Parents, grandparents, family, teachers, politicians. Everyone is constantly talking about parenting. And, as with most major aspects of humanity, there are at least two sides to every parenting technique. Breast vs. Bottle; Cry-It-Out vs. Attachment Parenting; Spanking vs. Time-Out. The list could go on forever. And these debates are to be expected. They get out of hand far too often, but they can also be healthy and informative outlets.
On the other hand, I’ve noticed a disturbing major trend between parents and non-parents agreeing less and disagreeing more. And while both parties are surely to blame, I can’t help but think that many of parents’ habits are helping fuel this particular fire — specifically the amount of complaining they do, or support. I’m not exactly sure when this parent-pity-party started, but it’s driving me nuts.
Recently this video went viral. In short, a company put up a job listing and the video is them interviewing potential employees. This job is considered the “Toughest Job in the World,” and the interviewer lists all kinds of impossibly demanding requirements to be hired, while the interviewees slowly but surely start to consider the fact that this man/company is certifiably insane. If you have already seen the video (or are watching it now, courtesy of the link provided), you know the surprise ending (or you may have figured it out already), but for the sake of their point and my point, I’ll save that for later.
The interview goes like this: the “company rep” starts off by telling those applying that this isn’t an ordinary job, it is “probably the most important job.” He explains that the title is “Director of Operations, but it’s really kinda so much more than that.” He then goes on to list the “extensive” requirements, including (but not limited to):
- “Must be able to work standing up most, or really all, of the time.”
- “135 hours to unlimited hours a week; it’s basically 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.”
- “We’re really looking for someone that might have a degree in medicine, in finance, and in the culinary arts.”
- “Must be able to wear several hats.”
- “If you had a life, we’d ask you to sort of give that life up.”
- “No time to sleep.”
- “The meaningful connections that you make and the feeling that you get from really helping your associate are immeasurable.”
- “The position is going to pay absolutely nothing.”
By now you’re either thinking that whoever made up, and interviewed for, this job are complete nut-jobs, or you’ve figured out the secret catch.
That secret catch is that this “job” is not a “real job”; this company is not actually hiring anyone. They are simply describing mothers. Moms. The interviewer then goes on to say “And they meet every requirement, don’t they?” Everyone who interviewed gets all teary-eyed and addresses an emotional shout out to their own mothers about how truly amazing and unbelievable and loved they are. We also find out that this heart-wrenching video is actually an ad; a commercial for a greeting card company reminding you to fork out your money to buy one of their cards for your mother on Mother’s Day. Those sneaky bastards! (Though, every saddest/happiest/angriest/most stunning/toughest/realest/etc. video is now actually an ad with some hidden agenda, isn’t it? Makes you wonder about the validity behind their points, right? Oh, you’re too busy weeping? I’ll wait.)
I realize this is going a little overboard, but I’m going to dissect this argument nearly point-by-point. Many of the mothers I have spoken to who have opposing views have told me I’m taking it too literally and that often they feel as if the requirements are true, and kind of sum of their feelings as “It’s the thought that counts.” I disagree. I think this video could have made an equally strong point and still sent an amazing message without exaggerating every single thing. I also understand that parenthood is a completely different experience for every individual parent, however, this ad is obviously geared toward the “normal” mother, so using generalizations is a must.
1. “Must be able to work standing up most, or really all, of the time.”
They should have left it at most of the time. I would have been okay with that. The average parent does not stand all of the time. Some days they may. Sometimes it may feel like they do. But really, they don’t. It’s as simple as that. The interviewer was on point with “most of the time,” but of course that’s not heart-wrenching enough.
2. “Constantly on your feet, constantly bending over, constantly exerting yourself, high level of stamina.”
I can actually agree with this one. Not all parents fit this qualification; many plop themselves in front of the TV all day or are lucky enough to have children who don’t mind them taking much-needed breaks. But “constantly” is not “every single second,” so I think this is a pretty suitable requirement.
3. “135 hours to unlimited hours a week; it’s basically 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.”
4. “There are no breaks available.”
15. “All-encompassing, 365 days a year.”
This is where it really gets me. As a parent, or at least a good parent, you are on call 24/7. You are a parent 24/7. You care about your children 24/7, and you think about them almost as much (admit it, there are times that you are not daydreaming about your perfect child). So, yes, parenthood is, in a way, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, 365 days a year, every year. Even February 29th on both leap-year and non-leap-year.
However, you are not engaging in the other requirements every second of every day. Even the busiest, most involved parents get slight breaks. It may feel like you get no breaks, and there may be a period of time when you’re parenting every second, but you are not waiting hand and foot on your child every moment of their, or your, entire life.
5. “You can have lunch, but only when the ‘associate’ is done eating their lunch.”
This completely depends on the age of the child. Most new mothers barely eat, eat cold food, or have at least half of their food stolen from them. I know plenty of mothers who bring food into the bathroom so they can eat in peace, even though they never even get to go to the bathroom in peace. But again, this is not all the time. If you are a parent, especially of an older child, can you seriously tell me you’ve never, not once, enjoyed a meal to yourself, on your own time? I will say that I understand where this one is coming from, so I’ll give it a kind-of-pass.
6. “Excellent negotiation and interpersonal skills.”
I’ll give this one a pass as well. I could go on a rant about how this is also not a requirement of being a parent, as many people feel like they have no idea what they are doing and a decent amount do not actually have these skills, and it shows. But, when applied to the general parent and the average child, yes, I’ll give them this one.
7. “We’re really looking for someone that might have a degree in medicine, in finance, and in the culinary arts.”
(I won’t even mention that it should be “someone who” . . .)
Oh I cannot even explain how much this one irks me. Parents, especially stay-at-home parents, often refer to themselves as “a doctor, a banker, a cook, etc. etc.” I understand that. We do play doctor when our child gets sick or hurt, but most of us take them to an actual doctor when it’s something we, without a degree in medicine, cannot handle on our own.
One of my main problems with this video is how it refers to “moms” and not “parents” or “caregivers”. Fathers are not mentioned, so this ad implies that it is buying into the stereotypical notion that all mothers tend to the children and home while the fathers go out, work, and provide financially for the family. Yes, this tends to happen more often than not, but if the video is assuming that notion, then the father would typically deal with the finances. Or, is this video directed at single mothers, but felt it would be too politically incorrect to state so?
Another common stereotype is that children hate their mother’s cooking. If you’re a mom like me, most meals are microwavable. It doesn’t take a culinary degree to be able to whip up a few meals a day. Children, more often than not, don’t expect something that would come from a five-star restaurant, but actually prefer the cheapest, easiest thing available. Providing food for your children is a requirement. Being an amazing chef is not.
8. “Must be able to wear several hats.”
This one is adorable, and I’m glad they threw something cute in there. I am sad that it’s the only cute thing, though.
9. “The ‘associate’ needs constant attention.”
Is this directed towards new mothers? It’s the only thing that really makes sense. But there’s that word “constant” again so I’ll let them slide on this one as well. (Yes, I am well-aware that the definition of “constant” is “always”. However, our society uses it more-so to mean “a lot,” or “most of the time”.
Children need an incredible amount of attention. But, don’t forget, for your own sanity and theirs, it’s good to give yourself and your children some alone time. It’s okay to veg out in front of the TV every now and then to get a little break, and encourage your children to use their imaginations and engage in healthy self-play.
10. “Sometimes [you’ll] have to stay up with an associate throughout the night.”
Yes. Yes, yes, a thousand times yes. Key word = sometimes. If they used this tactic throughout the entire video, I wouldn’t be writing this post right now. That is they key to parenting = most (see what I did there?) things are sometimes, or usually, or any other word that does not mean every single second of your life.
11. “Being able to work in a chaotic environment.”
Another yes. Congratulations, over-emphasizing video – we’re beginning to agree. But remember, again, it’s not chaotic all the time.
12. “If you had a life, we’d ask you to sort of give that life up.”
At first, this one made steam come out of my ears. Then I realized the key words — sort of. So, I’ll give them this one as well. But, I’m still going to explain why I was so mad in the first place, because what’s the point if I don’t babble on endlessly?
One of my least favorite things about the conception of parenthood is that you have to “give up your life.” This is not true whatsoever. You change your priorities, which in turn changes your life. You eliminate some things from your life, yes. But you don’t give things up. You trade them. You don’t have no life, you have a different life. One that can, and should, be just as fulfilling as anything else you would be doing if you didn’t have kids.
Having children is not a death sentence on your career, or your partying, or your me-time, or your passions, or your laziness even. If you want these things bad enough, you will find a way to incorporate them into your parenthood. If you can’t, then you’re not giving them up, you’re realizing they weren’t that important in the first place. Parenthood doesn’t make you give up anything — you, and only you, are responsible for your own happiness, what you hold on to, and what you don’t.
13. “No vacations. In fact, Thanksgiving, Christmas, New Year’s, and holidays, the workload is going to go up, and we demand that. With a happy disposition.”
None. Zero. Zip. No vacations, no exceptions. You know, except that family vacation most families take. I would agree with this more if it said “You must bring your associate along on vacations.” But even then, most parents find the time and/or money to do a little something for themselves every now and then. Not all, no, and you certainly can never vacation from being a loving, caring parent. But usually, you will have at least one vacation in your life.
I’m not really sure how I feel about the “workload going up” on holidays. Yes, we usually have to do a lot for our children, and more-so on holidays. But other relatives never help out? There’s never a holiday when we get to “work” less, or even the same amount? Most people in general work less, but do more on holidays, unless they are hermits, much like myself.
I can tell you in my personal situation, Christmas is mayhem. So yes, I do a lot on Christmas, but that’s my decision. My son doesn’t need me to do everything I do. I choose to do it. He would be just as happy without it. Thanksgiving is a lazy time — typically I don’t have work or school, and we order out and lounge around. No more work there. For New Year’s, my mother tends to take the boy to one of her parties, and I veg around and celebrate on my own terms. Less work there.
This is another everyone-is-different situation. But no, not all holidays are required, nor are you required to do extra “work” every single holiday. You choose to.
And “happy disposition”? Off the top of your head, how many parents get so stressed around the holidays that it’s better to not even whisper their name ‘less they use their super-hearing, think you want something, then use their super-speed to get to you before you can blink and their super-strength to rip your head off?
Here’s the key: when we look happy, it’s because we’re happy. Our children’s love and laughter and happiness make us happy. We don’t have to fake it, it comes naturally.
14. “No time to sleep.”
Really? Come on now. They couldn’t have said “There will be periods when you will get little to no sleep”? People cannot survive if they get no sleep, ever. There is time to sleep. It is simply not all the time. I know plenty of non-parents who work crazy jobs and long hours and get less sleep than most parents.
16. “The meaningful connections that you make and the feeling that you get from really helping your associate are immeasurable.”
I wish they would have added this after the next one. Something like, “There is no cash money payment — in fact, you will have to spend money on your associate — but [insert # 16 here].” Other than the placement, this is the most important part of parenthood, in my opinion. A+
17. “The position is going to pay absolutely nothing.”
Except for those immeasurable connections and feelings.
Yes, I’m sure there are many parents who have it worse than others. I’m sure there are parents who fit many of these requirements. But I cannot agree that “Motherhood is the toughest job.”
I think it would be much harder to want, with everything in you, to conceive and not be able to.
I think being a janitor would be harder.
I think it would be harder to have a labor-intensive job with a jerk boss.
Hell, I think being President of the United States would be more difficult.
Parenting is, in my opinion, the most important job. We are literally responsible for other human beings. We are raising future generations. So of course it is important. But if it were the hardest, would billions of other people be able to do the same thing?
Parenthood is hard. Very hard. But it is also wonderful in more ways than it is not. And if we ever want to end this war between parents and non-parents, we have to start being truthful. We have to acknowledge that everyone has hard times and great times. Everyone’s work is hard, because life is hard. And everyone’s work is wonderful, because life is wonderful.
We need to stop wallowing in self-pity about our choice to become parents. We also need to stop acting like parenting is all rainbows and unicorns. Being a parent is real, it is honest, it is truth. So why don’t we treat it with the dignity it deserves and tell its truth? Parenthood makes us want to curl up in a ball for the rest of our lives, but nothing else has made us happier.
We should be able to complain on Facebook about the bad days, and share the good. There is no need to portray parenthood as all-bad or all-good. If we insist on sharing, we must share the truth. And the truth is that we are typical people doing a typical, incredibly important, hard but not the hardest, job.
We are no worse off than non-parents, and we are not happier. We simply differ.
(Parent-Pity-Parties are an ongoing theme in this blog. Click to read Part Two: “[Hardly] A Thankless Job”.)