One of my favorite stand up comics Bill Burr has a bit that pokes fun at Oprah for saying on her show, “being a mom is the most difficult job on the planet.” He rails against this, citing coal miners and roofers as examples of jobs that just might be harder (and does so in a hilarious way). Hard to argue with that reasoning. He goes on to say that any job you can do in your pajamas is not a difficult job. Do yourself a favor and google it to hear the whole bit. Trust me, you will laugh.
I heard this bit several years ago before I became a mother. And it’s just as funny now as it was then. Because here’s the thing (the way I see it): it just doesn’t seem as hard as everyone says it is.
Now let me qualify this. It’s only been 9 months since my daughter was born. I left my job right before she was born and have been home taking care of her since then. You may be thinking “What?!? You’ve been a mother for 9 months and you think you know what it’s like? You don’t know sh**.”
You have a point.
Others have said, more politely of course, “it may seem easy right now, but just you wait.”
I understand that it hasn’t been that long. And I know I’m in a unique position being able to stay home for a year or two to be with her. But more to the point – and what hopefully illustrates my position – is that I’ve had hard jobs before. Many of them. And “hard” doesn’t even cover it. As many 40-somethings who have been working their whole lives can attest, it IS a jungle out there and the working world, regardless of the field, will steal your soul and crush your dreams. And that’s assuming it doesn’t first put you in early grave from a stress-induced heart attack.
Motherhood is, well, not that. Compared to my last job in particular, it is a walk in the park. A power-walk, let’s say.
I come from a 20-year career of working in the field of developmental disabilities. I have seen some crazy stuff and worked with some of the most challenging people out there. And that’s just their parents and families. The clients themselves were a blast, but the constraints of the system coupled with the completely unreasonable constituents and state government executive management (aka the purveyors of evil) with whom it was mandatory to work was pretty much untenable. Upon getting pregnant, my blood pressure got dangerously high and I had to quit for the safety of myself and the baby. That, and I thought I might show up to work with an Uzi if I didn’t quit as soon as it was humanly possible. After liquidating a rather large asset, we were able to make it work.
Let me tell you; coming directly from the mouth of an older mom (who had her 1st and only at age 43), it is absolutely better, easier, and highly preferable to most day jobs. Hands down. Any day of the week.
I also have the fortune of having a dedicated partner and am not doing this as a single mother. I am forever in awe of the women who manage to make that happen and raise those kids to be anything other than strippers or drug dealers. They are amazing and truly do deserve awards for that miraculous feat. I understand that I’m also in the unique position of being able to afford a couple years of stay-at-home mommyhood which is a great luxury. But despite these favorable circumstances, and as any mother living in a privileged nation, I whole-heartedly think we have a responsibility to take a thorough inventory of our blessings and remind ourselves of how grateful we should be on a daily basis. Especially those of us in the enviable position of getting to stay at home to raise our little ones.
It may be that I look back on this article 10 years from now and laugh at my naivete. I might marvel at the audacity I had to write these words. But in this moment, I can’t help but think to myself, why does everyone talk about this as if it were strenuous and even grueling? Perhaps those folks have never had the stressful, mind-f***ing jobs that I – and many others my age – have had over the years.
Feeling the way I do is such a relief. I’m so glad I didn’t get pregnant at 22 instead of 42. I’ll just chalk this one up as one more reason it pays to become a mother later in life.
We shouldn’t think of motherhood as a job, but rather as a career. After all, you’ll be doing this well into retirement. As with any career, there are skills that must be honed and failures from which to learn. We can be the CEO of the family. And as such, there are things we can outsource to make our lives easier (see The Four Hour Work Week by Tim Ferris). There are tasks we can automate and much delegation that can be done to the benefit of all involved. Plus, kids need responsibilities in the household to avoid growing up as spoiled brats (see Parenting with Love and Logic by Jim Fay). And please do enlist your partner to do some heavy lifting (meaning you may have to let go of worrying that he’s loading the dishwasher incorrectly).
So why not take a few things off your plate. Motherhood could be a lot more enjoyable.
In a final word, yes, it is difficult and yes, it is challenging.
But it sure as hell beats coal-mining.