“The Hardest Job In The World?” Really?!
Maybe it’s because I’m someone who, until very recently, had a very difficult and somewhat dangerous job, but it absolutely drives me up the wall when parents (from my observation, it’s usually been moms) claim that being a parent (usually a mom) is “the hardest job in the world.” I see it and hear it all the time. Few statements that aren’t intentionally offensive piss me off faster. And I’ve even seen that claim made in completely serious conviction, and even done to intentionally degrade non-parents (we’re lazy, nothing we do matters, etc.) It’s just a very irritating statement from a position of ignorance and pretentiousness.
I do not deny that being a parent, especially a good one actually worthy of the title, is difficult and comes with a number of unique challenges. Knowledge of how hard being a parent is influences my decision not to be one. I even have a bit of experience as I was often left to take care of my younger siblings while both of our parents worked and I saw the kids more than our parents reasonably could. So don’t think that I’m speaking from a position of ignorance when I, as a childfree person, say that parenting is not anywhere even remotely close the hardest job in the world.
In fact, parenthood isn’t even a job, really. It’s a lifestyle choice. I have personal responsibilities too, taking care of my dog, managing my home, but I hardly consider that to be a job. I don’t know what it would say about me if I did.
But never-mind that. I can think of a lot of jobs that are harder than being a mom or dad. (Any job, really.) As far as I know, there are no education or license requirements to becoming a parent, and it’s not like you have to compete with other people to earn the position, doesn’t typically require a intensive manual labor, and it’s not generally considered dangerous (apart from pregnancy itself, although curiously people tend to ignore that.)
Now, I had a hard job. I’m an Iraq war veteran of the US Army. Before I could even get my job, I had to go through a screening process and pass a thorough background check, score high on my ASVAB, pass a grueling basic training and everything that goes with it, go through extensive job training involving many tests that could get me removed from the program if I failed, and test for and obtain an FAA private pilots licence. I did all just to leave my home and everything about my life behind. While in Iraq, I flew a UAV by computer from the back of a HMMWV, some days while searching for the source of the rocket attack that we were under at the time. I’d do this task while hearing and feeling the impacts outside and hoping I don’t get hit by one, and all while wondering if any of the people listed in the rising death toll, which was relayed to me through my headset, included anyone that I knew. And ever time that death toll grew, I knew it was because I had not yet found the source of the attack. Or worse yet – I’d missed it.
And I couldn’t even go home at the end of the day. My shift? One full year.
You know what? I still don’t have the audacity to claim that I had the hardest job in the world. I can think tons of jobs that are way harder than mine was, just off the top of my head. Hell, I didn’t even have the hardest job on the FOB. I had it damned easy compared to some other people over there. But it’s sure as hell a lot harder of a job than making sure little Johnny eats his vegetables and studies for his spelling test (I’m aware that I’m over-simplifying, but I defy anyone to tell me that any typical aspect of motherhood compares to what I’ve just described. Yeah, it’s mostly a succession of mundane tasks.)
I consider my folks decent parents. Sure, they were flawed, but who isn’t? We’d go shopping together, deal with problems together, go on outings together. But most of the time when my parents were home, they were relaxing in their own spaces. You know why? Because their jobs, their real jobs, were difficult. Coming home and playing mommy and daddy was nothing by comparison. And they weren’t even soldiers.
It’s OK to be proud of being a parent, and to talk about the challenges that come with it. But please, don’t insult the rest of by pretending that it’s the hardest job in the world. It’s just not. Perspective, people.