I have a theory is that every mother is a working mother – at least the good ones are. It’s not as labour-intensive a job as it was 100 years ago, but there’s a lot that goes into keeping kids fed, dressed, clean, educated and able to discern right from wrong.
“But that’s not really work,” some people might argue. “That’s only looking after your own kids – if you didn’t want to do all those things, maybe you shouldn’t have had kids.”
Let’s imagine, however, a world in which just one generation of women all said in unison, “I’m not wasting my life on nappies and snotty noses – I’m going to exclusively pursue my career.” For the next 80 years or so, we’d have a world filled with productive professional women not burdened with the rigours of raising children.
And then everybody would die and there would be nothing left but the animals, no one left to appreciate all the accomplishments of mankind.
So while it’s every woman’s choice (for the most part) whether or not she’s going to have kids, the human race needs at least a few of us to take up that mantle. But the job of parenting should only be the concern of people with kids, right? How hard a time you’re having raising your own children is none of my business, right?
Like nursing and teaching and garbage collecting, raising kids is one of those jobs that pretty much everyone takes for granted until it’s done badly or not done at all – and the evening news is chocked full of stories about people whose parents didn’t do the job as well as it should have been done.
“Look at all those kids rioting! Look at those drug dealers! Look at this vandalism on my car and my broken window! Didn’t anyone ever teach those people any better than that? Where are their parents???”
I will concede that there are plenty of good parents whose kids turn out bad and plenty of bad parents whose kids succeed in spite of them, but for the most part, many (most?) of the world’s social problems can be attributed to parents who didn’t teach their kids how to be the kind of people other people would want to be around.
Every time you walk out of your house and find that your car has not been stolen by a drunken teenager looking for a joy ride, you can thank all the good parents who taught their kids that stealing is wrong, parents you’ll never sit across the aisle from in a court room. Every time you sit on a bus surrounded by people who are not strung out on meth and who don’t smell like piss, you can remember all the parents of all those civilised people who taught them to be civilised, parents you’ve seen every day quietly doing the job of making our society, well, a society.
So the next time you see a harried mom with no make-up and a ponytail rushing through the grocery store making sure her kids have fresh fruit and something healthy for lunch (so her children don’t grow up to be a burden on the healthcare system), maybe say, “Thank you, ma’am – I appreciate the job you do.”
Because the minute she lays down on the job, you WILL notice. And you probably WON’T like it.