Ok, ok, I know how late I am to the game of commenting on the "World's Toughest Job Video" thing. (If you are even later than I am, watch it here.)
But I've been mulling over this video for a couple of weeks now, and finally had to put digital pen to digital paper.
First I ought to say that I mean no disrespect to the people who loved, got verklempt over, and posted/shared this video. If it made you happy, I'm happy for you. And if you are a mum, I bet you're awesome at it, and deserved a moment of feeling appreciated.
And I get it. I get that sappy "mums are the best" videos play to our nostalgia and gratitude for our own mothers, and for current in-the-thick-of-it moms, play to our exhaustion and deep desire to be appreciated and recognized for what we do. I also get, as might sometimes be overlooked, that this video was made BY AN AD AGENCY, TO SELL A PRODUCT FOR A BUSINESS. That business? Trying to sell us cards to give to our mums for Mother's Day. So, job done. A kazillion people have watched the video, and I'm sure both agency and card-selling-company have lavished in the click-bait.
But, like other commenters before me, my initial and lasting reaction to this video is to be insulted. I'm insulted on behalf of my husband, and of dads (and grandparents etc) everywhere who do this job, too. The sainthood of mothers alone cuts those people out of the picture and devalues their work. At the same time as it insults non-mothers who parent, it does women a disservice, by perpetuating the trope that it is moms, and moms alone, who should get up in the middle of the night, who should stay home with the kids, who should put their careers on hold or on the back burner, who should cook, and clean, and raise the next generation, all with a smile on their faces. It adds to that insidious cultural narrative that kind of lets everyone else - employers, dads, tax codes, schools that still think it's a good idea to let kids out at 3 pm, when all full-time working people are, well, still at work - off the hook for their part of the job.
So, fine. I do righteous indignation well - just ask my sister for examples from the zero to twenty years period, and my husband can take over from there. But this argument has been made, and made pretty well (here's an example that touches on the "dads do it too" argument). And yet, something was still bugging me, and I couldn't put my finger on it.
And then, this morning, I figured it out.
What's missing from this message is that I LIKE my "job" of being a mum, even through all my complaints about exhaustion and being touched out and the rest of it. In fact, I love it. And I'm kind of tired of this portrayal of motherhood - of parenthood - as an endless grind that no one in their right mind would sign up to do. I'm all for realism, and for not sanitizing our lives as parents so that our facebook friends think we are straight outta Pinterest, but we seem to be, collectively, glorifying the terribleness of parenting, and applauding ourselves as selfless masochists who do a horrible job with no thanks. We seem to be taking pleasure in talking about how much we hate raising our kids.
Well, I don't hate it. There are moments when I hate it, for sure. I actually used the phrase "I'm gonna kill him" about my amazing, incredible, sweet, loving almost-four-year-old the other day (to my tiny credit, he had just let a live snail loose in his room at 10 pm, and was completely out of earshot when I said it). But I don't hate this job and I don't want to join the chorus of people who love to talk only about how hard it is.
So, in the interest of balance, here's what I think was missing from that job description. I challenge that greeting card company to find me another job that offers these perks:
- You will belly laugh every single day on this job. Unexpectedly, joyfully, and without reservation.
- Doing this job will put your life before it into new perspective - some of it will be very difficult to process, and some of it will throw the past into wonderful new light. All of it will teach you.
- Business suit? Forget that. You don't even have to shower - kind of ever.
- You will, for the first time in many years, re-learn to see the world with an infinite sense of wonder and discovery.
- You will spend more time outdoors, and making art, and singing.
- Your employer will love you more unconditionally than you've ever been loved.
Not a bad deal.
A version of this post appears on my blog.