I'm forced awake before 6am everyday for another round of this thing that is life. I'm always woken by screams after a night of perhaps five broken hours of sleep. I tend to the basic necessities of two small human beings - I feed, wash and clothe them. I express my love for them. Over the next couple of hours, I lift one or both of them constantly, I reason with the larger one using negotiating skills that would make my country proud. I settle disputes, I calm anger, I kiss away pain. I make decisions for them, I make choices about the things that matter most in their lives. At the time that most London office workers sit down at their desks for the day, I drink my second cup of cold but strong coffee. No-one has said thank you. Yet all around the globe, this same scene has been played out. This is motherhood. It is not the world's hardest job.
A job listing for a director of operations by a US advertising company has gone viral this week. It asks people to apply for a 24-hour, 7 day a week role which is unpaid. It's summary reads like this:
"Rehtom Inc. is seeking a Director of Operations for its long-term development department. The primary responsibilities of the director are to provide day-to-day management, leadership and support to up-and-coming development associates."
Unsurprisingly, while thousands of people have read the job description, few have clicked through to apply. Why would they? The advert, which is of course a tongue-in-cheek look at the role of a mother, makes the job sound like hell.
I'm a mother of two, and it's isn't hell. It's hard, yes; it's tough some days, yes, it's exhausting, often thankless, confusing, difficult, frustrating - it's all of these things. But it's not the toughest job in the world.
There are more complex jobs. The astrophysicist thinks far harder than I ever do. There are more difficult jobs. The surgeon separating conjoined twins has a more complicated job to do than me. These are just obvious examples. But what of the man who will go to work tomorrow and choose which 50 per cent of his staff to make redundant? What of the men and women who every day work in jobs they might not even like, but are making decisions which affect the lives of hundreds. The policy makers, the finance directors, the editors, the soldiers, the carers, the teachers - they are never described as having 'the toughest job in the world'.
I have a baby and a toddler and they are both completely dependent on me to feed them, nurture them, and keep them safe. What I do will affect their lives. The decisions I make today will have an impact on their futures. I want them to grow up to be kind and thoughtful and generous and brave - and it is I that must teach them to be these things. It is I that must spend each day giving them the tools they need to make it in this world. It is a role that carries with it a great deal of responsibility.
Yet being a mother is a role that is filled with love and laughter and infinite joy. It cannot be the toughest job in the world, because for every sleepless night and hour spent distracting a toddler on the verge of a tantrum, there is a lifetime of holding in your arms the being you made. No-one will ever love you in the way your child will. Knowing this, I defy you to tell me that being a mother is tougher than anything else.
Being a mother is not a job. It is not something you get a P60 for and clock in and clock out for. It is not something you train for and get a degree in. It is not something that can be measured by KPIs and performance reviews. It is not something to be compared with the jobs your school's careers advisor told you about. It is not a cult-like thing you aren't really a part of until you know how exhausting/challenging/thankless it is.
It is life for many, many of us. It is something billions of women have done and will continue to do. It is tough, yes - but so are other jobs. This one just happens to be particularly special. Enjoy it.