Ok I’m just going to say it. I don’t think motherhood is the toughest job in the world. The phrase has passed over into everyday language as a stock response and don’t get me wrong it can be tough, emotionally draining, physically exhausting but not all the time.
I loved my mat leave, making friends, getting to know Arthur, basking it what I’d made. There were moments it was hard work but no way would I say it was the hardest thing ever.There are huge factors that can make it tough but it’s about a situation not whether you gave birth. If you have one child, plenty of money and supportive family how on earth is that tough. It’s a privilege. If you have six children and your partner left you and you need nappies and food and no one helps – that’s tough but it’s not to do with being a mother. This doesn’t take account of women suffering PND but I would never imply I could understand that or any other mental health struggle.
I also think it’s a slightly smug badge of honour, unattainable by those not in the club. As women, sometimes, we can find outselves pitted against each other and I’ve read many scathing attacks on the ‘mummy brigade’ by women sick of this perceived sense of self importance. I don’t agree with them and I hate the term ‘mummy brigade and similar’ but by using phrases such as ‘toughest job’ or ‘most important job’ we’re doing ourselves no favours.
May be this is a simplistic view which takes no account of the economic impact of being a mother, loss of earning power, status and a sense of handing some of one’s self over to another for life. Maybe it’s because you can’t escape, there’s no clocking off and once your baby is here you know that you’d end your life for theirs.
Mothers are not all tough or weak or all amazing. We are a heady mix of brilliant, crap, fair-to-middling people. Bringing up a child is the most privileged part of my life with some tough moments but it’s not a career choice – it’s a lifestyle one. Implying it’s a career in some way demeans what it is – it’s far more powerful than that, and incidently this applies to dads as well. It’s tough but not the toughest job – ask any Chinese miner.