This piece on Babble is generating a lot of debate among my mother friends (and the occasional father and non-father, too).
The piece essentially says that motherhood, though difficult and exhausting and emotionally explosive at times, is NOT the hardest job in the world. It goes on to say that jobs like corn husking and working at Chuck E. Cheese (!!) are, in fact, more difficult and that all we moms need to calm the hell down. At least that is what I thought on my first reading.
On my second reading, I had a different takeaway. I think what she was/is saying is that motherhood IS difficult and taxing and exhausting, but that WE make it incredibly hard on ourselves and we need to let ourselves off the hook a little.
At first I was so angry that someone (a mother of five no less) had the nerve to suggest that motherhood was anything but the "hardest job in the world." And even though I loathe platitudes like I loathe Winnie the Pooh, Disney and Precious Moments, I also do derive comfort from the idea that when Sam is making me want to drown myself in a puddle out back, there are thousands of other moms feeling the same way. I did not (and still do not) need to read an essay from some super happy housewife who walks around feeling creatively fulfilled, intellectually stimulated and happy hanging out with squaking munchkins.
This was NOT that article. Let me be very clear about that since some people have misread it. The piece is NOT about that. In fact, it is it is the opposite: a call to moms to stop the madness and stop killing ourselves to make sure our children are properly stimulated, full of organic foods/breastmilk and happy at all times. That is where the misery comes in. And on this point, I agree with the author immensely.
Because I have been crazy in many ways with my kids. In addition to the constant guilt, I am always worried that Sam is not getting enough stimulation. On the odd chance we spend a day at home, I feel horribly guilty. I derive little joy from motherhood at times because I am always worried about what is next or whether Sam had enough intellectual stimulation that day. I try very hard to balance the play--the trips to the park, the long walks, the Children's/science museum/aquarium--with the intellectual--the helping her with her reading, art class, spanish class, ballet/gymnastics. It can be exhausting, though, that constant worry that I did not do enough, feed her brain enough, let her blow off steam enough. It is the conatant worry that DOES make motherhood so stressful.
So since reading the article (um, on Monday) I have tried to chill the eff out. To take it all a little less seriously (although, not that much less seriously, after all, what is more serious than motherhood?) I find people who can't laugh, who have little sense of humor and are wound WAY too tight to be tedious and annoying, so I was surprised to realize that in the realm of motherhood, I may have become like that.
I am trying to derive more pleasure from my kids and trying to look at it less as a job and more as a relationship, one that occasionally makes me laugh, cry and scream in frustration. By looking at motherhood as a "job," we do take some of the joy out of it and I find myself anxious for R to get home and relieve me. But motherhood is something totally different, an ongoing process, a 24/7 experience. It is probably the most difficult thing I have ever done in my life (meanwhile the author says her summer spent husking corn was more difficult).
She has taken issue with some of the comments in the comments section of her piece, insisting that she never once said motherhood was a cakewalk. And she didn't. She says repeatedly in the piece that motherhood is trying, indeed. But if husking corn is "harder" then I guess I would ask: what is your definition of hard? Because motherhood IS full of backbreaking labor. There are days where I have to scrub Alan's bum three times, dump Sam's old potty 10 more and also clean up after every meal (and try to stress when they don't eat). I am a maid, a referee, a babysitter, a dog walker, a laundress AND a writer (and runner) every single day. How on earth is corn husking or working at Chuck E. Cheese harder than that? No I have never worked in the rice paddies under the hot sun, but being a mom is not easy.
I say, if you think motherhood is easy, then you are doing something wrong. It is FAR from easy. But it does have moments of joy and fun (at times) and sometimes when I look at it like my day job, I forget that.
So, do I agree with the article? Yes and no. Mostly no. I actually think the writer has a dangerous lack of clarity in the piece that leaves it open to interpretation and misreading. I am not sure that even she knew fully what she wanted to say (and as a writer for Babble, I do sympathize). But I do appreciate the perspective it has given me and the insight that maybe I am "working" too damn hard at this. Maybe I should try to enjoy it a little more.