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Thursday, January 27, 2011

Being a Mother is Easy

Being a mother is easy.  That's what this comedian tells me, and he would know.

(Bill Burr on being a mother.  Caution - adult language.)

I admit, I laughed out loud at this bit.  It's true, in many ways, mothers have it easy.  When we stay at home, we do have the option of staying in our pajamas.  We can put in a DVD and give ourselves (at least a three-minute) break.  We play a lot of hide and seek, and we make many popsicle-stick houses.  In a sense, we are, indeed, living the dream.

And we do pat ourselves on the back, a lot.  We do complain about how difficult our jobs are.  And no one corrects us.  But here's where the fault lies in Burr's argument - no one corrects us not because they want to get laid.  No one corrects us because we are right.

Our jobs as mothers are difficult.  The difficulty lies not in the physical things we have to do, not in the day-to-day tasks we need to achieve, but in all the little things that society does not take into account.  It's difficult to keep kids happy without spoiling them.  It is difficult to teach them how to interact with others.  It is difficult to show them when to respect others and when to stand up for themselves.  Life has so many subtleties that we deal with minute by minute, trained to overcome each tiny obstacle without even thinking about it.  As mothers, we have to go back and study these molehills.  We have to make mountains of them.  We have to dissect each portion of each moment to understand the meaning behind our decisions and impart that reason to our children, so that they do not live life by rote because someone told them to, but they live life with an intense understanding of who they are, how they operate, and why they feel the way they do.  This is difficult.

There is an often-overlooked distinction here, as well.  Perhaps being a mother is not so difficult as it is important.  Society conflates difficulty with importance.  For instance, a miner's job is both difficult and important.  A roofer's job is both difficult and important.  Therefore anything that is difficult must be important.  Anything that is important must be difficult.  And the levels of this difficulty or this importance must be the same.  We fail to see the shades of intensity of each task in the overall picture.

I would argue that a miner's job is more difficult than a mother's, that a roofer's job is more difficult than a mother's.  I would argue that a mother's job is more important, in the big scheme of things, than a roofer's or a miner's.  For each roofer and each miner completes a task of immediate need.  By contrast, each mother must shape a child day in and day out, so that banded together, those children become the world's next roofers and miners and professors and lawyers.  So that as a whole, those children better our society and our planet.  So that individually our children have the inner tools to succeed not only for themselves in each immediate battle, not only to fix each immediate need, but to create a better world for their children after them.  Mothers are shaping the future.  Mothers are changing the world.  While day by day that might not be a difficult task, year by year it is the most important job.

So when Oprah listed off that woman's accomplishments (a hefty list, I might add), and she saved mother for last, describing it as the most difficult job on the planet, the comedian was right to poke fun.  It is far from the most difficult job on the planet.  But the meaning behind Oprah's words rings true.  What Oprah meant was that motherhood is the most important job on the planet. I, for one, agree.

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  1. What makes the job difficult, in my experience, is that there is absolutely no time off for it. My "mother" hat never comes off.
    I wake up in the morning, and take care of children. I go to sleep at night (and wake up in the night many times), taking care of children. Throughout the day, I am taking care of the children.
    If I leave the house without my children, it is usually to take care of a task that is associated with being a mom (grocery shopping, clothes shopping, returning library books, filling prescriptions). Even then, I could be called back at any point to take care of my children.
    If I leave the house for myself, to take care of me, that is true, again. At all points in time there are invisible lines on me that tie me to my children. Silken apron strings, if you will.

    It doesn't end. I am on duty 24 hours of the day, 365 days a year. Sometimes it's active duty, sometimes I share the duty, and sometimes it's on call, but I'm always on.

  2. It isn't difficult, working construction 10 hours a day or in a coal mine is difficult. It isn't easy by any means, but to think it is the "hardest job in the world" or even remotely close to some of the male dominated jobs is just silly. I grew up in a house with a mother who babysat, I've seen the worst taking care of kids all day can be and it isn't close to a real job.

  3. Imagine you were expected to work 8-10 hours a day, make the commute, come home and immediately begin your shift taking care of the kids. Imagine also that your husband had the legal power to leave you for any reason at any time taking your children and half of your shit including your house with him, so you also have to kiss his ass 24/7...and so many women wonder why so few men are willing to commit and have kids nowadays.

    No doubt my mom was a great mom and poured her heart and soul into raising her children. That being said, my dad literally slaved away every moment and ounce of energy he had raising our family...and a dvd giving you a '3-minute break?' Yeah right. You can park 9 out of 10 kids in front of an xbox nowadays and the only time you'll hear a peep out of them all day long is when they get hungry. Not saying that's the right way to do it, but how many moms are really taking their kids to the museum or getting outside and playing with them regularly?

    Try having a job (a real one) AND being a mom, then I'll listen to your complaints.



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