Google+ Authentic Parenting: Parenting: a full time job?

Thursday, February 9, 2012

Parenting: a full time job?

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.

One person
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



  1. I think parenting is a mission. The most beautiful and hard mission of the world.

  2. Wow, great blog! It's like you took a collection of my thoughts over the last 10 months and blogged them! lol

  3. Loved it!! I get so many comments from other people when they find out I have 7 children. They think my "job" is so hard. Being a parent is my lifestyle. It doesn't end at night. It doesn't end when I am alone at the grocery store (that happens about once a year!)I don't try to "do it all" like my Western society tries to tell me to do. I am called to be a parent. It is a lifelong commentment. :)

  4. This makes so much sense. I often feel that I'm working full time mothering my kids but it's true that if I had more help from my husband or more help from a larger family or community I wouldn't feel this way.

  5. I so agree with the mission/calling idea!
    @Lisa: you know what they say about great minds ;)

  6. I just became a Catholic a couple years ago and I love how they regard parenting- they call it a "vocation", a calling from God, the same word they use for becoming a priest or nun- it's something you commit your whole life and heart to. I think that's a pretty cool way of looking at it! I agree totally that the "job" mentality sets up unrealistic expectations.

  7. I often feel that talking about parenting as a 'job' descends into the patronizing. It's undoubtedly tremendously important, no doubt. But it's just not the same thing as work, not at all. You've summed that up so well here.

  8. I agree that parenting is a vocation, it does not stop at night time, and requires a huge amount of help. However, I have found that using "parenting is my full time job" as a metaphor helps me communicate the enormity of parenting to those who have not had the experience themselves.

  9. Thanks for putting it into perspective! As always...

    I find parenting to be "rewarding" when seeing how a person develops into his/her own! An unique and wonderful person that are able to stand on their own, and make a difference in the world!
    Then it is definitely a "mission"!

  10. The only thing that is valued in our society is working so I see the phrase as a way to put parenting on the same level of importance as a job. The problem is the word work and how it has mutated to only include (and value) the kind of work that men do - outside the home. Don't tell me that keeping the house clean and preparing meals is not effort - the original meaning of work. I may be motivated by more than a paycheck but it is still effortful, challenging and exhausting to parent.

    1. Completely agree, however, work and job don't have the same connotation.

  11. I like the ideas put forward in this post. I ultimately do not agree with the rejection of parenting as a job though. Because, all of those preconditions you have listed as being those of a job, don't necessarily correlate to what makes every job. I agree that a job or work IMPLES all of these things, however parenting could still be considered a non-conventional job. I think that people need to change their definition of job or their reasons for having a job, and this may help to overcome issues in Western parenting when parenting is believed to be a job. As opposed to trying to say that parenting is not a job in itself. Thank you for the thought provoking post :)


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