Last week a comedian published a controversial article about motherhood. (This particular comedian always manages to post mother-bashing articles on the days I feel like crap, so I’m not going to give her the respect of mentioning her name. It’s petty, but makes me feel better). Her rather jumbled click bait article argued that ‘Motherhood is not the most important job in the world’ and that ‘it’s not even a job’.
You know, somewhere in the confusion of words, she had some valid points. It is a rather tired slogan which could be widened to include fathers and step parents and others who parent our children. It’s a throw away statement which can hurt when you’re going through fertility issues. But the feel of her article was more about pushing the ideas that feminist women should be working outside the house and that mothering isn’t really that hard at all.
I’ve read a couple of excellent rebuttals to her article (including the tweets of a friend with a 2 week old . . . someone who has worked as an engineer, run an independent press and started a PhD at the same time) but now I’ve had time to get back into a good head space (plus some sleep) my thoughts have turned more to the notion of ‘Important’ jobs.
A traditional view of ‘important’ jobs turns up the usual suspects – surgeons and airline pilots. (It probably comes as little surprise that these are traditional jobs held by men.) But, to be honest, the surgeon isn’t that important to me until I’m lying on the operating table (and a couple of them have seemed more interested in where they’re going to leave my scar than the work under the skin!) Airline pilots are wonderful when I’m flying, but I’ve seen enough Air Crash Investigation to know they really only become important on take off, landings and when something goes wrong.
The truth is, jobs become important to us when we’re invested in them. The special care nurses looking after my son after his birth had the single most important job in the world to me at that time. When a near by bridge was damaged by the 2011 floods, the engineers designing the new one were terribly important to stop the massive traffic jams. And when I had pregnancy cravings, the workers at MacDonalds were of extreme importance to me!
When a parent is the primary carer of a child, it is probably the most important job in the life of the parent and the child. At the moment, I see myself having four jobs – mother and carer of Squirm, looking after the house, blogger, and teacher on leave (I still keep up my professional reading in that job). Out of those four jobs, being a mother is the most important to me. I’m on call, on my own, from 6.15am to 6.30pm from Monday to Friday. Our days are planned, to a certain extent, around what Squirm needs. It may not always be the most important job in my life, but at the moment it is, and I’m okay with that.
This particular article is part of a bigger problem at the moment. There’s an awful lot of internet power in being offensive to sections of the community and being offensive about mothers is a solid gold pass to getting a lot of clicks. You don’t get as much attention from being inclusive, from acknowledging that different people have different priorities, and that slogans will fit for some people and not fit for others. And you can’t promote your latest show or book without lots of clicks, so people like this will continue to do it. But as thoughtful people we can do something. We can acknowledge that different people want different things from life. We can support people in what they want to do. We can campaign for good childcare and offer support to those who do want to stay at home. We can refuse to let someone like this make us feel bad so that she can make more money.
We can decide who’s important in our own worlds.