Parenting is a full time job. At least that's what we are repeated over and over again. But is it so?
Comparing parenting to a job is inherently flawed, because it implies
- you are doing it for merit or reward
- you have a distinct timeframe
- you consider it work
- it is something that can be done by one person
Now let's undermine each and every one of these implications:
There is little reward in the true sense of the word in parenting. Yes, parenting can be very rewarding, but there is no degree at the end, nobody will come and hand you a ribbon or pay you for it at the end of the day. Yes, your child can love you for it, and that might be rewarding, but you may not expect your child to reward you for being his parent.
Many a parent has these false expectations and wants the child to - eventually - give him the credit they think they deserve, or expect some kind of praise either from the child or their partner or a third party. If such a consideration does not occur - or not to the extent the parent would like - they either get frustrated or start prompting. This process undermines the joys and natural dynamics of parenting
Considering parenting as a job suggest that you can clock out at the end of the day. That it a very strange and very Western conception. Parenting does not stop when it gets dark, it does not stop when the kids go to school and it doesn't even end when they go off on their own. Parenting is a lifetime commitment, it is not something we can just turn on and off when we feel like it.
This false conception leads to a whole set of frustrations in industrialized countries. The biggest one is probably the sleep through the night question. Parents are so consumed in the 'parenting job' mindset that they have lost the ability or even the concept of nighttime parenting.
The idea that parenting is work - hard work even - stems from the death of the community. Since it is most often one parent for one or more children and an entire set of other housework, it is easy for the responsible parent to get overwhelmed. Parenting does quickly become a job when we feel like we are all alone. When all we think about is the other stuff that doesn't get done while watching your child, it even becomes a very frustrating one.
The generally accepted parenting paradigm in industrialized countries is one of control and authority, which further adds to the belief that parenting must be work. When one lets go of the sense of control, parenting quickly becomes a more joyous experience.
Parenting is not a one (wo)man show. It really does take a village to raise a child. Not only for maintaining ones sanity, but also for the child's development and culture. Placing the whole parenting thing on the shoulders of one person (most often one woman) is a very heavy load to bare indeed.
The 'parenting is a full time job' expression is one that is often used in our industrialized societies. It is quite the paradox that this expression is most often a positive one - empowering even, a confirmation that it takes a lot to parent a child. Yet a whole cultural mindset lies underneath this expression, and as we see here, the entire mindset is already flawed at the base.
Image: mikecolvin82 on Flickr