As moms, I think we’ve all said it. “It’s the hardest job you’ll ever have.” “Being a mom is a full-time job.” Not to mention the countless studies and subsequent articles that aim to put a salary on motherhood.
“I feel very strongly about that statement. When I put it in, we had a big talk about it in the writers’ room. They were like, ‘Shonda!’ and I was like, ‘It’s true!’ You cannot quit being a mother. Calling it a job belittles it. It goes part and parcel with the whole idea of motherhood as sacrifice. Some site tweeted, ‘Getting no sleep when you have a newborn is a badge of honor!’ And I was like, No it’s not! It sucks! And we should be able to say it sucks. The greeting cards that are like, Mother, you sacrificed so much for me — the glorification of mothers who are doormats for our children? Where is the greeting card that’s like, Mother, thank you for teaching me how to be a CEO? Mother, thank you for teaching me how to make money. Mother, thank you for teaching me how to kick ass and take names. Those are the greeting cards that I want my child to get when she is a mother. So when people are like, ‘Oh, it’s the most important job you’ll ever have’? No. The most important job I’ll ever have is my job.”
When I first read the quote, out of context, I wanted to disagree. I wanted to say, but it is a hard job. But then I realized that to compare motherhood — or parenthood in general — to my job is an impossible task. If I wake up tomorrow morning with sniffles, I can call in sick. I collect a paycheck every two weeks. I can get health benefits. And as much as I love my job, I could pack up my desk today and walk out. I could leave just because I don’t like it or because I want a change of scenery or because I want to travel the world.
Motherhood is nothing like that. Except in the case of an adoption, there is no interview. I don’t get the chance to bring my infant in to make sure it’s a good fit. And when I get home today after a hard day of work, I can’t say, “I’ve worked my 40 hours, I’m clocking out. Good luck, kids!” (Trust me, I’ve tried that).
The more I think about it and the more I read her quote, the more I think it’s about time we stop referring to parenting as a job. It’s something much more involved, ingrained and, honestly, difficult than that. Waking up at 2 a.m. to quiet a screaming child after a nightmare, or kissing a boo-boo after he scrapes his knee, or feeling anxious when you’ve been sitting in a steam-filled bathroom for hours still hearing the rattling in your baby’s chest. Dropping your daughter off for the first day of school. Marveling at the fact that this little human can read, when it seems like just weeks ago he couldn’t even talk.
Those tasks — those feelings — cannot be quantified. So let’s stop calling motherhood a job. Let’s stop using it to pit women against each other. And let’s agree that those who have chosen to be moms are doing something incredibly hard, and sometimes we may hate it and become overwhelmed by it, but in the end, we won’t quit. Because it’s not a job. It’s an integral part of who we are and who we will be for the rest of our lives.