Oprah used to state — when the subject came up — that stay-at-home mom was the hardest job in the world.
Each time those words left her mouth, it felt, to me, insincere, like she knew she had to say them but what she wanted to say was,
“Seriously? I work 18 hours a day, I run a zillion businesses, I own a school and I’m responsible for hundreds of people’s livelihoods, and someone who is home, at this very moment, watching TV, in the MIDDLE of the day, has the hardest job in the world?”
And one of her employees, with a mic on their head and a clipboard in their hands, would say, “Remember who your audience is.” And Oprah would sigh and repeat the words.
Those words “the hardest job in the world” feel disingenuous to me no matter whose mouth they come out of; like it is an expression of pity, a verbal pat on the back saying, I’m sorry you’re not ambitious enough to have a career, but at least it’s the Hardest Job in the World that you get paid ZERO dollars to do.
It’s the participation award of job titles.
It is a neon sign saying, “World’s Best Coffee.”
It’s the “At least you have your health” of useless statements that don’t make anyone feel better.
The only person who does not pat stay-at-home mothers’ flabby egos is comedian Bill Burr. (Whose target audience is not mothers, but rather pimply 13-year-old boys trapped in the bodies of middle-aged men). Burr says any job that you can do in your pajamas is not the hardest job in the world. Isn’t being a redheaded roofer in Arizona in August harder, he asks.
But is Stay-At-Home-Mom the hardest job in the world?
Well, it is hard to be a parent, whether you are a mother or a father, working or not. It’s hard to keep these creatures — who don’t even have the sense to save themselves when their head is under water — alive every day. Creatures that put their hands in fire, walk into traffic, crawl into drainage pipes and stick their hands into dark crevasses. Creatures who pop everything in their mouth, including chewed gum found under tables and cigarette butts. Creatures that want to pet alligators and hug rabid raccoons.
It’s pretty hard on your sanity to keep your kids alive every day.
Plus, you get punched in the nose a lot and stabbed in the eye. Your boob may get bitten, you will get vomited on repeatedly. Possibly— if you ever fall asleep while holding a sick child — you may have the unforgettable experience of having someone vomit into your mouth.
And that can be very hard, both physically and emotionally.
And the only job that has more screaming and crying is horror movie sound editor, so it can be hard on your ears.
But honestly, I don’t think stay-at-home mother is a job at all. Just because it is hard work does not mean it is a job.
That is why it is called motherhood and fatherhood. It is a state of being, not a career. It is where you live, like your neighborhood. If it was a job, you could put in your two weeks’ notice and you could get promoted (moved up to grandparent?) and you’d get paid, and receive benefits. You could retire, or switch careers. You would be able to have a holiday and get time off. But you don’t get any of that as a stay-at-home mom, so stop comparing it to other jobs.
Being a stay-at-home mom is a wonderful, albeit lonely and possibly insanity-creating, opportunity, but raising kids is not my current career. It is simply an additional state that I will always be in: that of being a mother.
You are a parent whether you stay at home or go to work. Just because one person spends more time with their kids than the other, does not make it one person’s job and the other one’s hood.
It is hard whether you are the father or the mother.
And even Bill Burr might run to the top of a roof in August rather than be stuck inside in his pajamas alone with a colicky infant.
Plus, if it was a job wouldn’t it be called the oldest profession?