When I think about the hardest job in the world I envisage someone disassembling a roadside bomb in Afghanistan. I think about standing for 24 hours in a factory filled with toxic fumes in China. I don’t compare these conditions with motherhood because currency is exchanged for labour and I don’t see parenthood as a job. It’s just life.
Parenting is relentless, exhausting, isolating and if I’m describing it to my husband for leverage, you can even throw in overwhelming, hell and unbearable. There’s not much clocking off for parents, even less for sole ones or people from disadvantaged backgrounds.
It’s one of the hardest things I’ve done but I’m a white middle-class woman from suburbia who’s never had to endure post-natal depression or poverty. I don’t do it anywhere near as tough as others. Despite that acknowledgment, for me personally it’s still got nothing on death, cancer or depression. Also, there’s cuddles.
When someone spouts “motherhood is the hardest job in the world” as Sophie Mirabella, Shadow Minister for Innovation, Industry and Science, did on Q&A this week you can almost hear the collective groan. It doesn’t endear people to the plight of mothers.
When the discussion of parenthood arises I try not to use the cliches. I don’t always succeed and it’s possible that people have mistaken my honesty with martyrdom but I think it’s important to accurately convey the stuff that doesn’t always get spoken about. Everyone’s parenting experience is individual. It’s just that I don’t think it’s a job and it’s certainly not the hardest one.
Do you agree that parenting is not the hardest job in the world?