world's toughest job - I don't have it!

Mother's Day is less than a month away. Cue all the cheesy videos, montages and clever ads telling you how motherhood is the hardest job in the world... and of course, the most rewarding one too. You'll probably tear up while watching these videos, you won't necessarily want to, but the magic of the ad-man is that they know how to get to you!

The most recent (and instantly viral - 1.5 million views as of today) of these videos is this one from CardStore.com describing and interviewing people for the position of Director of Operations at Rehtom, Inc., AKA, the toughest job in the world.

[youtube]http://youtu.be/HB3xM93rXbY[/youtube]

Here are a few quotes from the "interview" that really stuck out for me, and as a mother and current Director of Operations for my own household, I would like to address these points.

"Constantly on your feet, constantly bending over, a high level of stamina..."

Right now I am sitting on my butt at Starbucks drinking a chai latte. I've got my favourite Songza playlist playing in my earphones and sure, I may be bent over my laptop typing, but it's really not requiring a lot out of me. Motherhood is a marathon people, not a sprint. You've got to pace yourself. I am not sure where this "constantly on your feet and then bending over" imagery comes from (perhaps here), but it's just plain silly. I sit and play with my kids, I sit down for meals with my family (more on that in a bit), I took the "sleep when baby sleeps" message to heart and did just that. I am assuming the bending over is related to picking up little children, or picking up AFTER little children, but even in that regard, I'm pretty sure I have never been all, "Phew... this sure takes a lot of stamina!" (Unless it's picking up LEGO, that shit requires stamina, patience and a whole new SFK (safe-for-kids) vocabulary for when you step on it.) And I won't even start on moms who have mobility issues or are in wheelchairs... because obviously they need not apply!

"No, there are no breaks available."

Oh please. OK, fine, NO, there are no breaks from motherhood. Once a mother, always a mother. Yeah, yeah, I hear you, but know this, there are also choices in motherhood. There is the choice to be the martyr mom, the one who never does take a break, and who is constantly complaining about said lack of breaks, yet never does anything about that (hello - it's called self-care folks and it is a thing!). I think that the bigger problem here is that some people actually do look at motherhood like a JOB, as if it is something that has parameters to it. Like it is some kind of 18-year contract work that comes with a policy and procedures manual. I am here to tell you (and I probably don't need to if in fact you ARE a mother), there is no manual, AND THIS IS NOT A JOB. It is a life choice. Some call it a role or a vocation, others call it a biological imperative and some would even call it a divine plan. Whatever you call it, understand this, motherhood is not a job. You don't get your two 15 minutes breaks, a 45 minute lunch and overtime after you've put in your 37.5 hours per week. You do however, get to choose how and when you do take your breaks and recharge yourself and leave all that martyrdom behind!

"You can have lunch, after the associate has had their lunch."

I'll admit that yes, I do make sure that everyone else if fed before I feed myself. As all mothers know, this is often done out of necessity... to stave of the wrath of The Hangry Toddler. What I also do is insist on everyone sitting down together for at least one meal a day. In our house, that is dinner. We all contribute to this time together, whether it is choosing the meal, setting the table, or helping to prepare the food. Even when my kids were little and just starting to sit up and eat solid food, we did this with them at the table, as a family at meal times. The problem with the "feed everyone before you feed yourself" mentality is that, once the "associates" have eaten, they want to go and do other things and there is no time for you to eat. Then your left with the second most terrifying thing next to The Hangry Toddler, The Hangry {Over-Caffeinated} Mother.

"The candidate must have a degree in medicine, finance and the culinary arts."

I have a degree in laboratory medicine and one in business management. My husband actually does have a degree in medicine. Not one of these academic degrees gives either of us any more qualifications to be a mother or father than anyone else walking around with degrees is psychology, education, the fine arts, chemical engineering or what-have-you. Parenting is not a degree you earn. It is hands-on learning and perhaps what having a degree in ANYTHING does for parents, is give them the tools and skills to figure shit out! (A university or college degree is in now way a prerequisite here.) Parents need a good amount of critical thinking skills, a whole lot of "flying by the seat of your pants" skills and a good measure of imagination and improvisational skills too.  Add all of that up and maybe, just maybe you'll get an imaginary Doctorate in Parenting, but just remember that your advanced degree is primarily going to apply only to those attending the U of YOF (Your Own Family).

"If you had a life, we would ask that you give that life up."

This is the moment in the video that I wanted to say a big, Eff OFF! Mothers (and fathers) do not give up their lives when they have kids! They make choices, they make sacrifices, they grow. Their lives change, they don't END. Now, if by life, the video meant JOB or CAREER, then yes, some parents do give those up. This line of thinking just furthers the notion that a person is valued not by who they are, but by what they do for a living. And if you need a reminder of the value of a MOTHER, well, then this post could go on for a LONG time!

"No vacations. No time to sleep."

This is just a continuation of the no life thing. Guess what Moms, you CAN take vacations! You can take them with your kids and yes, you can even take them without the kids. Now, if you are like me, it may take you a few years to work up to the whole leaving the kids for more than a day thing, but I promise you it will be worth it and you can take baby steps all the way up to that lovely week long tropical getaway for you and your significant other or your closest girlfriends.

The whole sleep thing is a different story. All I have to say about this is that my kids are 5 and 7 and some nights I may not be sleeping in my own bed... BUT, I am sleeping. Do what works for you and yours and do try to get some sleep!

"The position is going to pay absolutely nothing. Completely pro bono."

The reaction of the interviewees to this information is spot on. Who in their right mind would accept a job as all encompassing as the one described and not expect to get paid and paid quite handsomely at that? NO ONE! No, not even a mother. Why? I'll say this again... slowly.

MOTHERHOOD.        IS.         NOT.       A.       JOB.

Yes, sometimes it is tedious. Sometimes it is drudgery and you feel like you are drowning under piles of laundry, dishes, toys and expectations. Sometimes you can't even remember the last time you ate, showered, or pee'd by yourself and/or behind a closed door. Most of the time the little things that you do all day, the things that actually make up your day are thankless tasks that no one notices but you. Even with all of this, it is still not a job.

You are not paid by the hour or have a yearly salary. There is no HR department for you to go complain to about your lack of break time or all the overtime you've been putting in without anyone acknowledging it or all the things that you do that were not in the "job description" (clean poop off of ceiling comes to mind for some reason). And above all, you do not get to go home after a long day "on the job".

This whole idea of motherhood martyrdom or the equally damaging deification of "capital M" mother is getting out of hand. It further pushes the value we place on mothers into a separate realm of unattainable or untouchable (and therefore immeasurable). It is not empowering, nor is it glorifying. All this kind of advertising does is turn motherhood into a commodity. Our lives become a simple thing that someone else can make a profit from simply by pushing some emotional buttons, and letting you know just how damn hard and unrewarding and relentless and all consuming this "job" is.

And in that regard, well done CardStore Ad agency, well done.

Now go and make your mother an effin' card, you ingrate!

(and put a BILLION dollars in it!)

Natasha~

 

Not doing #theworldstoughestjob Oh Hi! It's just me...  you know, sitting down "on the job"!

 

 

 

 

 

The value of MOTHER.

It's started to happen already. The question whispered on people's lips or straight up asked right to my face. Next year both of my children will be in school full-time and some people are wondering...

"What are you going to do then?"

"What is your plan?"

This full-time school thing is a time of transition for everyone in the family. It is a time of letting go, of lunches packed with love, of good-bye kisses on cheeks, and wishes of having a good day, one that, for the first time, is going to be primarily without each other. I won't deny that it is a time that I am simultaneously dreading and dreaming of; dreading because I won't be the central person safeguarding my babies throughout their days anymore, and dreaming of because it has been seven years since I've had more than 3-4 hours all to myself on a regular basis to do whatever the hell I want!

And I get it. I get why the questions are asked of many, many mothers, who like me, are in stay-at-home roles. The kids are good now, right? They don't need you as much. They can DO all the things for themselves now and for 6-7 hours of the day they will be in the care of other people and learning about their worlds.

School siblings

The problem I am having with this "the kids don't need me anymore" logic, is that it feels like some kind of default assumption that, as a mother, what I have been doing for the past 7 years is nothing more than providing childcare for my children. That while it is true that I have given them all the basics to function on their own and they truly do not need me for said basics anymore (bum wipes, snotty noses, help with eating, zipping up jackets, etc...), I can now be relieved of my childcare duties. Now that they are school-aged, I can send them off for someone else to watch over for the day and then I can finally get back to being a regular, contributing member of society. You know, one with a 'real' job, and a purpose, and some kind of economic -and therefore societal- VALUE.

In her 2001 bestseller, The Price of Motherhood, Anne Crittenden discusses this concept in depth and shows us that although women may be liberated and on the path to economic equality, mothers are decidedly not.  

"The idea that time spent with one's child is time wasted is embedded in traditional economic thinking. People who are not formally employed may create human capital, but they themselves are said to suffer a deterioration of the stuff, as if they were so many pieces of equipment left out to rust."  

Don't get me wrong. Motherhood is not all sunshine and beautiful moments and crafting until your fingers bleed, but it is MUCH more than glorified babysitting.  It is a long-term commitment to building human character and developing the beings who will be the future of our world. It is about maintaining a healthy sense of attachment with our children so that they can confidently venture out into the world on their own and be caring human beings. Yet for reasons we still can't fully understand or correct, there is no dollar value that society can attach to this 'human capital' development and therefore no value in the people, primarily mothers, doing this work.

I am no fool. I know that if I decided to try to go back to work full-time, it would be a challenge for me from the get go. I'd have to explain my 8 year absence from the workforce. I'd have to somehow bump up my resume with my volunteer work , my writing and the various new skills acquired as a stay-at-home parent (and there are plenty!). Then I would somehow have to make the math add up, fitting an 8 hour work day into a 6 hour school day. This of course leads me to the search for before/after school childcare and the cost of this for two children, which, upon a quick perusal of various programs, would be a minimum of about $800/month. In the few hours between school and bedtime and interspersed with any extra-curricular activities, is where time spent with the children occurs and then after bedtime is when household care occurs. Yeesh! I am exhausted just thinking about this!

Yes, I know that for a lot of families, the choice to work or not is not one that they can make and the scenario above is their reality. I am fully aware of the level of privilege that I have in my life. Single or married, many, many people figure this all out and make it work for their families, and for that they have my utmost respect and admiration. I grew up with a single working mother and three younger siblings and she did make it work. How exactly she did this, I still don't know, but growing up, I was always in awe of her strength and character and how much she sacrificed for us and for the people and institutions that she worked for. Yet as I got older and then had children myself, I wondered just how much of her own self and happiness she sacrificed for us.

In that first year of parenting, the reality of what me going back to work would mean to our family didn't quite hit my husband and I until a few months before the end of that year. That in two months time we would be handing our infant son over to a child-care worker to care for him for most of the day, all of a sudden didn't sit quite so well with either of us. That I would have to stop breastfeeding him on demand and either pump or switch to formula for his nutritional needs wasn't something I was prepared to do. And that the logistics of my job would require me to be away for upwards of 3 days to a week's time at least quarterly and the implications of what this would mean for all of us seemed too daunting. When I found out I was pregnant again around the same time I was to return to work, the decision for me to be the stay at home parent seemed to be the option we were most comfortable with and the one that worked the best for our family.  So at the age of 36, and at a point of really starting to climb the proverbial corporate ladder of my career, to use the vernacular of the day, I "opted out".

It is a decision that I do not regret in the least. And of note, it is also a world that I have no desire to "lean {back} in" to either.

Recently I have had two close friends, who are in the same stay-at-home parental boat as me, tell me that they are going back to work later this year. They both have a multitude of reasons for doing so and I completely support these women and understand their reasons for making this decision for themselves and their families.

All except one.

Both have told me that going back to work will allow them to feel like they can finally DO THINGS for themselves without feeling guilty about it.

Here is the thing. I love both of these ladies and have seen them raise their children first hand for the past four years. Like most mothers I know, these are extremely dedicated women, who take care of house, home, children and spouses and all the logistics that go along with that. They have taken on the roles of economist and financial planner for their families, of early childhood educator, of artist/designer/house project manager, of cook/cleaner/chauffeur and mediator of family relations and the list goes on and on. If there were ever two people who deserved to do things for themselves, these two are IT (and yes, they are both probably reading this). They left their careers to be the primary at home caregiver for their families. A 40-hour work week traded in for one that is 24/7, that comes with no pay, no sick days, no health benefits and NO WEEKENDS OFF. Some will argue, "Well, that was their choice, so suck it up ladies!", but that argument falls apart when you take a closer look at the ridiculous expectations and societal parameters that are placed on mothers.

When you have a society that is constantly giving you the mixed messages that what you do as a mother is "the most important job on the planet" and glorifies you to semi-deity status and then simultaneously punishes you economically for leaving the workforce and shames you into sacrificing your very being to the glory that is Mother, it is no surprise that women feel a sense of guilt for wanting something that is just for them. That so many women echo the sentiments of losing themselves in motherhood and not feeling fulfilled in this role, despite all the wonderful praise capital "M" Motherhood elicits, is further testament to how undervalued a role it is, even by those fully entrenched in it. After all of this, the message that does get through is not "you are worth it", it is more often "you didn't earn it"," you don't deserve it", "IT'S NOT ABOUT YOU" and the ever popular "What exactly do you DO all day?".

I fully support all mothers, in all of their choices, and especially my dear friends on their decision to return to the workforce. I am actually quite excited for them both. My only wish for them and for any of you reading this is that whatever you choose to do in your life, be it working, staying at home, learning to paint, taking a yoga class, hiring a cleaning service, having a nanny, using a day care, getting a pedicure, going for a run or taking an hour long shower BY YOURSELF, that you make these choices with your agency intact and with full knowledge that you are worth it, that you should not feel guilty for wanting something just for you and that your work as Mother is not all of WHO YOU ARE. And even if, for a few years, it sorta-kinda is, please know that your work more than entitles you to being your own person, with her own needs and wants and that you can and should take care of yourself, however that may be. Do it for yourself and do it for your children as well. Let them see the value that you place on yourself, and let them take that message of self-care with them into the world that will one day be theirs.

In case anyone is still wondering what my plan is for next year, I plan on continuing to ensure the attachment and belonging that my children are growing up knowing with me as their mother. My "thing" is my writing and perhaps next year is the year of the great novel/screenplay/manifesto. I may even delve into some painting while I'm at it. Throughout it all though, please know that I support you in your choices, even though they may be different than mine, and that we all are deserving of doing the things that feed our souls.

{Psst.... I'll probably be getting a pedicure and a massage on a regular basis too.}

SAHFeminist

Take CARE of YOU,

natasha~

 

 

first instincts

As you may or may not know, my first foray into motherhood was not a smooth road. It was more like the Dakar Rally to be honest. At twenty-six weeks pregnant I was diagnosed with gestational hypertension and immediately admitted to hospital. And what followed for the next nine weeks was an uphill battle to grow a healthy baby, while flat on my back. Did I mention that we were building a house at the same time too? Yeah, this time in our lives was quite the opposite of stress-free and relaxed.

At our 35 week ultrasound we heard the words we had been preparing for, "It is time." Our baby was the size of a 30-week fetus and my body just wasn't giving him enough sustenance anymore and he needed to be delivered. On the evening of December 11, 2006, after a surprisingly fast induction, our tiny, fuzzy, 3 lb, 13 oz, skinny little baby, quite literally flopped his way into the world and onto the delivery room bed. I gave him one kiss and he disappeared with his father and a brigade of nurses and residents into the bowels of the NICU.

Our days and nights blurred and became about life in the neanatal intensive care unit. Wires, tubes, beeps, blips and alarms, blue lights, an emergency transfer to another hospital to see a specialist and back again the next day. I honestly can't remember much of those first few weeks of my child's life. I spent about 18 hours a day at the hospital and Christmas 2006 didn't really happen that year. I had one focus, and one focus alone; feed my baby, help him grow and bring him home.

I was a tired, stressed, on edge, first-time mother, with a tiny baby, who needed so much of me and from me and once we got him home, this did not change. He needed to be held constantly (or I needed to hold him constantly) and fed almost every hour. I did not sleep, I am sure I forgot to eat most days and I spent countless nights with tears streaming down my face and onto my sore nipples every time I got up and moved to another room to feed him, so as not to wake my husband.

I have the pictures from this time in our lives and in most of them I am smiling, but for the life of me, right at this moment, I can't remember half of what happened in those first 4-5 months. I know that at least once a day I would be breastfeeding him in our chair and then wake up 20 to 30 minutes later, with a kink in my neck, not able to remember falling asleep or knowing how long we had been there and thankful that I hadn't dropped the baby.

I was obsessed with my little preemie's weight and became a regular weekly fixture at the public health clinic. I charted his pees and poops and I timed how long he fed on each breast and the intervals between feedings. I scheduled his naps like a drill sergeant and I had a three ring binder to house all my colour-coded charts. My poor baby was slowly becoming a set of numbers that somehow I had to make sure all added up.

And then, probably around the same time that I was about to lose my mind and a friend suggested I attend a La Leche League meeting, something clicked. I realized that I was reading too many books and blogs and forums about how to do this mothering thing. I was listening to the advice and good intentions of everyone around me and I had not even considered listening to myself or to my child.

I threw away all the charts and the ugly binder. I got rid of the timers and gadgets to remind me which breast was up next and I let go of trying to control every aspect of our new life. I came to realize that doing so just meant that I ended up frustrated and depressed that I couldn't actually control any of it.

I looked at my baby and not the charts that I had assumed he had to measure up to. I listened to him. I fed him when he wanted to be fed. More often than not, in bed, lying down with him. We slept together. Better than we both had in MONTHS. I wore him in our favourite sling and we found our comfort zone with nursing in public. We started to go out more, made new friends and I continued to let go of my need to control and schedule every moment of his life.

I started to worry less and relaxed into motherhood more and a natural rhythm to our days and nights started to emerge. I admit that sleep was still our most difficult hurdle. My husband wanted our baby to sleep in his own room and my son wanted none of that! I believe that had we not pushed back on this so much and just let him continue to sleep with us (as we ended  up doing most nights anyhow), we might have avoided all the nights of trying all the different no-cry-gentle-shushing-sleeping-on-the-floor-sleep solutions and whatever other tactics suggested in the sleep-book-du-jour we happened to be reading. Yet despite this, I finally felt like I was doing motherhood the way I was meant to.

Why all this reminiscing about early motherhood you ask?

I wrote this with a friend in mind. I think she may be struggling a bit with being a new mom and trying to figure it all out and get it right. The sleep, the breastfeeding, all the other stuff that still needs doing, all of it is overwhelming. I want to remind her, and all new mamas, that motherhood is in us. It is written in our mitochondrial DNA from our grandmothers, grandmothers, grandmothers and we just need to trust in our nature, our instincts, to access it.

Think of a mama cat who has her first litter of kittens. She has never done this before, but she makes a nest, she births her babies all by herself, she licks them out of their caul, chews off the umbilical cords, starts nursing the first one even before the next one is delivered and will eventually eat the afterbirth and placenta. No one taught her to do these things and she didn't read "What to Expect when you are Expecting a Litter of Kittens." She is following her instincts and doing what in in her nature to do and what her babies need her to do.  

Perhaps, for some, the charts and the books and the schedules help to make the transition to motherhood easier. It makes sense to want an Operations Manual or Policy and Procedures binder for a new job, and in this regard, there is no lack of written material out there to read and use as our manuals for motherhood.

I would like to propose that we look deeper within ourselves for our own motherhood manual. It is there, just waiting to be accessed. And what I have learned is that the best way to access it, is to throw away all the other books, focus on your baby and listen to what your heart, your body and your mind are telling you do to.

If your child is crying and "the book" says don't pick him/her up, but your gut is twisting up with anxiety and the cries are like knives in your brain... LISTEN TO YOUR GUT and hold your child!

If you know what your baby does when he/she is hungry, but "the book" says to wait 3 hours between feedings to get a good schedule going... throw away that book, watch for these hunger cues and FEED YOUR BABY!

If you know that the only way your baby is going to sleep is safe and warm in your arms and against your chest and beating heart... then establish a safe place to co-sleep and SLEEP WITH YOUR CHILD! ( I am almost certain that you will get more sleep too!)

Trust your instincts mamas. They are there for a reason. And as it was for our grandmothers, grandmothers grandmothers, it is and always will be about survival. These days it may not be a saber-toothed tiger that is the main threat, but the constant bombardment of images and information about 'how to be the good mother" can be just as devastating to us!

Take a deep breath and relax.

You got this one, Mama!

[youtube]http://youtu.be/Vw4KVoEVcr0[/youtube]

natasha~

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I took a teeny little hiatus from the Summer Blog Challenge these past few days. I am sorry, but life trumps blogging and really, if I have no life, I have nothing to write about, so it is actually a win-win for everyone! 

Be sure to check out the other fine #summerblogchallenge writers who have no lives... JUST kidding! Liam,  ZitaMagzDPeterChristineCliff,  HethrAprilKaren, and Kim all have wonderful lives that you can go read all about on their blogs!