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Why Being a Mother is Not the Most Important Job in the World

This may seem like an odd thing for a devoted mother of seven to say, but I am going to present reasons why being a mother is not the most important job in the world. I do not believe this perspective degrades mothers, or puts children at risk. I am not saying these things because I in any way regret having “abandoned” a career in nursing to stay home and be the one to provide the bulk of the daily hands-on care for our children. (Anyone who knows me can vouch for this.) I could really make it a fill-in-the-blank statement about any job. Why  __________(select any category of job, pursuit, personality, hobby) is not the best, most noble, most important, etc.

I know that some of these claims are in jest, but many are not. Many of them fall somewhere between defensiveness and a desire to feel, well, important. Nothing wrong with wanting to be valued for your contributions, but does it so often have to be done at the cost of comparatively degrading other people’s efforts? Isn’t that the basic definition of being a bully? So, I ask, is there anything that can be said to convince people that we no longer need to engage in this dubious competition? I am going to start from what I think the correct perspective of a mother should be, because I am one.

  1. While children are uniquely dependent on a mother from conception, my life-long vow is to my husband. The children come and go from the household, but my husband is here to stay until death parts us. Even if death should part us (we are still working on the details of this… ), and I should end up marrying again, another marriage commitment would be on a more personal level than the relationship with my kids. Now, I know there are imperfect spouses (I am one), and sometimes promises are broken, but the troubles of life do not negate the truths. Am I saying that being a wife is the most important job in the world? Certainly not for someone who isn’t a wife. However, if you are, it is actually foundational to your children’s lives and as such has to be given a priority of that level. You model for them and you provide stability. All the while also getting the benefit of enjoying and making the marriage stronger.
  1. Children have two parents. Now, don’t argue with me. One way or another, it takes a mommy and a daddy to make a baby, no matter what other social variances people pursue. Each child, sooner or later, becomes aware of this biological fact and its social implications. At some time in their lives, almost all children (whether grown or not) wish they could have had relationships with both parents, if this did not happen. Children who are adopted can only find satisfaction with their adoptive parents if they accept them as true parents based on this biological reality. It is hard wired into us to yearn for these social bonds. Also, it is pretty well established that fathers bring something to their children’s lives that is just as important as what mothers bring. A mother may be absolutely necessary for being born, but then, so is a father. We seem to have a tie in this category, folks!
  1. The responsibility of financially providing for a family often keeps fathers away from the home more than mothers. This does not make them less important, just differently important. I understand that some mothers help with this to varying degrees. I understand that some fathers have not fully embraced family responsibilities (or sometimes wives discourage them from being able to do that). And I understand that there is sometimes conflict in homes about this subject and “how much” each spouse “is doing.” This conflict probably indicates someone’s (or quite possibly 2 someones’) immaturity and selfishness, but cannot change the fact that mothers are impacted more physically by birth and usually younger children are more attached to their mothers (Again, don’t argue with me. Even if someone can’t or doesn’t nurse [breast feed] their baby, it cannot be denied that this physical closeness is inherent in the mother-child relationship, as evidenced by the fact that the milk supply has to be forcefully discontinued or ignored if not appreciated). Thus, it is often natural for the father to take up the load of care in other ways. Without him doing this, the mother is restricted in her mothering time.  So, again, it seems to be a tie, at least as far as children are concerned.
  1. Then there is the question of the childless. I’m not going to get into “chosen childlessness” here. For the sake of clarity in this discussion, let’s define “childless people” as those of age and situation where child bearing would be normal and is desired, but they have not been able to give birth or adopt. Are these people then somehow less important than others in the scheme of life? Are their roles of husband and wife less meaningful? Are their jobs and pursuits not to be respected because there are not children involved? They may not be able to genetically influence the next generation, but how can you know how much their relationships and work affect others in their path?
  1. While I would agree in some ways that some jobs are “more important,” but in other ways I would have to say that most of them are more equal than might be assumed. First of all, any honest job that someone does to provide for themselves or someone else is extremely important to those people. It is paying for life, enabling that family to buy things for their survival and comfort. Secondly, many jobs support the flow of communities in ways that make life much less desperate than it would be without these so-called conveniences. Storage, phones, faster transportation, efficient clothing manufacturing, and savvy retailers making products more readily and inexpensively available, are some of the types of jobs that make everyone’s effort in life more time efficient and cost effective. That leaves more time for inventing other things, resting, and otherwise enjoying life.
  1. All jobs are not equally important to everyone all the time. Not everyone has the same abilities or opportunities or needs. If you know how to fix your own car, you are not as dependent on a mechanic’s services to make sure you can get to your own job. If you know how to sew, you might rely less on department stores. Some people have perfect eyesight, and therefore no need of an optometrist. Many people in my family would be greatly disadvantaged without corrective eyewear. Those residing in tropical climates don’t buy many furnaces, but in my part of the country a modern heater makes winter much less threatening.
  1. Children are not the most important people in the world. They are more vulnerable and dependent than most adults. They need special attention to their needs in order for them to survive and be prepared for adulthood. But they are just as important once they become adults. We do children no good by giving them the impression that they are the center of the universe, then one day they grow up and find out that is not really true. They will thrive much better if they know they are loved and secure, but having a proper grasp of the value of all people. They need to be guided to prepare for their own jobs, whatever those will be, and be encouraged that this work is meaningful as long as it is responsible and productive.

I don’t need to feel that I am more important in order to feel I am of value. I can appreciate the colorful tapestry of society, knowing it is something I have a unique part in, but strangely equally unique to other people’s parts. No one can be me, but neither can I fulfill someone else’s place. The irony is that people so often struggle for hierarchy and position, seeking to be recognized by the very people that they want to feel “more important than.” So, who is more important, then?

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  • http://anemoneflynn.com Anemone Flynn

    It’s always seemed like circular reasoning to me. Motherhood is the most important job because why? Because of the effect their children will have on society? Then don’t their children have the ‘most important’ jobs, if they’re able to grant motherhood such importance simply by not quite yet existing? In which case, motherhood is ruled out, since ‘most’ important means there is a single, ruling important job …

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