As I continue to work on things away from this blog (which is a collection of Free-Time/Casual Online Writing, Remarks, And Notes By ME Whelan) and continue to figure out what goes and what stays of my existing online-writing, the de-emphasizing of one or another continues as well....

Friday, April 8, 2016

Being A Parent Is A Relationship - Not A Job

(transfer post)

The following post is longer than goes with my latest plan about what I want to post on Bubblews; but one of my ways of relaxing after doing a task that's physically demanding is to write what I feel like writing. Anyway..
Something that has long irked me when people talk about the role of being a parent (particularly, being a mother) is when they call it a "career" or a "full-time job". The work and effort and thinking that go into being a parent (again, particularly, maybe, being a mother) aren't something that anyone who hasn't done it (and even those who haven't done it well enough or those who don't fully understand what goes into first "building a person", and then continuing to get that little person through childhood and teen years that include an ever wider world through which they must navigate and survive) can't particularly imagine all the different kinds and layers of effort and care and thinking and plain-old work that's involved when a person does take on that responsibility. That, of course, is multiplied by the number of children someone has and further complicated by the need to also sort out, figure out, how to treat and respect and love each child as a separate individual within the context of trying to encourage the healthiest of relationships within the family.

It's understandable, I suppose, that when the role of stay-at-home mothers started to seem a little less respect-worthy in a world that encouraged women to "do more than just be a mother"; a lot of people thought it was important to point out the importance and significance of the role of mother.

People started complaining that mothers don't get holidays or sick days off. Some people suggested that mothers should get "official compensation" for all the work they do. Some people who still didn't really understand all that goes into being a stay-at-home parent/mother (beyond just feeding a baby and making sure he gets his bath, and beyond just spending time and effort making sure a child has a chance to play or making sure he learns his ABC's) did at least realize that there's a lot of work involved, and that being a stay-at-home parent isn't "staying home and doing nothing".

Then, too, there is the reality that even when someone (man or woman, stay-at-home or outside-employed, parent or not) acknowledges that there's a lot of work involved in being a stay-at-home parent; or even when someone acknowledges that the role of nurturing, caring for, and raising a child is an important one; there has often been (still is, as far as I can tell) the thinking that that role is "a different kind of 'important'" than some of the other, non-nurturing roles people play in life.
So, on the one hand, it's reasonable and right that a general push for getting a little more respect for the role of stay-at-home parent/mother happened.

On the other hand, it's unfortunate that the idea that being a mother/parent is "a job" amounted to things like books and articles on "parenting"; and, in fact, amounted to the idea that "parenting" is a category at all. I'm not suggesting that there isn't a need for information about the responsibilities and skills involved in (as we now think of it as) "parenting.

I do think, though, that the emphasis on "parenting is a job" has taken a little bit of a turn in a direction that hasn't necessarily been a good one; because, while being a mother/parent (especially of young children) certainly takes a whole lot of work, effort, thinking, planning, learning, figuring out, muddling through, and even standing up to peer pressure (the likes of which one may never have encountered as a kid); what seems to far too often be forgotten is that....

parenting really is NOT a job. It's a relationship. Too many people worry far too much about what kind of thirty-year-old their six-month-old child will become, and worry far too little (if they're even aware of this at all) about the first relationship/s) their child will have in this world; and about how much, exactly, the parent understands about what it takes to have a healthy relationship with even the youngest of babies/children.

Maybe it was understandable that in a world full of people who either didn't understand the nature of nurturing a child or else didn't think there was anything worth trying to understand anyway, that "Mommy Wars" started raging; and that people (mothers, fathers, or whatever/whoever else) thought that stay-at-home parents needed a little defending in the "respect department". After all, it does tend to be in the nature of some humans to automatically equate the income one brings in with "valuable" and "respect-worthy".

The thing is, though, that if parents hope at all to do the kind of "job" most good, loving, parents hope to do; they need to set aside their own ego with respect to what is cool, what is viewed as "impressive", and, yes, sometimes even what will earn them more respect in view of their role which isn't all that cool, is seldom particularly impressive, and isn't likely to earn them much respect from any number of people, or groups of people, anyway.

People don't say, "Being a son/daughter is a job" or "Being a friend is a job." True, a whole lot of people will say "marriage a lot of work" (and I have my issues with that particular belief too). All that aside, however, just think of this: When it coms to one's being a parent (and particularly when it comes to a parent who stays home to care for children even for a limited time), a whole lot of people (who aren't engaged in any income-earning at all) will still say, "She works at home" (as if there is some shame, or something 'less', about a parent's taking care of his/her own children). Of course, if bringing in income isn't the measure of worth, there is always that other measure of worth, and that is hard work or lots of work. And so, because some people wanted to make some other people feel better about either themselves or someone else; a whole bunch of people started redefining stay-at-home parents' roles (and regardless of what, if any, message redefining, say, the mother/child relationship as "a job" was sending about the most important relationship(s) any baby or young child have.
People who didn't see, or fully grasp, the glaring difference between "a relationship" and "a career" or "job" apparently didn't notice. Many of those who knew/know the difference were a little quick to jump on the bandwagon and allow this important relationship (yes, with all its work and responsibilities and thinking and planning and muddling and setting aside of egos and insecurities) to be reduced to something less, something easier for a lot of people to understand, and easier to justify when someone spent less time on high-quality nurturing than on just being in the home and thinking that just being there was all there is to being a stay-at-home mother/parent) to be redefined by whomever for whatever purposes there were.

When my now grown children were young I was the one who stayed home and took care of them. When I'd be fill-ling out some form that asked something about employment I'd either put "unemployed at present" or, if asked for something like occupation I'd put "unemployed writer" or "part-time writer" (or something like that). I didn't want to confuse (in my own mind, and certainly not in the mind of any of my children work or career with my relationship with them. Like so many other mothers/parents, I didn't see any reason to even try to pretend that what I shared with each of/all of those children needed to be redefined with something that wasn't entirely accurate or that needed a little "spin" in order to see and feel and know the value (to them and to me) of my time with them.
The minute you tell someone that something is "a job" or "a career" they can start seeing it in terms of income, performance, product, competition, and any number of things that aren't worthy of the parent/child relationship. Now, "relationship" - that's a word pretty much most people understand. It's also a word, I think, that would place far fewer children at risk of misunderstanding some very important things.

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