I have mixed feelings about whether we should categorize motherhood as a job. I mean, it's definitely work. The tasks are endless until the kids start doing things for themselves (and, even then, I find myself redoing them because how well can a 7-year-old kid put away his laundry?). And there’s the mental effort of staying calm in the storm of a power struggle with a 10-year-old whose latest hobby is door-slamming to mark the conclusion of her coveted screen time. But I was never able to call breastfeeding “work,” even though it took up much of my time, and attention, as a new mom. If I started calling it “work,” does that mean I’m defining “work” as anything I do that is in service of someone or something other than myself? That sounds like the basic definition of humanity to me.
I think the main reason I didn’t consider breastfeeding akin to having a job is that, even during the times I struggled with undersupply with my first baby, and oversupply with my second, the pros outweighed the cons. And the act was almost immeasurable. At my job, I have metrics of success. I know when things are going well, when they’re not, and I work among colleagues with a shared goal of doing quality work on time without sacrificing the quality of our lives. The efforts of motherhood don’t follow the same guidelines, and success is unique to each mom. I don’t feel like a failure for not serving organic food to my kids most of the time. Breastfeeding was something I really wanted to do and make work, so the fact that I was able to do that with both my kids bolstered my self-esteem and helped me identify what success looked like in our family.
As a working mom, it’s maybe easier for me to define “work” as I try to keep it at the office. I don’t want to make raising a family feel like a job (that I’m not getting paid for). I fear that would only make me resent my kids. As much effort as I put into bringing up my kids, they give me back in showing me the world through their curious eyes. Although I have to remind myself of this when I feel like I’m being beaten down by the travails of parenthood, raising kids is an adventure that I chose to be on.
So that, and the reasons below, are why I never call breastfeeding “work.”