paid parental leave.

    I think that there is an argument to be made that even rich taxpayers have an interest in public programs which effectively address real market failures, because these provide massive efficiency gains. Will Wilkinson, with the libertarian Niskanen Center, just published a libertarian argument for a strong welfare state.

  19. Russil: The “rich v. poor” argument doesn’t make sense to me. The U.S. governments (federal and state) are never able to ream out the rich for all of the stuff that politicians want to do (Silicon Valley rich people may actually pay a tax rate of 0% on most of their income; see ). So the result ends up being crazy high tax rates (when you add up property, sales, income, payroll, gasoline, car registration, other user fees, etc.) on middle-class residents.

    See for an analysis.

  20. Curious to read a bunch of males bickering about implications of having children. While I am not a fan of Sandberg’s ”Lean In.” In one place she states she had to arrange with her secretary to help Sheryl sneak out the office earlier (so everyone thinks she is still there) which is so ‘applicable’ to many working women out there, I do agree that ‘Being a mother is the most rewarding – and hardest – job many of us will ever have.” Would be nice to set up a poll and see how many of the commenters took care of a small child full-time (24 hrs) for any substantial amount of time to put there comments further into context- superMike , you hear me, right?

  21. Natalia: I’m one of the commenters. And I recently took care of small children while Senior Management was away on a business trip. Fortunately, all was not lost as I was able to receive direction, supervision, and performance reviews via text message 🙂

  22. Good for you 🙂 So, now is THE question: is it easier to take care of small children or dealing with execs (or whoever) at work?

  23. Natalia: I think it comes down to meaning. It is a lot easier to do a job that is meaningful than to do one that is meaningless (i.e., a job that one does just for the paycheck).

    says that about half of Americans are unhappy at work (this article is also a good example of the ability of journalists to think using numbers: “Men are happier in their jobs, with 47.8% saying they’re satisfied versus 46.3% of women.” (consider the likelihood that this 1.5% difference is statistically significant!)). I would guess that a lot of those jobs are ones where it is hard to explain why it is worth doing, other than to receive a paycheck.

    So… it has been pretty easy for me to take care of small children because because I have convinced myself that the time invested is well-spent, e.g., they enjoy hearing me read to them or do a puzzle or take them with me on a day of errands (airport, hardware store, restaurant, etc.). I think this is why there are always hundreds of applicants for teaching jobs even though the pay is not spectacularly high (though it is better than nothing; $161,000/year on Long Island; see ). And I find it easy to do flight instruction because I can usually see the progress that the student is making. Teaching at MIT is great because the students learn even when the instructor does nothing (other than take credit for their learning!). Patent infringement litigation can be at the other side of the spectrum. Sometimes when I am writing an expert witness report I can already visualize it being fed into a shredder after the case is settled or is disposed of for reasons having nothing to do with me. The working conditions of “expert witness” are perfect. You are either comfortably at home in front of a PC or in a beautiful conference rooms with huge windows. People treat you with respect. You are surrounded by intelligent, interesting people. But it is hard to explain the point of the job to an 8-year-old and therefore oftentimes people stop doing it.

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