There’s a phrase I’ve heard a lot, which I’m sure all of you have as well: “Being a mother is the hardest job in the world.”
My perception of this phrase? Ridiculous. Laughably ridiculous. As it is, verbatim, anyway. There’s nothing more special, or superior, to being a mother than being a father. Some people say a variant: “Being a parent is the hardest job in the world.” This, too, I find laughably ridiculous …, but for a different reason, one relevant to the first. It’s ridiculous because of what those who say it mean by it. They mean the difficulty. Dealing with the relentless crying, the need to monitor them literally every waking minute, and then when they’re older, all the defiance, the immaturity, the impulsiveness…
That is more difficult than anything? More tiresome than running a country? More complicated than coding software? More laboring than welding together an oil barge? Well, I’ve had the latter example as a job, and I’m currently a parent who cares for his infant alone when it’s my time. From a physical aspect, calling parenting the hardest job in the world is not just ignorant, it’s stupid. Easy to say when it’s the only hard thing you’ve ever done, which it is for women far more often than it is for me, but it’s lightyears from being an objective truth. If it were ‘the hardest job in the world,’ then it wouldn’t be something billions of people have done.
Conversely, parenting is the most difficult job in the world from an emotional angle. If you love your child with all your heart, that is. The struggle centers around what you know, what you don’t know, and what you can never have enough of.
You know your child will die someday, you don’t know how, or when that day will come. You know they will fall in love, you don’t know how many times their heart will be broken. You can’t foresee if they’ll become a drug addict or successful. You can’t predict if they will suffer an accident and be a vegetable for the rest of their life. You don’t know if they’ll vanish one day and never be found.
As for what you cannot get enough of: You never want to say goodbye to them; you want them near you at all times. You only want to see them smile, but sometimes they will cry, they will get angry, and sometimes you will be the cause of such emotions, even if you are the perfect parent (which no one is).
How about the contradictions? You want them to grow up, but you also want them to remain an innocent, adorable baby forever. You want them to fall in love with someone, but you don’t want them to ever stop needing you. You want them equally as capable and knowledgeable as you are, but you also want them to always depend on you for everything.
You have to live with so much when you’re a parent. You have to be mindful to never let it consume you, because it’s easy to collapse under the weight of it all. You’re obligated to remain mentally intact and functional. That, too, is part of the job. I’ll admit there are times I come home after giving my daughter to her mother for the next few days and I break down crying, consumed with all I’ve described.
If you’re a father and made kids with the wrong person, all of these struggles multiply tenfold. You only see your precious offspring half the week, if you’re lucky, and only once per week or every other week if you’re a typical father. In addition to everything I previously described, you also only get to see your children for half or less of their childhood. You also, inevitably, have to deal with other people raising them – I mean stepparents, of course.
Most don’t think about their eventual, unavoidable death. As a general subject, death is rather taboo. We always fear our own death, but when you become a parent, one who loves their children with all your heart, you become considerably more terrified of their death. You never know if you will receive a call, being told they died somehow. It’s the last thing I, personally, ever want to think about, but at times, I can’t avoid it, because it scares me too much to never cross my mind.
You don’t live for yourself anymore when you’re a parent. A true parent, anyway. All of your fears, desires, dreams, knowledge, and wisdom belong to them henceforth. You could be drafted into a war, you could defend your home from an intruder… Such situations would scare you, but when you’re protecting your child, you are more fearful for them, while having none for yourself. The only things you fear, the only things that become difficult, all stem from them. You don’t know anything anymore, except what they need from you. Only being a parent can transcend one’s innate instincts and inclinations, amplify them to an unimaginable extent, and never apply to self again. Only being a parent…
So, is parenting the most difficult job in the world? Depends on the parent.