How difficult is the job of motherhood? Meghan Daum, the opinion editorial writer for the L.A. Times newspaper, on April 19, 2012, used her column to address the issue of whether or not motherhood was really the toughest job in the world or not. The editorial piece was entitled, “The Ann Romney Trap” and opened with an assessment of the statement made by Hilary Rosen about Mrs. Romney “never having worked a day in her life (Rosen).” Daum moved forward in her piece to question the centuries old phrase that “there is no tougher job than being a mom,” a phrase that President Obama used in his response to the statement made by Rosen, a Democratic pundit. Daum asks, “Might we possibly consider retiring that idea?” and proceeds to discuss her personal opinion on the issue of how difficult, or not so difficult, the job of motherhood really is.
Daum’s opinion is that it is time to get rid of the myth that motherhood is the hardest job in the world. She contends that jobs such as coal mining, teaching in underfunded schools, being the president, and Amish farming are all harder jobs than being a mother is. She also writes that mothers aren’t constantly scrutinized as people in other professions are, somehow making this sound like an argument for the ease of the job. Overall, the support that she gives for her opinion is highly lacking. In essence, the only support that she gives is that there are harder jobs and she warrants this by giving examples of what she sees as jobs that would be harder than motherhood. Her language lacks in persuasion as she seems to be trying to stay in the middle of the road through many portions of her editorial. She holds to her contention that motherhood is not the toughest job in the world, but at the same time, she makes sure to add in how important it is and other comments seemingly to keep the mothers happy. The only time her wording and tone really are persuasive and strong is when she talks about politics, especially in her sarcasm regarding Mitt Romney. Her editorial actually didn’t need any political talk at all, other than the initial facts that Rosen made the statement and that the politicians responded to it.
In her conclusion, she states that “We’re obsessed with work because our identities are defined by it.” The reader makes the assumption by her wording that she is not speaking of work actually, but of paid employment, at this point. Her final words to the reader of her editorial are, “We work, therefore we are.” This statement is an example of Daum’s characterization of every person being just the same as the next, and has no basis in fact whatsoever.
Rosen’s statement about Mrs. Romney, the response of politicians, the editorial written by Meghan Daum, and discussions by the general public about the entire motherhood statements now being made has opened the floodgates once again to the ages old argument about how tough motherhood really is and whether or not it is even really worthy of being called work at all. These arguments have long pitted the “working mom” against the “stay at home mom” and vice versa. The shame of it all is that rather than supporting one another as women and as mothers, these two classes become competitive and, in some cases, even slanderous of one another.
Motherhood is the most difficult job in the world, when done properly. There are so many aspects to the job of motherhood that it would be incredibly hard to list them all. It is also a job with no set hours, no monetary pay, no certain outcome, and very few advances in the company for many years. There are rewards to the job of motherhood, but in the first twenty-five years or so, these rewards are intermingled with heartbreak, exhaustion, confusion, and worries to the point that those rewards seem to be more than well-deserved. With this many years on the job, it would be time for many to retire, but with motherhood, there is no such thing. The joys and rewards of the work may increase, but the work does continue on. There is no retirement age, nor is there any retirement funding for motherhood.
The dual claims that stand out in Daum’s editorial are that motherhood is not the toughest job in the world and that people are defined by their work. While Daum claims that there are more difficult jobs than mothering, she doesn’t even come close to proving that opinion. Motherhood is definitely the most difficult job that anyone can have. The difficulty of motherhood can be proven. Daum also claims that a person’s definition of themselves is in their job, but surely it is more accurate to say that a person’s definition of themselves is found in their most rewarding aspects of life. For some, that may be work, but it is not for everyone. In addition, what is she then implying about the person who can’t go out and work due to a circumstance beyond their control, such as the bed-ridden individual? Is Daum really saying that these people have no life definition, no purpose, or no reason for being?
Mothers, whether working outside of the home or not, are not generally finding their definition in their jobs and most feel that their work as a mother is far more important. There is a difference between women who simply have children and those who truly do the job of mothering them. These two types of women are really worlds apart in their lifestyles and the work that they are doing in raising their children. It is the job of mothering that is in question, so the reference in this rebuttal is referring to those women who do the job, rather than to women who have given birth and then progressed towards dropping the ball, so to speak. Daum states that the job of a coal miner is more difficult than that of a mother. Would she still say that if the coal miner wasn’t doing his job? This is the same thing as mothers who aren’t doing their jobs. Just as Daum was speaking only of those who are actually doing their jobs, so this rebuttal will be speaking of mothers who are actually doing their jobs.
Mothers are on call 24 hours per day, seven days per week for many years and even after the children grow up, the job continues in other ways. Every part of a woman is involved in mothering: her emotions, her strength and energy, her heart, her mind, and her time. There is nothing that is hers alone after she becomes a mother. Every action, every word, every decision that she makes can affect her child and therefore, she has to constantly consider this other person as she goes through life. Most mothers put their children before themselves in almost everything, even when it is not necessary to.
According to the website salary.com, in the year 2009 a mother’s work would have warranted an income of $122,732. The salary amount was arrived at by a clearly defined and logical process. They did not include every little task that a mother does, but the top ten tasks that are regularly done by mothers. They also did not assume that she was doing any of these tasks full-time and accounted only for the time spent by the average mother doing each job. Salary.com also found that mothers were outsourcing less than they had in previous years. Due to changes in the economy, mothers are doing more of the tasks that they previously may have paid someone else to do. The information that the site used to come up with their results was based on a survey completed by 12,150 mothers.
Motherhood is also a job that impacts the success rates of other professionals, such as teachers and healthcare workers. In the article “Importance of Parental Involvement Stressed (sidebar)” found in Issues and Controversies on File, it is stated that “parents’ involvement in the education of their children may be the most crucial factor in determining the academic success of students (web).” It is not the teacher that is the most important person in the academic success or failure of students, but the parent(s) who are going to be the biggest influence on their child’s performance in school. The article also gives statistics from the Education Department and discusses the importance of parenting in early childhood as found by a panel of experts at a White House conference. The article states that, “On April 17, 1997, a panel of experts gathered at a White House conference to discuss the latest findings, which suggest that what a child learns and experiences before the age of three has a profound influence on the child’s long-term development.” This not only stresses the importance of the job of motherhood, but the fact that starting right from the beginning, there is work involved in providing a child with the right things to learn and experience.
In an extensive study done by the Bureau of Sociological Research at the University of Nebraska, there are results showing that “there is no evidence that valuing motherhood is in conflict with valuing work success” (16) as many have believed. Women can value both motherhood and another job outside of the home without one causing conflict with the other. This certainly opposes Ms. Daum’s statement about a person’s work being the one thing that truly defines them. The study also found that, “there is no evidence that valuing motherhood is in conflict with valuing work success among non-mothers, and among mothers the association is positive” (16). Is it possible that these findings would be based in the fact that once a woman becomes a mother, she actually begins to understand hard work and the benefits of that work more than she did prior to becoming a mother? That certainly would also lend to the argument that mothers are the hardest workers and this would be due to the fact that they have the hardest job.
Although there is some freedom in the job of motherhood that isn’t available for the paid employee, there is still a boss and the overtime far outweighs the chance to get a midday nap or go out with a friend on occasion during the day. A mother’s work is still being judged by a variety of people. In fact, the criticisms that a mother receives from other people are often far more harsh and frequent than criticisms directed at people doing other jobs. There are some jobs, probably many, that are more difficult in one area, but not in all areas. For instance, coal mining is indeed more physically demanding than motherhood, but it is probably not more emotionally demanding. The mothers that are being seen as doing a relatively easy job are likely those that aren’t performing all of the tasks in their job description.
Motherhood is the most difficult job in the world. Raising successful children who are healthy and happy takes an enormous amount of work and doesn’t just happen by chance. It takes a lot of work to accomplish this. Motherhood is not only the most difficult job, but also the most important one, because it is the set up and training for the next generation. It may be the very importance of the job that makes it so difficult. Motherhood does not give vacations or paychecks, yet demands an enormous amount of work. As Anne Marrow Lindbergh states: “By and large, mothers and housewives are the only workers who do not have regular time off. They are the great vacationless class.” This is just one more reason that motherhood truly is the toughest job in the world.