An enormous and necessary disclaimer right up front, if I may: motherhood is hard as hell. It requires intense dedication and unfathomable time and energy. Stay-at-home moms, working moms, work-from-home moms, and everyone in-between have their work cut out for them. That said, you will never hear me say motherhood is a "job." In fact, I think that as a society, we need to stop referring to motherhood as a job. I don't seek this change because I think it's giving moms too much credit for the things they do, but, rather, because it doesn't give them nearly enough.
Jobs and motherhood can have a lot in common, sure. We spend a huge amount of our time focused on it. We can love it and hate it (sometimes even at the same time). We can derive tremendous satisfaction from it. And, for better and for worse, we often allow these roles to define us. For these and other reasons, it makes sense that we often view motherhood as a "job." The truth of the matter is, though, you just can't compare the two and that's OK. This isn't a "my choice is better than your choice" statement to childfree women out there. This isn't a smug, veiled way of saying something along the lines of, "Until you have kids you just can't understand." This is like saying, "You can't compare wind-surfing to a banana." Both wind-surfing and bananas are great, each with their own set of benefits and virtues, but comparable? No.
There are other reasons motherhood shouldn't be considered a job, too, none of which detract from either careers or being a mom. Of course, how any woman wants to define her life choices and experiences are entirely up to her. However, for me, there are undeniable reasons why I don't view motherhood as a "job," including the following:
It's Just Not
By definition, motherhood is not a job. A job is defined as "a paid position of regular employment." No one has ever paid me to be a mom. In fact, I pay handsomely to have kids. I paid for them before they were even born via prenatal care and I'll continue to pay for them for a long-ass time. Words mean things, and they're used in particular ways for particular reasons, which brings me to my next point...
Jobs Aren't The Only Life Choice That Should Be Valued
People in our culture tend to be valued based on how they sell their labor, what they earn for it, and the possessions they can acquire and own based on the gains from that labor. Call me a commie (all my friends do!), but I just refuse to believe that only life choices that entail a career or financial gain can be seen as worthwhile. By describing motherhood as a "job," we are buying into that paradigm that tells us only "work" deserves respect. How about we just insist that motherhood be an endeavor of immeasurable value that doesn't need to be called a "job" to be taken seriously and worthy of one's dedicated time and effort?
Who's Your Boss?
If it's a job you have a boss (probably and usually). So, who is your boss? Your children? Your partner? Both of those seem incredibly bleak and wildly inaccurate. (Okay, maybe it feels like your kids are your boss sometimes, as they can be mean, inconsistent, demanding bosses.)
Makes Stay-At-Home/Working Parent Relationships Seem Transactional Rather Than Cooperative
Stay-at-home moms viewing motherhood as a career are put in an awkward position of imagining their relationships with their children and their partners as some sort of business arrangement. That's, um, more than a little creepy, right? Instead of seeing this version of motherhood as a tit-for-tat exchange, why don't we view the family unit as something outside of capitalist structures that exist because they (like motherhood itself) are important, even outside of such a context.
You Don't Get To Quit
Ever. Even when you really, really feel like you might want to. If you're a dissatisfied employee you can, technically, leave your job and seek other employment. Mothers cannot do the same. We're not allowed to submit resumes to other families and ask them to take over. That would be weird.
Furthermore, there are special laws in place to ensure that people with jobs are treated fairly. While those rules are not always obeyed, unfortunately, the point is that society and government have come together to acknowledge that people need to be treated with relative fairness at work. Motherhood is basically The Hunger Games in comparison. You're on never-ending 24 hour shifts, no breaks, and, as stated above, no pay. Worst. Job. Ever.
It's A Pretty Reductive Description
I've had the great pleasure of having really cool jobs. I've been with great companies and organizations, wonderful co-workers, and amazing bosses. I've been able to think, with content satisfaction, "I made a difference today." Even with those experiences in my pocket? Yeah, I just can't sum up parenthood in the same way. That's not to say one needs to be a parent to be fulfilled, but you can't compare a job to being a parent any more than you can compare being in love to a job.
Everyone Has To Do A Lot Of This Stuff
I feel like this is where a little bit of perspective comes in handy. A lot of times, I will find myself lumping all the tedious or difficult things I have to do under the "motherhood" umbrella, sighing and dejectedly thinking, "Well, this is my job."
No. Things like maintaining a home, providing food for your family, and paying bills? That's called "being an adult" and, mother or not, all adults have to do it one way or another. It's easy to lump this in with motherhood because you're not just having to do these things for yourself, but for a completely dependent other person. It's easy to think of it as a job because, well, it's required and can be super-annoying, but you shouldn't and it's not.
It's Really Not All That Bad, And It's Also So Much Worse
I understand why people go on about motherhood as being the hardest job in the world, because it's really hard. It's the mental equivalent of running a never-ending series of marathons until the kid grows up, at which point you're still running, but there's no set route or finish line. At the same time, motherhood is awesome and has perks that jobs really can't provide. I feel like describing motherhood as a job misses out on this really crucially important aspect of the gig: the joy.
At the end of the day, the main take away is that while both motherhood and careers can be at times both awful and amazing, you just can't compare the two at all. So, maybe it's time we all stop trying to.