My response to “Sorry, but being a mother is not the most important job in the world”

Another day, another Guardian article that’s got me thinking.

As the headline says, it’s disputing the fact that being a mother is the “most important job in the world.” And I have to say that it’s left me in two minds.

I’ll discuss the aspects I disagree with first. Of course being a mother is an important job. Although I am aware that she is not actually disputing the fact that being a mother is hard work, I felt that the author took the word “job” a tad too literally, when comparing the trials of motherhood with the physical toil involved in “working 16 hours a day in a clothing factory in Bangladesh, making bricks in an Indian kiln, or being a Chinese miner.” I also sensed an underlying bitchy tone (especially in the final paragraph) which seems to sneer at those women who do give up work and dedicate themselves to bringing up their children; you get the impression that she finds these women to not be feminist enough for her liking.

However, I do agree with the majority of it. She’s right when she discusses the importance of the roles of other people who are involved in the care and nurturing of a child. When I was growing up, my grandparents and great auntie were just as influential and important to us as my mother was – they picked us up from school, they made us our tea, they helped us with our homework – to the point where I have much clearer memories of them providing care during my early years than of my dad. That’s not to say that my dad was absent or disinterested; I am just able to recall more instances of the older generations in our family tending to us. (Mad Tam, if you are reading this, do not take offence.) Actually, I would say one of my dad’s greatest strengths is how brilliant he is at looking after young children, to the extent that if I were to start a family in the future, I would hope that my dad has retired and can help to look after them, further cementing the fact that it’s not just mothers who are instrumental in the job of bringing up children. (Thanks in advance, Dad!)

As someone who is not a mother, I do resent the idea that, if I choose to remain childless, that I am less important to society than a woman who has children. For me, this article highlighted the constant criticism women have to endure from every angle. I just wish women could be left alone to do their own thing, without constant pressure and criticism and comment from all sides. “Breast is best.” “Stay-at-home mums are not feminists.” “Working mums are neglecting their children.” It is utterly relentless and it needs to stop. I’ll admit to hoping that, if I were to have children, I would be able to return to work in some capacity as well as being able to bring them up; I worry that if I was a stay-at-home mum I would get bored, and I’m not embarrassed to say as much. However, I am also well aware of the fact that life doesn’t always work out the way you want it to. And irrespective of the path I take in the next decade or so, I know that the job I will be doing will be important to someone, somewhere, whether I’m a mother or not.