I completely agree that motherhood is hard. There aren’t many jobs where the employee worries that she may have scarred someone for life by having a bad day. Except for surgeons but at least they don’t have to see the person everyday for the first 18 years. Parenting is also 24-7 for most people. Even when we aren’t with our kids, we are on-call for them. No job beyond the presidency seems that constant, and we don’t let presidents stay on for more than 8 years. We’re moms forever.
But is motherhood really the hardEST job? Most jobs don’t let employees put the customers to bed early because they’re cranky. And when my day is heading in that direction, I have many other tricks that aren’t exactly employer-friendly. I can put my sweatpants on, turn on the TV, order pizza and chase my kids around the house with a broom. All of these are frowned upon in most job settings except for the pizza part, but I’d have to buy for 30-3000 people rather than 4 so it’s just not practical for every bad day.
I believe that by calling motherhood the hardest job, we are creating a competition of sorts between women with children and women without children and between women and men.
I have many childless friends who work hard. My husband works hard. And yes, there days when, head-to-head, I’d beat all of them in a craptastic crap-off of a day. And I hate those days. I’d rather lose the competition. The days motherhood isn’t harder are the best days.
I don’t want motherhood to be the hardest job.
Beyond the competitive nature of the superlative, to be the hardest implies some sort of martyrdom that I am unwilling to participate in. It is full of pride and ego. I am the best. I am the worst. I work the hardest. They are all the same. They are about being front and center or being removed or being above. Superlatives and pride are about being more different and more important than anyone else in the room. I don’t think being a mom is about being above everyone else.
I wish to be a mother among mothers, a parent among parents, a woman among women, a person among people.
Motherhood is hard in all the best ways any vocation or avocation (depending on one’s point of view) can be, but calling it the hardest job in the world is making me more than I am and in reality, making my parenting worse. Motherhood is about facing my fears, humiliations, and character flaws and demanding better of myself. Motherhood is also about letting go, giving in, and accepting that I am just another human being doing the best I can do.
I refuse to be special because I chose to be a mother. I will not be in competition with the world or with myself. I would appreciate support and some recognition for what I do, which makes me just like every human being on Earth.
Pedestals are lonely places. I’d rather be in the middle of humanity. Struggling. Hoping. Living. Loving. Mothering.
A friend wrote about how we should stop saying motherhood is the hardest job in the world, and I couldn’t stop thinking about why that phrase bothers me so much. Thank you, Amy, for inspiring me to write it out.