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Oh, but Parenting is, in fact, "a Job" @betadad

In addition to being timely, dependable, a great dad and a rakishly handsome dead ringer for Sting, my friend Betadad is an excellent writer.

All that complimenting, of course, means I'm going to disagree with him. I was going to e-mail him, but then I thought, you know, why waste five hundred words on a one person audience when I can publicly disagree with him in front of tens of people by writing a whole post.

Okay, it's hundreds. Not tens. I do have my pride. 

In a post on Dadcentric that critiques what I agree is a stupid commercial aimed at getting people to purchase soap by propagating an idea of parenting and motherhood that would seem more at home in a Greek tragedy, Betadad dismisses the idea that parenting is a job, at all:

We could have a very long and pointless discussion about what makes a job "hard" or "dirty" or "bad" or even "rewarding," but that would be beside the point.  The thing is, parenting is not a job.  It has some things in common with a job, sure, but it's a whole different animal.  We don't get paid to parent.  We can't quit if we get pissed off.  We can't look around for better parenting gigs.  We can't sue our employer.  We don't have an employer.  We don't have the option of not taking our work home with us.  We generally don't receive any training, on-the-job or otherwise. 

Well. I don't know.

If we're talking about job in the sense of being paid, then, yes, unless hugs, smiles and poopy diapers count, we are not, in fact, paid. But the word "job" doesn't just include work that is paid. While this is certainly the primary definition, my dear friend the former English teacher and Sting look alike, I believe the informal usage of "job" can refer to general tasks, paid or not.

Being the parent of small children can make you either want to tear your hair out or it can make you think you got this parenting thing in the bag. Truth is, that give or take ten years, you've got another forty or so years before you're not that child's parent any more due to the whole heart not beating any more thing.  If your kids aren't teenagers yet, you're about one thirtieth of the way through.

Saying parenting is not a job when you're three years in feels premature.

And when it's stated that one cannot be fired from this job? Having fired a parent myself, I know this to be completely false. The parent I've fired is still and always will be my biological parent, but they will never, ever hold the trust that a parent deserves. My spiritual and cultural beliefs dictate that they are treated with courtesy and respect. But my heart fired them a long time ago.

They were fired because they quit. They were fired because they tried to find a better gig. They were fired because they went to far away places and never bothered to take their work with them.

So, Betadad, it's easy to say that this isn't a job when you didn't have someone quit on you.

Furthermore, I say, yes, this is a job. I work hard every day not to be the kind of parent that will be fired. I worry every day about dropping that ball, about unconsciously quitting, about slipping into a better gig without realizing it until its too late and I'm left wondering why those damned kids never call me. We don't get paid, that's true, but we can get fired. To me, that's enough to make me want to work very hard and do a good job of it.

Furthermore, I hold the people who do this job well in high regard and esteem because I know, from experience, that they absolutely have a choice even if they think they don't.

Now, is parenting the hardest job? I don't know about that. My understanding is that dumpsters have to be cleaned and scraped on a bi-annual basis. My vote is with the dumpster cleaners.

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Reader Comments (9)

I'm totally with you, Faiqa - parenting most certainly IS a job. I get what Betadad meant, but sadly - there are MANY examples of parents who just quit and wipe their hands of any parenting whatsoever. There are days where I feel overqualified for this "job", and woefully unqualified - sometimes completely incompetent! Not just anyone could or SHOULD parent, regardless of whether they actually gave birth or not. Parenting IS a job - it's one to be taken very seriously, with the results of only a person's future life at stake. I call that pretty freaking important.

May 7, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterSybil Law

I agree whole heartily it is a job for the reasons you stated. Now when I read things like's analysis on what a mom's worth is in 2012 as an HR Pro I cringe. Suzanne Lucas AKA Evil HR Lady does an excellent job of explaining why comparing it to a paid position is a load of baloney . But yet being a parent is most certainly a job and as far as I am concerned the most important one I have ever had.

May 7, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterCorey Feldman

Going strictly by definitions, it is not a job, but a vocation, a calling. And it's more complicated than any job out there because you have no control over the finished product. You have influence, but not control. Hard depends on the day. Digging ditches is hard work, but it's also hard not knowing day to day what skills you'll have to bring to bear on any given situation. It's hard watching your charge struggle and try to decide whether to step in or allow him to figure it out for himself. The answer to those kinds of questions are different every single time.

And then there are the evaluations, both internal and external.

Some days it feels like work to me.

May 7, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterMegan

Faiqa, I agree with you on everything in the first paragraph. After that, your argument goes into freefall.


I actually agree with everything you've said here. Our only difference of opinion is the scope of the word "job." Being that I am not a big fan of the word or the concept behind it, I don't assign it nearly as much importance as words like "parenting," or "calling." Even "work" works for me. Parenting is definitely work, but I think of a job as something at least a little bit onerous that you do for pay. The distinction between our definitions of the word is not important, really. My only beef with the parenting=job metaphor is that it focuses us on the drudgery. Again, that might mainly have to do with my own connotations surrounding the word "job."

I just wish we could find some other metaphors for parenting (if we need them). Parenting=Journey? I've seen that one used. Parenting=War? Maybe not so great. Parenting=Vacation? I'm onto something.

May 7, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterBeta Dad

@Sybil Law: Well said, as usual.

@Megan: I don't know, people call all sorts of things job that go outside the general definition, but I guess that's semantic. It does feel like work. Would I be incorrect if I said that if it doesn't feel like work, then that indicates a problem... not always... but... maybe,

Betadad: Thanks for responding. Although I would have preferred and entire post devoted to me as equal treatment. Heh. Look, the thing is... parts of parenting are drudgery. You may not think so, but a lot of people do. A lot of *women* do. I don't know if it's a gender thing, sometimes I make that an issue when it's not, but I feel like men don't understand how little girls when they are very young are primed to always be pleasant, always make the best of a situation, try to be perfect, never complain, etc... and that this translates into expectations in terms of motherhood. If we complain or find aspects of it to be drudgery, then we're somehow harpies or something? I don't know. On the other hand, I don't feel like men are educated the same way about social/familial behavior (they have their own set of shortcomings, of course) which may make them scratch their heads when they hear women talk about how hard of a job parenting is.
Did you really just compare vacationing with parenting? Because a few months ago, I remember us haggling over deadlines while fighting off 2p.m. naps by e-mailing each other rom our respective toddlers' bedrooms. Crappiest vacation I ever had. :-)

May 7, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterFaiqa

I'm still working on that analogy. You know, vacationing isn't always easy either.

Hey--I have fond memories of emailing from the floor of the nursery. At least my kids were still napping occasionally back then.

May 8, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterBeta Dad

I had to read your post a few times to understand, I was temporarily distracted by " a rakishly handsome dead ringer for Sting.." You should have put that further in the post as I found it highly distracting. Distracting. Seems to imply that there was something else to discuss. Hmmm.

Oh yeah. Parenthood as a job.It is indeed. Sadly many that I have met do not see it as such.I have had too many meetings in which we discuss "Junior's"progress and parents seem shocked when I suggest taking the TV, the computer, the XBox out of Junior's room. Huh? Tired of parents trying to be friends. Be a parent. Yeah, I know the pay sucks.

May 8, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterKailyn

I agree with Megan. Of course, you call that semantics, but this whole post is semantics. If you want to associate "job" with the same thing as a "vocation" or "calling", parenting is a job. If you want to associate it with being able to quit, change jobs, etc., it's not.

Every responsibility that someone has is not a job. Parenting is the one that everyone gets pissed about because they like to pretend that people are saying that they don't work hard.

I'm not even a parent, obviously, but I know that it takes hard work and sacrifice and dedication and a commitment that takes it well beyond a job. Parenting isn't a job in the sense that it's much, much more than that.

May 8, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterAvitable

One of the definitions of "job" is "anything a person is expected or obliged to do; duty; responsibility." I think that defines parenting quite well. Yes, I want to parent. I want to do it well. But it's also my responsibility to wake up and make breakfast and not grumble -- too much -- that it's before 6am. Again. Always.

More over, there are volunteer jobs that are just as important as paid ones. Without people who accept those volunteer jobs, certain organizations wouldn't be able to make a difference in local communities, states or the country.

I volunteered for the job of parent. I have a responsibility to see it through. Certainly a job.

June 6, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterFireMom

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