Don’t get me wrong. I’m the first person to admit that I often feel under-appreciated by my partner (not yet by my child… but based on how I treated my own Mom as a teenager, I am sure karma will be a b*tch). Being a Mom is challenging, most definitely. When I was on maternity leave and got the infamous “But what do you do all day?” queries, I was annoyed. When I started trying to juggle my own business from home and care for my son, the balancing act was often precarious. Now working 2-3 days a week and staying home with Cub the other days, I’ve managed to strike a happy compromise between my professional goals and my desire to be with my son.
But I do not believe for a second that, as a Mom, I have the world’s toughest job, despite the laundry list of responsibilities paraded out in this viral video for American Greetings’ CardStore or even in popular infographics like this one:
Never once when I was planning to start a family did I imagine that it would be an easy-breezy, 40-hours-a-week, clock-in, clock-out type of responsibility. I didn’t have any illusions of drawing a salary for my parenting (though I am happy to point out that Quebec has excellent parental benefits). I chose to become a Mom because I wanted to raise children, and have wanted to be a Mother since almost as far back as I can remember.
The fact that these memes completely ignore the role of Fathers as parents is an entirely different blog post… but suffice it to say that, if I were a Dad, I’d be pissed.
So, what’s the “toughest job”? Well, it depends on how you look at it. From where I stand, the toughest jobs are the ones you wouldn’t choose to do if you had a choice.
A job you love, many say, doesn’t feel like work at all. So even a heart surgeon who literally holds another person’s life in her hands every day might not have the toughest job in her own eyes because it’s the vocation she’s chosen.
For many parents, a job that takes you away from your children might actually be the toughest job to do. I feel extremely privileged to not have to return to work full-time since becoming a Mother. However, the fact that I am not drawing a significant income puts pressure on my husband: as the main breadwinner, we rely on his job to support our family. He doesn’t love his job, but he loves his family and wants to support us, so he (for the moment) can’t pursue a career that would bring him greater joy. In my opionion, that’s tough.
Motherhood Martyr Memes obviously strike a chord: good Moms (and Dads) often put their children’s needs above their own and make sacrifices to give their children the best chances at a happy and healthy life. We don’t often reap immediate recognition and gratitude for what we do. It’s not until our own children have children of their own that they truly recognize the amazing job we’ve done. (PS: Thanks, Mom and Dad!)
So, thanks for the props… but I politely decline the title of “Toughest Job in the World.” I’ll leave the tough stuff to the first responders, the world leaders, the millions of people scraping a meager living doing the most menial and demanding tasks that keep us in the Western world clothed and technologically-equipped. And, by the way… most of those people are Mamas (and Papas) too!