By Amy L. Hatch
The fight for women’s rights and equality in the workplace have created opportunities even my generation’s mothers could never have imagined.
But those battles may have had an unintended side effect, may have created a group of walking wounded who move among us wearing clothing stained with spit-up, a baby sling and under-eye bags: The professional mother.
The Wall Street Journal recently published a story about well-known feminist Jessica Valenti, author of Why Have Kids: A New Mom Explores The Truth About Parenting and Happiness. The story explores a startling premise: That being a mother is not a job.
The Journal piece relates this concept to the lack of government spending and public policy regarding motherhood and family life. But for me, this was a revelation of a different sort. I didn’t even finish the article—the idea stopped me dead in my tracks.
How many of us approach our parenthood with the same zeal we brought to our workplace? How many of us, even those of us who choose to stay home with our kids, internalize the messages that pressure us to professionalize our parenthood?
It explains so much about the way our culture views childhood, parenting and even the way we choose to talk about the subject of child-rearing. There are manuals. There are spreadsheets of bowel movements and feedings. There are consultants to teach us how to breastfeed—and even services that take us by the hand and show us what instruments, gear and tools are necessary to add to our baby registry.
This? Is madness.
It’s time to stop looking at parenthood as a job. We even talk about it that way: “Raising my kids is the most important job I will ever have.” We are not creating tiny, walking Power Point presentations. We are developing relationships, arguably the most important relationships, we will ever have and maybe, just maybe, treating it like a job undermines that intimate bond.
I’m guilty of approaching parenting as a job. I evaluate my performance. I look for metrics (report cards, teacher conferences, well-baby doctor visits). I put myself on probation when I feel I’ve failed in some way.
If only I could get demoted—just kidding.
Think about it. This could explain so much about how we judge other moms, how we glom on and adhere to philosophies that put forth specific measurements for how good of a parent you are, how we aspire to standards that can never be reached because we are, after all, human beings.
We’re not household CEOs. We’re not domestic managers.
We’re moms. And I’m OK with that. Are you?