It's not always pretty, but it gets the job done.

It's not always pretty, but it gets the job done.

Need to tame a fly hair? Mom spit. Crumbs stuck to face from recent snack? Mom spit. Fix a squeaky door hinge or glue a toy piece back on with it. It's powerful stuff, that mom spit. It can even show how much you care.

Friday, April 27, 2012

Fanning the Flame of Motherhood

“The Mommy Wars” are dying down and I think we can all say “thank goodness!”  I don’t intend to add any fuel to a dying flame, but rather offer a different perspective, a different spot to stand around the glowing warm embers of the bonfire.  It’s staring into the embers that life’s true mysteries seem to be solved, or if not that, then at least the shadows in the red coals that eerily resemble Patrick Stewart.  And the ebb and flow of the glow suggests it’s alive and breathing, about to whisper “Make it so.”

 I digress.

A different perspective.  Move to another side of the flame and you can see something else.

You can see what I see.  What I see is this:  motherhood should not be called a job.  It should not be called work.

Crap, was that an ember that just flew past my head and is threatening to catch another pile of dead branches and leaves on fire?

It seems to me that equating being a mommy to a job was a metaphor that was once used to allow some perspective on a mom’s activities in raising children.  This mom was only trying to place her explanation in a context that the listener could comprehend.  The conversation might have gone something like this:

Listener: “I don’t understand.  What is so hard about being a mom?  It can’t be nearly as hard as my 9-5 job in an office?”

Mom:  “It’s wiping runny noses, and cleaning dirty butts.”

Listener:  “I 'clean dirty butts’ on occasion.  Just not literally, you know…cause that would be gross.  But that’s really not that hard.”

Mom:  “It’s a day filled with ‘yes’ and ‘no’ and ‘stop doing that right now or you’re going to hurt yourself’.”

Listener:  “My employees are always doing crap that they shouldn’t.”

Mom:  “It’s constantly worrying whether or not I’m providing enough structure, or too much structure, or giving enough praise, or too much praise, or teaching them enough ABC’s and 123’s or putting too much pressure on them to learn this stuff too early.  It’s a lot of pressure and it’s tiresome.”

Listener:  “Sounds similar…”

Mom:  “It’s being on call at a moments notice, even when you’re in the middle of a really important task.  It’s never getting everything done that you want done.”

Listener:  “I can relate.”

Mom:  “So you could say being a mom is a lot like your job.  It’s like having a job.  A job that’s 24/7.  You only work 9-5.”

Listener:  “Crap.  I get it.  Being a mom is the hardest job in the world!  You’re amazing and incredible and a model for all mother’s!  We should celebrate the amazing-ness that is mother’s!”

And that’s how Mother’s Day was created.

Okay.  Not really.  Moving on.

I don’t view being a mother as my job.  Maybe it’s easier for some women to cope with the negatives of being a mother by giving it that label.  A job label infers it’s something you have to do in order to survive.  A job label tells the world you’re working for someone, whether it be your boss or the customers of your self-owned business.  A job carries some negative connotation with it. 

A job label also tacks on a bit of authority and maturity to the job holder.  If that person has a job, then they must be mature enough to have one.  They must be responsible, right?  If I call my mothering a job, then others can assume I am qualified to be a mother even though I more often than not feel I am the furthest from being qualified.

Yes, there are similarities in the “tasks”, worries, joys, and trials of having a job and being a mommy.  However, I fear that if we continue excepting the label of job for motherhood, regulations and strict guidelines are going to start popping up to “guarantee equal treatment of mother’s working hard at mothering”.  I will be required to take 2 weeks a year “vacation” from being a mother.  But by requiring this, it’ll have to be tracked to make sure it’s happening.  If it’s tracked then I have to request it.  So then I’m only allowed to be away from my child when it’s approved by some agency that it’s okay?  Because they have to make sure that not all moms are slacking off, ahem, taking their required 2 week’s vacation at the same time.

If I’m given benefits, then I have to produce something to show for my job.  There will be tests created, surveys conducted, and in home visits to guarantee that my child is being properly “mothered” to the state average. 

Mothering may happen more out of fear than want.

I think that may be the crux here.  Many people have jobs they want, but it isn’t everyone who is so lucky.

I would venture to say that the majority of women are mothers because they want to be.  You start labeling motherhood as a job, you take some of the joy out of the want.

Practicing being a mommy.
When I chase my child down the hall as she giggles and then capture her to wrap her in my arms as I blow raspberries on her belly to her uncontrollable guffaws, I don’t call this a job.  I know in the deep part of my brain the benefit she gets from this activity, the memories I’m building, the “mothering” I’m doing.  But it’s not important at that moment.

Having a special song we always sing at bath time isn’t one more item to check off on my checklist for my job.  It’s comforting.  It’s fun.  It’s creating more memories.  It’s annoying to sing the same thing over and over, but worth it to see her precious smile.  And it’s not a job.

Bath time giggles.
Taking her on a nature walk on a pretty day even though I’m exhausted might not be my preferred activity at the time, but it’s not a job.

When she refuses to eat the broccoli I’ve not very successfully snuck into her mac-and-cheese, and I get frustrated and feel like I’ve failed as a mother, I don’t feel like I’ve failed at my job.  It’s because being a mother is so much more important to me than a job could ever be.  The highs are so much higher.  The lows?  They really, really suck.

I’ve got so much more vested in being a mother than I could ever have in my job.  It’s really not a fair comparison.

There’s a raw, carnal, instinctual tug to be the best mother I could possibly be.  My mind, most of the time, decides how I go about satisfying my instincts.  These instincts have been created and refined over millennial, since the dawn of humans, and even before.  It’s this instinct that has kept our species alive and kept moms for ages from eating their young.

It’s not a job.  It’s what I do.  It’s what I am.  It’s instincts.  It’s decisions.  It’s the joys and the sorrows of life raising a tiny person to become a big person.  It’s fanning the ember that was sparked by two people coming together.  It’s finding the direction that ember wants to travel and providing the wind for it to turn into a flame. 

It’s one of the hardest things and yet most joyful things I’ve yet to do in my entire life.  But it’s no more a job to me than breathing is a job.  It’s no more a job than loving my husband is a job.  It requires work, but it’s not a job.

So, can we all just stop calling motherhood a job?  It’s way better than that. 


  1. You always have a great way of writing and so DEEP too!! I certainly cant call motherhood or mothering a job.. I guess that would be like saying being a wife is a job but it just becomes apart of you and apart of your being. Great post girl!! Love the pictures too!! xoxo

  2. Wow Krista, this is good! I've never really thought much about this, the terminology I mean, but you're so right. It isn't a job. It might take work, but thinking of it as a job does take the "want" out of it.

  3. So true, so true! It is CONSTANT WORK...who does their "job" 24/7?!

  4. gosh, I've missed out a ton here. my apologies.

    you're spinning some fabulous words here, K. This post? incredible.


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