The Toughest Job

Posted by Linda

The toughest job I ever had was being a mother. It starts off as labor, continues as labor, and carries a lifetime contract with no vacation or retirement. Mary Cassatt 004.jpgThere are no clear job guidelines, no agreed upon standards, and no universal success measures.  There are no re-do’s, but plenty of do-again’s. The product itself has the final word on its producer’s competence and success, and the evals may careen widely over time in intermittent, often unscheduled, job reviews.  There is no contracted salary.

One might ask why women so consistently take this job.  Beyond persistent biological urges, campaigns by potential grandparents, and romantic longings brought on by the vision of a tiny sleeping creature with rosebud lips, a darling baby in darling clothes cuddling a tiny stuffed toy – beyond that, the answer is simple ignorance. One does not comprehend what one is getting into.

On the other hand, there is evidence to the contrary.  Above all, modern birth control applications are effective, yet not all mothers have only one child.  They re-up.  That’s not the only hard evidence of the job’s stranglehold on the maternal psyche.  Consider the besottedly loving looks and cooing issuing from mothers to even colicky infants,  the endless rounds of peek-a-boo, the willingness even once, to sing “Found a Peanut.” Then, at that practice leaving-home ceremony, graduation, that very mother tears up and clings to her child for life, as if her personal snuggly blanket, ratty from too many rounds in the washer/ dryer, but utterly loved, is gone forever.

It ought to be easier to release the toughest job ever, but it is not, maybe because each of us wanted to do it perfectly and could not, and maybe knew we could not even as we labored.  Maybe it’s because we know instinctively that “it doesn’t get any better than this” intransigent, chaotic, ineffable connection. What I have learned from that job is that I (we) should not be perfect mothers.  A share must be left for the child.  For me, being a mother is about my hopes and dreams riding on someone who must discover his/her own hopes and dreams. I get to watch and wonder. I get to love.

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