The other day this popped up a couple of times on my Facebook feed. I've seen variations of it for years; I'm sure everyone reading has as well. I paid a bit more attention since I am after all a mom now.
Karen had just moved with her family to Alabama , so she had to go renew her driver’s license at the County Clerk’s office. She waited for almost tow [sic] hours and when she got to the front of the line she was asked by the woman recorder to state her occupation. Karen hesitated, uncertain how to classify herself.
“Ma’am what I mean is,” explained the woman recorder, “do you have a job, or are you just a …?”
“Of course I have a job,” snapped Karen. “I’m a Mom!”
...And then it goes on to say how the clerk wouldn't accept that reply, so she called herself a "Research Associate in the field of Child Development and Human Relations." I'm sure you know how the rest goes; if not, read it here.
Now, before I take this apart, I realize the objective of these stories is to show that mothers deserve recognition and respect. And I have no argument with that, at all. (I personally would use the term parent or stay-at-home parent instead of mom, but the stories never do, so I'll use the same language.) I also don't think it is important whether anyone has ever actually had this experience, because we all understand what the message is supposed to be.
But, having said that, I thought it would be interesting to discuss why I don't, personally, consider motherhood or parenting (two different things?) to be a "job."
There are some similarities to a job. Being a mom is work and it requires skills (which is one of the points the above article is trying to make). Many of these skills could indeed transfer to a job, and depending on a mother's paid work experience, she likely has skills that can transfer to parenting. Parenting, like a rewarding job, is also something you can take pride in.
But there are a lot of differences between being a mom and having a job. Here are some as they occur to me.
- No pay*
- No time off
- No vacation
- No sick leave
- No regular hours or overtime pay
- No promotions
- No boss (self-employed, kinda sorta?)
- No possibility of quitting, at least not ethically and not without causing trauma to a lot of people.
I wouldn't accept a job with those conditions. If I did, I'd get job dissatisfaction pretty quickly, and with good reason. That's my first reason for not saying parenting is my job. If my expectations of parenthood were remotely like those I have for a job, I'd burn out in a week.
* Some people might say "love" is the pay. I disagree. Love is not payment for services.
The second reason only came into focus for me yesterday after reading one of the BabyCenter.ca forums. The thread was called "Does anybody feel all alone in this?" The poster, and many women after her, went on to describe how their husbands/significant others (all male) were not interacting or bonding with their babies, and not helping much or at all with household chores. Husbands complaining if mom asked them to hold the baby so they could have a shower. Too "scared" to give the baby a bath. Handing baby back to mom immediately when she fusses.
Some women said they talked to their significant others (or in one case "threw a fit like a five year old") and then the situation improved. Others made excuses: men find it hard to interact with babies when they are too little. Their mothers raised them alone so maybe that's how they're supposed to raise children. Husband works full time at a challenging job so he thinks his time at home is to relax, and maybe that's reasonable. He can't be expected to understand because he didn't give birth to the baby. And oh, I'm a stay at home parent so isn't parenting my "job?"
I don't offend easily, really I don't, but reading that thread made me SO ANGRY.
This is the biggest reason I don't say that being a mom is "my job." Despite all the cute job titles you can create, calling motherhood a job is reinforcing the whole outdated "separate spheres" concept of Dad goes to work, Mom does all the childcare/household work (whether or not she is working outside the home.) If I thought that notion was long abandoned the BabyCentre discussion sure proved me wrong.
I don't believe there is any one right way to parent. By all means divide up the domestic chores any way that works for you. But communicate effectively so that you know both partners are happy, and that one of them is not constantly crying/anxious/unable to take an uninterrupted shower/unable to leave the baby with partner EVER. Because if anything like that is happening you do not have a happy home or a healthy relationship. Some families will have a stay at home parent, for a long or short time. It might be fair for the stay at home parent to do more or most of the domestic tasks. But becoming a parent is a bigger commitment than any job, and it is a shared commitment between both parents. No excuses.
What do you think? Am I missing anything here?