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“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.

Congratulations

“Congratulations!” It’s the standard reply when someone announces they’re pregnant, often followed with ridiculous hopping and squealing as if someone had just won the lottery. At least that’s how it is on telly. I’ve never been actually present for any grand pregnancy reveal. But I have seen the proud belly-rub, at work, at school, etc. and all the group fanfare that follows and that I’m expected to join in.

I do not share such excessive enthusiasm. I can’t even fake it convincingly, really. I’ve been the audience for such events on only a few occasions. “Congratulations,” after waiting to see how the speaker feels about the pregnancy, is the response I muttered, hoping that no extended conversation on the matter follows. I gave this response because it was expected of me, not because it was what I actually felt.

I support a woman’s right to have children, if that’s what she wants to do. I certainly wouldn’t want that right to be interfered with. But I just can’t manage to be happy for someone for it. I can’t help it. I just can’t be happy for someone who is making a decision that I see so little sense in. What I see is a woman de-railing her career and education and life, wrecking her body, wasting money, and contributing to the ecological disaster of overpopulation. And for what? Really, what? I don’t get it. I get that some people want to have kids, want to be parents, but why?

And it’s not like getting knocked up is an impressive achievement either. Just about anyone can breed, and sadly just about everyone does. Current population of the world? About seven billion. Hell, people actually have to go out of their way just to avoid pregnancy, so how impressed am I really supposed to be when someone pees on a stick and it reads positive? You know what would be impressive? Virgin birth (without the aid of medical science or a turkey baster.) Of course, such a thing has never happened.

Well, what if there was some fertility issue making conception difficult? Well, then I’m only struck by the stubbornness of the prospective parents. Those that can’t get pregnant can still adopt, which in my opinion is a superior option anyway as it’s actually doing something useful. But no, narcissistic people have to have their own little mini-me. (I should stop before I get into a rant about IVF there.)

I don’t want to rain on anyone’s parade though, so I simply keep these feelings to myself. Instead of saying what I’m actually thinking, “My condolences,” or, if she’s someone I work with, “I guess that means I’ll be taking your workload while you’re on that nice, long, paid vacation the rest of us don’t get. Thanks a lot,” or, “Great, another college student in a packed phone booth,” I give the obligatory big, fake grin and mutter “Congratulations,” through gritted teeth, as it’s the only response society allows.

I then sit in disgust at my own insincerity, even as the mom-to-be excitedly flutters off to find someone else to congratulate her. I quickly remove myself from the ridiculous fanfare that follows. I then breathe a sigh of relief as I trace a finger over my tubal ligation scar, happy that my life will never be like hers is about to be. Maybe she’s pleased, and good for her if she is, but I honestly can’t see the appeal.

Some cynical people might say that I’m at fault for not seeing the joy of motherhood or whatever. I don’t accept that. Why must it be me that’s wrong? Why can’t it be that others are wrong for not seeing the joy in childfreedom? I don’t think anyone is wrong, I just can’t sincerely congratulate someone who isn’t actually doing anything that I find worth congratulating.

Dog Trainer?

Since my time in the Army will soon be ending, I find myself once again dealing with the delema of what to do with my life. Not knowing what I wanted to do for a carreer (as well as not having the funds for education anyway) is how I ended up in the Army in the first place.

Over the course of my life, I’ve had many dreams as to a career, many of which reflected my age.

  • Age 5 – Hermit. I wanted to sleep in a tree-house in the woods and just live off the land.
  • Age 7 – President. Some boy told me women couldn’t be president. Being a feminist even then, I told him he was full of doo-doo.
  • Age 9 – Super Saiyan. Who needs money when you have the power to shake the planet just by looking serious and grunting?
  • Age 11 – Soldier. Because I wanted to be a badass when I grew up.
  • Age 13 – Rock Star. I’ve always loved rock music. Too bad I have no talent.
  • Age 15 – Truck Driver. I had a bit of an unsocial phase…
  • Age 17- Video Game Designer. Wouldn’t it be great if I could use my years spend indoors, controller in hand, neglecting school and having a social live, as work experience?
  • Age 18 – ????????????????????????? Shit! The closer my graduation date got, the less I was sure.
  • Age 19 – Anything but the Army. It wasn’t a great deployment.
  • Age 22 – Teacher. I looked around me and saw nothing but idiots. I thought maybe I could do a better job than their teachers did.

I’ll be 23 by the time I’m out, and I honestly have no idea what kind of career I want. Much like I did late in high school, I found things to distract myself from thinking about it. I know, avoidance doesn’t help.

I’ve always loved dogs, and wish I could have one. Sadly, I can’t as I live in a barracks and would have little time for it because of work anyway. But, since I’ll be getting out soon, I’ve been thinking about getting one then. It would sure be nice to have four-legged hiking companion. So, in my free-time, I’ve been watching dog-training instructional videos on youtube. Even though I don’t have a dog yet, I really enjoyed most of the videos I’ve seen. Dog training looks fun the way the trainers demonstrated it. It’s my hope that when I do get a dog, I’ll be able to train it myself.

Then that got me to thinking… maybe I could get certified? If I could study dog training, I would be a better dog owner myself, but maybe I could become a professional dog trainer? Finally, a job I would enjoy!

I spent a portion of this week looking up certification schools and job placement opportunities, and even got to speak with some school counselors.  The more I look into this, the more appealing I find it to be.

Finally, some optimism.

Soldiers, dogs, and bears, oh my!

Last week my company went up to North Cheyenne Canon Park for a nice change of scenery. Those of us who were able (many of us weren’t because of disabilities) went on a nice group hike up the mountain a piece. I had quite a lot of fun and met some other hikers from other platoons.

A few people laughed at me for bringing my backpack. “Mountain lions won’t attack you if they think you’re a turtle!” They weren’t laughing anymore when they needed somewhere to stow their sweaters and jackets as they warmed up.

Apart from my first aid kit and shed clothing layers, my backpack was mostly empty. I wanted to get used to hiking with it, since I haven’t been on a ruck march since AIT.

I really missed camelback. I had a side puch attached to the side of my pack where I kept my Gatorade, but it wasn’t as easy to reach as I had hoped it would be. At least I brought something though. Not everyone did.

Afterwards, we drove through the mountain (yes, through. Supposedly, those tunnels are haunted,) to the local dog park where we had a nice cookout (and I made a few canine friends.) I also learned, while there, that one of the legs to my brand new charcoal (because charcoal tastes better) grill is broken.

I also discovered that, to open a bear-proof garbage can, I should read the printed instructions lest I be laughed at. I must have been a bear in a former life. Lol.

There have been a few bear sightings in the area since I went by other people in the company. One was just a couple bears crossing the road. Not a big deal. The other story was more disturbing. Apparently, there were a couple of cubs hanging out near the trail I used, which is bad enough considering how mama bear would have reacted if she knew, but it get’s worse. People were dumb enough to feed them. If that doesn’t worry you, it should.

And I’m not much concerned about grizzlies as they don’t seem to inhabit this state anymore. And normally, I wouldn’t worry much about a black bear encounter either. They’re usually pretty skittish animals and would try to avoid people. However, even black bears can be dangerous, especially if they learn to associate people with food. I’m considering picking up some bear mace.

In any case, I’m looking forward to going again soon.

Lessons Learned:

  • Start small with hikes and light with gear.
  • Going up with make you out of breath, but it’s going down that will hurt.
  • Dress in layers and have a pack to keep any closed to remove.
  • Bring a drink, make sure it’s accessible.
  • Don’t count on others to bring a first-aid kit, bring your own. It’s better to have it and not need it than to need it and not have it.
  • Watch your step because not everyone cleans up after their dogs.
  • CLEAN UP AFTER YOUR DOGS!
  • Elk, at least the way it was grilled there, is impossible to eat. Oh, it tasted fine, but it was so tough no one could chew it.
  • DON’T FEED THE BEARS!

Kids and Soldiers

In case anyone has missed it, I’m currently still a solider. Because of condition I developed in Iraq, I’m not able to do my job, which was TUAS Operator. Having started the medical board process, I’ve been moved to another unit so that my old unit, which is getting ready to deploy, can replace me. I’m now awaiting to see if I will be medically discharged, and whether or not I will receive medical retirement so that I may keep my health insurance.

In the mean time though, we’re far from idle. My new commander is a cheerful captain who I think strongly resembles and even sounds like a childhood friend of mine from back home (only taller, and in the Army.) He’s been giving us opportunities to volunteer withing the community, and I’m having a lot of fun.

This April, our company participated in an Easter egg hunt for underprivileged kids. I hear it was a lot of fun. Sadly, I could not attend myself as on the day of the event, I was just getting off a 24-hour staff duty shift at battalion. However, I did at least get to help stuff plastic eggs with treats.

Real meaning of Easter = candy.

Yesterday, our company helped with another event. We met with local school kids and their teachers at a park here on post. The children were separated into several groups, cycling through several station, not all of which I got to check out myself.

At one station, the children were introduced to large things that go boom (no live demonstrations, I’m afraid.) At another, military vehicles were on display for the kids to happily climb on. At each, the soldiers droned on about what the piece of equipment did and how it worked, blah, blah. MY company’s station was much better. We were, as I’ve said, a company of broken soldiers, mostly. People pending medical board. We didn’t have equipment pieces to blather on about, and all the better I think.

Ours, in my humble opinion, was the best station, and the ones the visiting students will remember the best. Tug-of-war!

There were several matches with each group, including the obligatory girls vs. boys matches, which sometimes the boys won and sometimes the girls won, depending on the group. There are the free for all matches, in which kids randomly pick what side to be in and soldiers capriciously join in as needed. But my favorite by far was kids vs. soldiers. The reason? Simple. The kids always WON. There is strength in numbers.

Oh, and one thing I found incredibly lulz worthy…

Kid: “Can those drive in volcanoes?”

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