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“Just” being a parent is enough

I read this article in Scary Mommy.com yesterday that just made me sad. I wasn’t particularly surprised about the sentiment, it’s exactly why I created this blog, but the faulty logic made me jump out of my skin.

Firstly, everyone has felt this way; the drudgery, the feeling of slavery, the thanklessness. But I think, at the heart of it, she doesn’t value stay at home parenting. Perhaps it’s because she just read a book by Jessica Valenti, Why Have Kids? As she explains, “Valenti also posits in her book that, basically, we mothers have been duped into believing that motherhood is the most important job in the world by a paternalistic society that really, even in this progressive, enlightened age, wants to keep women at home where they belong and let men continue to run the world.”

What a sad, perverted, and distorted view of the world, which I will deal with another time. I’ve bought the book – second hand – so expect a review in the next few weeks. For now I want to discuss this sentiment:

Is motherhood really the most important job in the world?  That’s like saying, “Maintaining this house that I built, that nobody asked me to build, is the most important job in the world.”  I’m only raising the kids that I chose to have – I’m not doing society any favors.  Perhaps one of my kids will grow up and contribute something truly amazing to society – and in that way, it will be a blessing to humanity that I bore and raised that child.  But it’s not likely.  Let’s be honest: the vast majority of our kids will live average lives and will not leave a lasting mark outside of their own families.

There is a view of history that says that no one particular person is all that important. If Hitler didn’t exist, someone else would have been in his place because it’s all the other players in the world working concurrently that make things happen. A very important psychology researcher Alice Miller thought that the German people were raised perfectly to play the part they did in World War II. They were beaten regularly. They were raised to trust and respect authority and do as they were told. We do a similar thing with our own children these days don’t we? (Hopefully not the beatings, but respect authority surely.)

Kunitz-connected

Every single person, their experiences, their attitude, their thoughts and actions matter in society.  Its not just the big players directing what we all do, we all bump up against each other and those bumps cause ripples that reverberate across the world. It seems almost impossible, we don’t feel like we’re affecting much change in the world each day just by chasing our kids, going to the shops or smiling at a stranger, but we are.

Killing whales have contributed to global warming, reintroducing wolves into Yellowstone national park fixed it’s ecosystem, and the decline of bees has scientists in an absolute tizz because of their importance. Have you heard of the butterfly effect? Have you seen the film? Everything we do, say and believe makes a difference which reaches far wider than you would believe. This is why I advocate being non-judgmental in life, forgiving of mistakes made against you and gentle with everyone you meet.

Did you hear about the guy in Burger King who bought all the apple pies because the kid behind him was loud and obnoxiously demanding one from his mother? Everywhere I looked, people of all different belief systems thought it was exactly what should be done. Teach this kid a lesson. Do you know what lesson I think he learned? People are dicks to you when you are feeling out of sorts. He learned we have no duty to be kind and gentle with strangers. Great, thanks dude. He had no idea what was going on in their life. They could have been living with friends or family for months and been stressed out, they could have just experienced a death, he could be mentally ill perhaps. But this guy decided the kid needed to learn a lesson and he was going to give it to him. And everyone agreed!

Maybe if we were all parented a little bit more compassionately everyone wouldn’t agree. Maybe if we valued child care and a parents duty to their children rather than the GDP more people would have compassion and empathy. Instead, even feminists today think domestic work is for low aspirational people. They think it’s a waste for educated women to end up staying home with their children. Why? That enlightened mind bringing up a child is a benefit to society just as much, if not more so than it could have been to some corporate giant who will just find another enlightened mind to exploit.

I’m not saying I don’t have my own feminism vs. parenthood demons; indeed I started this blog because of the pressure in my own head to be productive in some intellectual and / or creative way. It needs to create value for other people or it’s not good enough. I don’t know why, I try to fight it, but I don’t feel any self-respect without trying to do something. So here I am, telling you that you don’t need to do that. It’s all a farce. Raising compassionate, empathetic kids who will populate our world is good enough. And if it’s not enough for you here are a few ideas for you.

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Featured image courtesy of to.wl

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