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Parent Wise

The ultimate job

Equal pay for mothers? No one could afford it.

Our culture views the job of parenting as ordinary everyday nothing. Billions of women do it, it is required for the continuation of the culture and yet society doesn’t value it, pay for it, or even offer a tax break for full-time parenting. Nor is there instruction or training. The workforce entails some form of working oneself up the ladder with internships, staff development, on-the-job training, and certification hours to maintain a level of proficiency, not to mention the years of schooling required prior to entering the workforce. But parenting? What’s there to know?

Let’s look at the job description for mothers:

∎On duty 24 hours a day. For the first several years, possible sleep breaks only in 2-3 hour segments with no guarantee of which hours — must be ready for work at all times.

∎No breaks available, no vacations — actually the workload is more intense during holidays.

∎Must be physically strong and mobile. The job requires a high level of physical stamina — constant standing, walking, running, lifting, being climbed on, kicked and punched.

∎Mental stamina must remain calm, accepting, and positive in the face of possible chaos and explosive reactions at any moment.

∎Extraordinary negotiation and interpersonal skills — ability to see life through the eyes of someone at a much different developmental level.

∎Little to no peer support, constructive supervision, or positive feedback — but must be ready and able to give positive feedback continually.

∎ No awards, pay, pats on the back, “good jobs”

∎ Experience in medicine, nutrition, culinary arts, physical therapy, and social work is helpful if not required.

∎ Availability through thick and thin. Option to quit is unavailable.

∎ For mothers who work outside the home—all of the above plus your job.

∎ For single mothers, all of the above — alone.

∎ For mothers of special needs children, all of the above plus knowledge of available research and training in the special care required.

Imagine being paid for this job. Now imagine being paid equally to a man in this position. Consider yourself a billionaire. In reality, all that mothers have is job satisfaction. How do you measure up in that category?

Here’s a self-assessment questionnaire:

∎How do you feel about yourself as a parent most of the time?

∎ Where do you view job satisfaction on a scale from highly satisfying to barely doable. What would it take to move closer to highly satisfying? (different kids are not an option)

∎On a scale of 1-10, how much of the time do you spend in self-criticism?

∎ How much time in a week is spent on doing something for yourself?

∎On a scale of 1-10, how do you stack up as your child’s role model?

∎How would your kids rate you as a parent? (Hint: better than you would.)

When was the last time someone said to you, “You are such a great mother. I really appreciate the time and energy that you are devoting to raising good citizens”?

Remember thinking when you began this job, “Nobody ever told me it would be like this?” That’s because we’re expected to know how to deal with whatever hand we’re dealt, and alone. Long gone are the days of the extended family with built-in help, experience and wisdom to guide a new mother. Even a nuclear family is new at this business. No wonder we pass on the same old patterns from generation to generation. We don’t have time to learn new ways nor money to get the necessary help. We should have subsidized on-the-job training for the most important job there is. Imagine that passing in Congress!

Self-motivation is all we’ve got to go on.

So give yourself a break when you can’t handle it all the time. Stop pushing yourself to do it all, to get it right, forcing your children to get it right, and make sure you do something for yourself every day — okay, every other day.

What kind of mother do you want your children to have as a role model? A mother who is stressed, angry, rushed, and spent at the end of every day? A perfect mother? Or a mother who is loving, flawed and quirky, makes mistakes and learns from them? Which do you think your children would pick?

Get off your back, your child’s back and enjoy your relationship with these wondrous beings. The immense satisfaction and fulfillment that can come with the job is worth its weight in gold.

Congratulations to all you moms on a job well done. You deserve to be pampered on your Mother’s Day. Give yourself and every mother you know a huge pat on the back and ask them what they think their job is worth.

Disclaimer: The only reason I didn’t include fathers is because this is for Mother’s Day. I extend Kudos to the fathers who tackle the same job description. And for those of you who don’t, I encourage you to step in and help out.

Parent Wise Columnist Bonnie Harris, M.S.Ed, is the director of Connective Parenting and founder of The Parent Guidance Center, now The River Center, in Peterborough, where she teaches parent education classes. She is the author of “When Your Kids Push Your Buttons” and “Confident Parents, Remarkable Kids: 8 Principles for Raising Kids You’ll Love to Live With.” Email bh@bonnieharris.com.

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