Last week’s post on Why all the Guilt? generated this fascinating snippet in a reader’s comment: “My job is, first and foremost, as a mother.”
I’ve heard this often. In fact, it seems to be a pretty universal mantra.
At the risk of inspiring you to send hate mail containing lethal explosives, I’d like to state my opinion on this (*dives under the desk and prepares for an onslaught of shrapnel*): Being a mother is work, but not a job.
Disclaimer: This is my personal opinion. I’m not suggesting it should be yours. On the other hand, I do think that language and mantras of this sort – buzz words, phrases we assimilate and pass along to others knowingly or not – have a tremendous impact on our thinking and how we define ourselves. So please, hold those detonators for a moment and kindly, generously, hear me out:
We all know that being a parent is work. Family life is work. Twenty-four-seven, year round. But the difference between this work and a “job,” I think, begins with the fact that “jobs” usually advance some sort of an agenda. They contribute to the achievement of specific goals.
The work of raising a family, on the other hand – our instinctive role as parents – comes from an amorphous place linked directly to our essence, our existence. It consumes and defines us even when we’re separated from our children. It flows through our veins. It has no end point and contains no promise of achievement.
To call this a “job” is a dangerous simplification. In doing so, we run the risk of viewing our children, their environments and their lives as our “projects.” Our goals. And of feeling that we must develop them, shape them and deliver them to the world as a product we naturally want to polish and perfect. But they’re not, and in the end, there’s painfully little about them that we truly determine. This notion, I believe, lies at the root of what author and blogger Judith Warner has described as the Perfect Madness of modern motherhood.
It also brings us right back to guilt – and beyond it, to something far more crippling: the loss of self-esteem that comes from working on a project that we just can’t control.
Okay. Go ahead. Throw those bombs.