“There’s no doubt that parenting — mothering especially — is hard work. There’s a certain look that moms get that’s difficult to describe … all I know is that in the same way I can spot a heroin addict on the street, I can spot a mom. Caring for children leaves you haggard. (Believe me, I know — the under-eye circles I used to get after too many cocktails are now permanent fixtures on my face.) So I will not argue when someone says that mothering is hard.
But let’s be honest — it’s not the hardest.”
And I have to admit, I found it intriguing, simply because I’ve wondered it myself.
The moment I became a mother–the moment I looked down at those two lines–my entire life shifted around my idea of myself as a mother. It became my identity, and in some ways, my livelihood, as I’ve worked as an advocate for young mothers, writing and speaking about my experience.
But there are definitely days when I wonder if I have it all right. Am I wrong in thinking, talking, and writing so much about my identity as a mother? Should I let it define me so much? After all, I’m not really unique in the fact that I’m a mom….a lot of people are.
On one hand, of course I love my motherhood and of course, I’m proud of being a mom and all it entails. But on the other, we have an entire culture built up around motherhood–which brings a lot of pressure, expectations and guilt along with it.
What if motherhood was simply another part of us instead of the all-consuming identity-changing occurrence it seems to be now?
Sometimes, especially when I encounter certain families at the hospital, I think about the fact that (unlike the rigorous adoption process) there are no prerequisites, no guidelines, no hoops to jump through to get pregnant. No one deems you ready to become a parent. Almost anyone can go through the process of having a baby.
Almost anyone can become a “mom.” And a lot of people to do. It is, after all, literally, what makes the world go round, right? So it can’t be all that hard, right?
“The truth is, we can simultaneously love parenting, find it fulfilling and valuable, while also recognizing that the minutiae of our mothering isn’t as critical as society would have us believe. We can love our children without believing the world revolves around them. We can derive pleasure from caretaking without thinking it’s the most important thing we’ll ever do or the biggest contribution we’ll make to society. And we can be exhausted, overworked moms while still recognizing that there are plenty of other jobs that are harder, and yes, even more important. Because when we see parenting for what it is — a relationship, not a job — we can free ourselves from the expectations and the stifling standards that motherhood-as- employment demands.”
It’s an interesting thought. And in some small way, I agree that maybe we shouldn’t put so much emphasis on ourselves as moms. That maybe if we could all relax a little bit and just see mothering for the natural part of life that it is, that maybe the world would adapt a little to moms and their kiddos.
I’d have to say though, on the job front? I disagree with Jessica. Yes, motherhood is a relationship, but I also 100% think that it is a job. Maybe it’s a job that a lot of people do, yes, but I don’t think that devalues its importance. I think having the mentality that “Oh, it’s just a relationship” with my kids underwrites the importance of thoughtful parenting and trying your best to grow and nurture your children as a mother.
Motherhood is a unique job simply in the fact that it’s such a solitary day-to-day pursuit. Yes, we talk about being a mom with other moms, and yes we read about it, and yes, some of us write about it. But when it comes right down to it, when you’re at home alone with your kids day in and day out, it’s just you. No one else is there observing you, taking notes, making sure you’re hitting your competencies right.
Even as a nurse, when I’ve been in life-threatening, horrible emergency situations, I’ve never been alone. There’s always a team to back me up and someone who knows what to do even if I don’t.
Being a mom isn’t always like that. There’s no one here with me to tell me how to keep my daughter from purposefully peeing her pants or take the reins when my four-year old tries to hit me or give me a lunch break when the baby won’t take a nap. And unlike a lot of jobs, when your work ends for the day and you get a chance to start fresh the next, motherhood keeps building and your kids keep growing and you hope you aren’t screwing them up royally for life.
And while I won’t call it the hardest job on the planet, I will say that I think being a mom is a job. And just like any other job, it does take time and practice and growth to do well. I think a lot of people can become parents.
But as for me?
I’ll keep trying to earn my keep as a mother, thank you very much.