Is motherhood a job?

So the Queen told Kate Winslet that motherhood is “the best job”. Why do I find this so annoying? I am a mother. I do think mothers are undervalued. All the same, I’d rather not be told I have “the best job”. Particularly not if Hollywood actresses and heads of state are claiming it’s their dream job, too.

The Telegraph’s Jemima Lewis is railing against the Queen’s choice of words, too:

A job is a position for which you must compete. […]  If you’re good at it, you might get promoted up the ranks and become an expert in your field. By contrast, any moron or sociopath can become a mother. There’s no line manager to assess your performance, and no hierarchy to ascend. You might think of yourself as an expert, but other mothers won’t thank you for telling them what to do.

To be honest, I find this argument rather simplistic (and would do even if it weren’t for the offensive choice of words). There are various standards and measures which make motherhood – as it is culturally perceived – pretty damn competitive. By contrast, there are lots of ways in which the world of paid work isn’t half as meritocratic as it pretends to be. While you might not need qualifications to breed, the sheer pressure of having a child can give even the laziest sod a kick up the arse. When it comes to parenthood – and, if we’re honest about current social expectations, motherhood in particular – it’s not so easy to slack off, coast and bluff because the stakes are too high. Some people still mess up, sure, but it’s not just their own lives they ruin. The judgment that falls on those who fail at parenting is harsher, as it should be, but that’s not a reason to ignore just how difficult parenting can be. Still, like Lewis, I cringe when the “best job in the world” line is trotted out, albeit for different reasons.

The Queen is not alone in her excessive praise of motherhood as a job. Motherhood is frequently rated more highly than the type of work for which one gets paid. Alas, more often than not, the people doing the rating aren’t suggesting for a moment that mothers should get an income of their own. On the contrary, the implication is usually that women who devote themselves to motherhood alone are better than women who don’t. For instance, writing on the Danish prime minister Helle Thorning-Schmidt, the Mail’s Peter Hitchens claims that “raising the next generation is a far more responsible and important task than being the chief executive of a minor Euro-province which is mainly governed from Brussels anyway” (note to Peter: it’s probably more important than writing for the Mail, too). Meanwhile, anti-feminist campaigner Suzanne Venker claims that feminists don’t appreciate “the most important job in the world” because “unlike most women, feminists have chosen not to focus on — or in many cases even have — husbands and children” (hence you’re a crap mummy if you have kids and an aberration if you don’t).

Of course, “the best job” doesn’t have to mean the hardest, the most stimulating or the most well-paid. If you start to say “well, I wouldn’t say it’s the best…” it could start to sound a little like you don’t appreciate your kids (or, depending on one’s perspective, that your kids are a disappointment). I wouldn’t want to suggest this for a minute about mine, who are – I’ll stick my neck out here – way better than the Queen’s kids, at least thus far. My children are the most important thing in the world to me. But comparing children and paid jobs seems to me deeply inappropriate. Whenever it’s made it’s a manipulative, loaded comparison. Either it’s to flatter – as in the case of the Queen and Kate Winslet – or it’s to stick the knife into those who aren’t doing their “job” properly. All us know that looking after one’s own children and engaging in paid employment both constitute forms of “work”. Even so, instead of valuing them both for different reasons, we play one off against the other as a means of making unfair judgements about individual women’s lives and decisions.

Motherhood offers non-material rewards. However, the serious issue we still don’t engage with – one which someone as wealthy as the Queen could never understand – is that financial needs don’t disappear. If the work of parenting rests most heavily on the shoulders of mothers, we do need to find a way of compensating for that so that women aren’t losing the freedom and self-determination that money can bring. Those who present caring for children as women’s natural vocation rarely suggest an income for mothers other than what might come from being a “kept woman”. Yet if the pay gap is down to natural, biological impulses (and I don’t personally believe it is), it should be unacceptable for women to be “naturally” poorer, with fewer opportunities and choices. If motherhood is seriously comparable to paid work – if mothers truly are “CEOs of the hearth” – then we shouldn’t condemn them to lives of poverty and/or material dependency. Perhaps this wouldn’t cross your mind if you’re the Queen or a Hollywood actress. But it crosses my mind – and according to some, I’m not even a “proper” mother.


28 thoughts on “Is motherhood a job?

  1. Hi GW. I keep reading that mothers are ‘undervalued’, and I have to ask, by whom? Certainly not by men, in my experience. I think mothers are undervalued by feminists who are angry about women making the choice to not engage in paid employment, or to work part-time, rather than fight men full-time in the workplace, and ideally rejecting male partners altogether and being financially independent. So they relentlessly shame ‘stay-at-home’ mothers. What a recipe for happiness and contentment for mothers and their children feminists have been subscribing.

    Mike Buchanan

    1. Feminists don’t undervalue mothers and mothering, that’s a stereotype promoted by anti-feminists.

      If you’d done the reading Mike, you’d know that feminism isn’t about battling with men to be equal in the workplace, it’s about changing the workplace (in the context of changing society) so that women don’t have to battle with men to be “equal” because the workplace and the rest of the society, would be adapted to the needs of women as much as it to those of men. And seeing as how 80% of women become mothers, that means adapting society (and the wokplace) to the needs of mothers and other carers.

      Do a bit more reading before you make sweeping and inaccurate statements about feminism.

      1. Thanks. I should ‘do more reading’? I’ve read very widely and written three books in this area, which cite a huge amount of evidence. So the corporate sector should accept financial performance decline as an acceptable price for a social engineering initiative? The clear evidence shows that as more women get into the boardroom, financial performance declines:

        Mike Buchanan

  2. Motherhood is a state.You are either a mother or you aren’t. Whether you are any good at it is irrelevent to the argument.

    Looking after children is a job, whether you are a SAHM, nursery worker, childminder, nanny, au pair etc

    I cringe when I hear it’s the best job in the world because frankly, as a job, I hate it. I don’t think this is an reflection on how I FEEL about my children and I am genuinely glad there are people who love looking after children (my CM is one them and fantastic)

    Jemima Lewis sounds like an idiot. “Parenting may be hard work – i.e. physically laborious, mentally taxing and sometimes boring – but it is not Work. ” hmm I’m pretty sure I know some nursery staff who might take issue with it not being work….(or does it magically become work just because a) it’s paid and b) you are not actually called Mum)

    The whole issue makes me seethe, this whole oh looking after children is only work/job if you are paid for it bollocks. It enables men to continue to see woman who are not in paid employment as 2nd class citizens.

    Sorry if I haven’t been very eloquent about it.

    1. Good morning. You write, ‘It enables men to continue to see woman who are not in paid employment as 2nd class citizens.’ I’m 54 and I’ve never heard a man express such a view. It’s a myth that men do so, spread by misandrous feminists. They appear to deny that women can enjoy looking after children. Well, if I look at the women I know who look after their kids full-time, and compare them with the women who work full-time, I know which is the happier group, by a country mile.

      Mike Buchanan

      1. @mikebuchanan It is absolute rubbish to say that working mothers are less happy than those who stay at home. Even the most maternal of my female colleagues would say otherwise. Some mothers may feel guilty because they believe that societal expectations of mothethood demand mothers stay at home with their childten but that is a different matter.

        1. Thanks Kundlebret. Across the developed world there has been a huge movement of women into paid employment in recent decades. I’m not aware of a single study which reports women becoming happer over that time. Doubtless the reason for this is attributable to men somehow (all women’s woes are attributable to men, none to women themselves). If only men would become more like women, then women could become more like men. And what happiness would result!

          Mike Buchanan

      2. Funny, I’ve known lots of deeply unhappy stay at home mothers, and lots of very satisfied working mothers. I think it all depends on what we actually *want* to do with our lives.

  3. Hi Mike – I’m a SAHM & a feminist, sorry to blow your mind. It doesn’t make me any less of a feminist to be a SAHM. My misandry extends to not enjoying being whistled at/verbally abused in the street, having my arse grabbed on a rare night out, & my children asking ‘Why has that woman got her milkies out in that newspaper?’

    It’s not just mothers who are undervalued (although I would agree with GW that they are) but women as a gender. If I’m sick of being objectified & treated as a second class citizen that’s nothing to the fear I feel that my daughter will be treated the same one day.

    1. Hi Emily. I’m 54 and I’ve never seen a woman ‘verbally abused’ by a man in the street in my life. Women are second-class citizens? Hmm.

      – male suicide rate is 3.5 tmes that of women’s
      – 98% of work-related deaths are of men
      – homelessness is overwhelmingly a male problem
      – men live 7 years less than women on average and retire five years later
      – the money spent on detecting and treating male-specific diseases (e.g. prostate cancer) is tiny compared to that spent on women-specific diseases (e.g. breast and cervical cancer)
      – 60% of undergraduates are female due to a feminised teaching system engineering that outcome. This has resulted in a gender pay gap in favour of women under 29
      – male graduates 50% more likely to be unemployed after graduating than female graduates
      – for every three unemployed women there are four unemployed men (1.08m v 1.44m)
      – the jobs which are the most unpleasant, dangerous and/or with unsocial hours – the ‘glass cellar jobs’ – are virtually exclusively carried out by men
      – women can deny their ex-partners access to their kids and their ex-partners will get little or no support from family courts
      – women typically serve half the prison sentences as men for the same offences, and are far less likely to receive custodial sentences regardless of whether or not they have children

      Yep, women clearly have a hard time of it in modern-day Britain. I can see how having your arse grabbed by a drunken man on a rare night out makes you a second-class citizen. And as for the ‘milkies’, you need to ask their owners. My guess is it’s the alluring prospect of getting attention and earning a lot of money for minimal effort, which appeals to women able to profit from their looks.

      Mike Buchanan

      1. Oh, well, Mike, if you’ve never seen it then obviously it’s a total fallacy. ::eyeroll::

        Men like you make me want to be a misandrist (which, by the way, my iPhone doesn’t recognise as a word).

      2. You’ve never seen a woman verbally abused on the street? I just don’t believe you. Sorry. It happens everyday all the time. Whether a woman is walking along and gets catcalled; whether she is running and gets abused for how she looks/runs; whether she is in a night club and gets groped. You know know why you haven’t “seen” it? Because it doesn’t affect you. Your male privilege prevents you seeing it. That is very nice for you.

  4. I would just like to make an amendment to my post
    “Looking after children is a job, whether you are a SAHM, nursery worker, childminder, nanny, au pair etc”

    Should really read
    “”Looking after children is a job, whether you are a SAHM, [b] WOHM [b], nursery worker, childminder, nanny, au pair etc”

    just because you also in paid employment doesn’t mean you come home and the kids are miraclously making supper, doing the laundry or wiping their own nose. Looking after the children out of “normal” working hours is still a job.

  5. male suicide rate is 3.5 tmes that of women’s – That’s because they’re too arrogant to ask for help and because they are more violent, including towards themselves.

    – 98% of work-related deaths are of men – Not true. Look at the rates of murder of prostituted women. Also men are more likely to be in jobs which have instrinsically more danger in them, partly because they have deliberately excluded women from those jobs.

    – homelessness is overwhelmingly a male problem – where females are homeless, it is generally due to domestic violence.

    – men live 7 years less than women on average and retire five years later – that’s because they don’t take as good care of their health as women. They may retire five years later, but they have on average 14 hours a week more leisure time than women because they don’t do as much domestic work and when women retire, they continue to do the unpaid, invisible domestic work.

    – the money spent on detecting and treating male-specific diseases (e.g. prostate cancer) is tiny compared to that spent on women-specific diseases (e.g. breast and cervical cancer) – then lobby for more and stop whining at women about it.

    – 60% of undergraduates are female due to a feminised teaching system engineering that outcome. This has resulted in a gender pay gap in favour of women under 29 – which soon gets wiped out when they have babies . Men never minded the masculineds teaching system which favoured men. There is no “feminised” teaching system, girls do better than boys because they work harder and are better at withstanding peer pressure to be a nobber.

    – male graduates 50% more likely to be unemployed after graduating than female graduates – that’s because they demand more money.

    – for every three unemployed women there are four unemployed men (1.08m v 1.44m) Tht’s because they demand more money.

    – the jobs which are the most unpleasant, dangerous and/or with unsocial hours – the ‘glass cellar jobs’ – are virtually exclusively carried out by men – because they exclude women from them.

    – women can deny their ex-partners access to their kids and their ex-partners will get little or no support from family courts – the majority of non-resident parents (3/5) financially abuse their children by not paying maintenance and women get no support from CSA or courts.

    – women typically serve half the prison sentences as men for the same offences, and are far less likely to receive custodial sentences regardless of whether or not they have children – they are far less likely to receive custodial sentences because the crimes they commit are not as violent and do not carry custodial sentences. Where they do get custodial sentences, they are less likely to behave violently in prison, which is why they are eligible for parole and tend to serve lower sentences.

    Now for some real stats:

    1 in 4 women get raped or sexually assaulted. By men.

    85%-90% don’t report rape.

    Of those who do, only 6% see guilty conviction.

    But only 4% of rape allegations are false.

    So 90%+ of reported rapists walk free.

    Added to the 85-90% who are never even reported.

    1 in 4 women are victims of domestic violence.

    The pay gap still exists.

    Women more likely to be poor in old age because pension structures, sexism in career progression and having taken time out to raise children (most important job in the world, remember – fucks your pension).

    1 in 3 teenage girls suffer sexual assaults at school.

    Most films, TV shows etc. show males as the protagonists and women as back up roles. Most films do not pass the Bechdel test (2 women, talk to each other, about a subject other than a man).

    Women still do not have full medical control over their own bodies – they have to get 2 doctors (mostly male) to give permission for termination of an unwanted pregnancy.

    Women are portrayed as sex objects for men’s assessment and gratification.

    Now sod off, whiney MRA.

    1. H&H, thank you for your comments. Before I sod off, I just want to remark on your laughable ‘real stats’. Such stats – and specifically the ‘1 in 4’ DV and sexual assault ‘real stats’ – have been exposed as fraudulent by many writers, I never cease to be amazed at how often they’re mindlessly trotted out. It’s very well recorded, for example, that female-on-male DV is at least as common as male-on-female DV. There are 400+ female-only refuge, and two men-only. Equality is a fine thing.

      For some time I directed feminists towards the huge body of evidence which exposed the stats as fraudulent, but none of them ever bothered to look into the matter. And over time it dawned on me that feminists WANTED to believe the stats – it justified their misandry. But it wasn’t untl I’d read Swayne O’Pie’s ‘Why Britain Hates Men: Feminism Exposed’ that I finally grasped that not only did feminists want to believe such lies, they NEEDED to believe them. I know you won;t read the book, but at least you know it exists.

      I’ll end my subscription to GW now, so I shan’t have the pleasure of seeing any response you delight the other visitors with.

      Mike Buchanan

      1. Typical MRA: declares that rigorously researched, consistent stats which have been produced via more than one study are fraudulent without actually linking to the (disreputable and discredited) sources he says prove they are fraudulent and then comes up with another preposterous “fact” – it’s “very well recorded” that female on male DV is at least as common as… yeah, very well recorded by whiney MRA liars who are incapable of interrogating statistical data or recognising dodgy data and desperate to seize on any paltry evidence, however questionable, that might prove that narsty old women are -wah! at least as horrible as poor put-upon menz. Pathetic.

        Every single stat we have that has been produced by REPUTABLE studies shows without any ambiguity that male on female DV is way more common and more serious in its effects than the other way round. And again, the reason there are more refuges for women is because women campaigned for them and there needs to be – men are so violent that they murder 2 women a week and that’s without counting the other very serious injuries they inflict, women’s abuse of men doesn’t come anywhere near as close. What are you doing to establish refuges for men, Mike? Men (in government) are closing down women’s refuges as we type and MRA whiners do NOTHING to keep them open and open up more for men, they concentrate on promoting preposterous lies instead. If they believed their own lies and cared so much about the men they claim are being abused by women, they’d be out there campaigning for male refuges.

        The reason feminists don’t bother with your stats is because time and time again, stats used by MRA whiners have been shown to be absolutely unreliable, whereas the ones used by feminists are robust and reliable.

        As to ending your subscription to GW, I’m sure she’ll be devastated, as will her followers. What will we do without the lordly Mike to mansplain to us where we’re all going wrong? How will we cope without his authoritative male voice putting us shrill silly-headed females right with spurious data and ludicrous pronouncements? Oh dear, I’m so upset by your threat to abandon poor Glosswitch to a feminist cesspit of accurate data and coherent thought that I might have to go and point and laugh at some other whiney MRA’s to cheer myself up.

    2. So, men have created the patriarchy to hold women down, and that’s why they still:
      – exclude women from dangerous and unpleasant jobs;
      – fund women’s health programs way more times then male’s one;
      – let women get better education and jobs after graduation;
      – are more violent toward themselves;
      – let women keep the children away from them and don’t care about their own offspring;
      – created justice system that encourage feminin behavour by letting women serv less time inprisoned then men?!

      It seems to me, men created patriarchy to hold MEN down!

      You are either a brilliant internet troll or just plain stupid, aren’t you?

      1. Men don’t LET women do anything.
        What we do, we have had to fight for the right to do and men have opposed us every step of the way.
        You’re not very bright are you Elder brother, off you fark, there’s a dear

      2. I have no option to replay to H&H comment below so I will answer my comment.

        So, what exactly men didn’t let you do? They didn’t let you educate yourself? They didn’t let you have a job? They didn’t let you have breast cancer screens and other health cares? They didn’t let you express your speach freely? They didn’t let you use internet, public transport, electricity? They didn’t let you post your idiotic propaganda in your stupid blog? What they didn’t let you do exactly? And if some man didn’t let you do anything that you have a legal right to do, men didn’t let you to defend it in the court?! (These questions are personal so, don’t try to explain me about women in Angola, Pakistan or other 3rd world countries!)

        Ok, let me tell you this, I agree with you on one thing, MRA is bullshit. But hey, feminism is bullshit too. To be more specific human rights are the biggest crap that human kind ever made! And all the leftist like you, that are trying to “make the world a better place” are the biggest scums.

      3. Please tell me you are kidding!! Men fund women’s health? Let us get better education? Better jobs?? SERIOUSLY???

        Come on dude, it isn’t THAT different here in the U.S. Try walking a mile or more in my shoes before claiming all this nonsense.

      4. Ah right, I can answer your post below here, because for some reason I can’t answer it down there.

        Elder brother, you don’t get to set the terms of debate. I know that’s astonishing for you, because men are used to being able to grandly define what the parameters are to anything, but hey, guess what, this is the interweb and it’s a blogspot that you don’t write, so unless Glosswitch comes along and deletes us both, that means the terms of debate are up for grabs. Which means that your “personal” questions don’t get answered because I don’t accept your narrow parameters. Now to answers:

        They didn’t let you educate yourself? For centuries men denied women the right to educate themselves, refusing them access to schools and universities. See Taliban today who try to murder female children for having the cheek to want to educate themselves.

        They didn’t let you have a job? For centuries men denied women access to the workplace where there was status and today they have structured the workplace so that anyone with caring responsibilities finds it difficult to function effectively within it. The 9-5 model of work, relied on a woman at home to pick up the childcare and domestic responsibilities and the model hasn’t changed to accomodate the entry of women into it. Whenever tweaks are made to accomodate the other half of humanity, men scream and shout about how women are getting special treatment, not noticing that they are getting special treatment because the workplace is structured to how they live, not how all of us live.

        They didn’t let you have breast cancer screens and other health cares? They let us have those because if we die, men might have to look after their own children and do their own housework and that would be a bore for them.

        They didn’t let you express your speach freely? Actually no, they don’t let us express our speech freely. Men get violent if you don’t back down at a certain point. They silence us by telling us that we’re over-reacting, too angry, nitpicking, blah blah. They don’t outright say: “if you carry on speaking, I will hold you up to ridicule and social ostracisation at best or I will beat you at worst” because they don’t have to – women know how it works without it being spelled out.

        They didn’t let you use internet, public transport, electricity? No, not without sexual harassment they don’t. They allow us to walk in the street, but quite often if we aren’t accompanied by a man, they yell obscene insults at us to remind us not to feel we’re entitled to be there. If women went to the police every time a man sexually threatened us, there would be no time to investigate any other crime.

        As for your leftist scum nonsense, you have no idea if I’m trying to make the world a better place. I’m certainly not interested in making it a better place for entitled, abusive men, I think it’s already a good place for them. Also, if you call people scum on the internet, it makes you sound like you’re really very angry and a bit stupid. I realise that you may not be, but people may mistake you for an idiot if you use that sort of tone and language, I do hope that’s helpful feedback for you.

        1. … so unless Glosswitch comes along and deletes us both…

          Hell, no, not with brilliant comments like that! So many things which shouldn’t have to be said but which you have said so perfectly.

    3. “that’s because they don’t take as good care of their health as women”

      Your other rebuttals seem pretty much spot on (much cheering from the sidelines here as you righteously Buchanan-bash), and on the “biological determinism” spectrum I’m way over towards “skeptical”, but I’m not aware of any evidence that would support this being the dominant factor for the differential.

      Then again, by the same token I fail to see how it goes to MB’s supposed point. Given his unbounded enthusiasm for a cod-essentialist rationale for the status quo (with lots of “invisible hand” on the side, of course), surely that he’ll be dying that bit sooner’s a small thing to complain about. And to whom, anyway? (The CoE are pretty flexible on the whole “number of sacraments” thing, maybe they’ll install Divine Suggestion Boxes.)

      (Do we think he’s really gone? Or is EBG just his Jekyll/Hyde sockpuppet anyway? And what the *heck* is going on with that noxious fake link in the latter’s signature (or header, or whatever the correct WordPressism is)?)

  6. It would seem that unfortunately there really are still men in the world today who don’t actually inhabit the same dimension, let alone planet, as the rest of us.

    Yes, there are still inequalities and inbalances in society – apparantly women who have had the shit kicked out of them and are then left in a state of poverty to raise the children, are still considered to be the creator of their own undoing.

    But moving away from the victim blaming and back to the article, just for a moment: would it not just be simpler to trust the mother to define her role for herself? To decide – for herself – if it is the most important to her, or one of the many impoertant roles she can fulfill? Let’s entertain the radical notion of society butting out for five minutes and letting a woman define herslf.

    And in the event the father of said off-spring turns out to be unfaithful or abusive, that society provide her with the tools she needs to pick herself up and continue to fulfill the important roles – motherhood, buisness woman, whatever – that she has or can be good at? For the benefit of her children *and* the wider society?

    With equality comes competition. Once it would only have been other men you competed with – many of whom were better educated than you. And if the reality was that women got the better breaks, there would be more women in government and business.

    If women got better treatment in the wake of relationship breakdowns, there would be fewer children in poverty.

    And if you want to see your kids, see them. Involve yourself or don’t, fatherhood (like motherhood) doesn’t come with an embossed invitation.

    1. Elder Brother George…I for one am very grateful that us lowly feeble women have been ALLOWED to use electricity as you so astutely pointed out. Thank you. Women’s rights and feminism is for all women so yes, I think we should think about women in third world countries too because unless we do people like you will continue to attempt to undermine any kind of progress that might be made in the western world where, according to you everything is fine anyway and we shouldn’t whinge because we’ve been allowed ELECTRICITY and PUBLIC TRANSPORT.

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