Kerryn Boogaard Kerryn Boogaard
Beverly Goldsmith Beverly Goldsmith
Zoe Bingley-Pullin Zoe Bingley-Pullin

The most important job in the world:

Being a new mum is without doubt one of the most time- consuming occupations in the world...
By Jen Dobbie
Date: May 29 2012
Editor Rating:

It’s where we are, and what we do, whilst all around us home offices and city blocks are teeming with the business of business. But are we simply conforming to an outdated social norm by thinking of, and referring to this in the same way we speak of being a teacher, a nurse, an accountant? Is it right to refer to motherhood as a ‘job’ at all?

Using the word ‘job’ to refer to motherhood allows us to measure our perception of success or failure at raising our children in the same way we strive for KPI’s in our professional lives.

It also allows people to judge being a mother by the same standards they apply in an office.  But that sounds pretty arbitrary, doesn’t it? It seems to me that we’ve spent so long being measured, and viewing ourselves, in terms of what we do that we’ve started to confuse it with who we are. And it can mean that in order to feel secure, accomplished and successful as a parent, we end up seeking measurement of our achievements in the same way we do at work.

After we’d finished the final official meeting of Mothers’ Group, I was chatting to a few of the other mums about what they do for work. So often in life it’s one of the first questions we’re asked when we meet someone. Or indeed we don’t even need to ask it. We know what they do simply by virtue of the fact we work in the same building, or industry.

Much of the time, it helps to form an impression of who they are  - we recognise their job, work in a similar area or know someone who does, or are fascinated by their chosen field of work.

I liked the fact that we hadn’t spoken about it until the last week. I like that I have started new friendships with great girls based on something other than what we do for a living. It’s another blessing that motherhood has given me.

For over a decade I liked to think I knew a little about people when I met them, simply because I’d met them in the context of my work.  I suppose the fact that they did a similar job to me, or at the least understood my role, was enough in common for us to get the job done, and in some cases to spend time together out of work.

In the years since I left to start my own business, the friendships that have endured from that time stand as a testament to how accurate I was in my assessment of the people I came to know in my previous roles. They remind me that I too was opinionated about a person’s job, and what it says about them. When you no longer tread the same carpet as someone for up to 12 hours a day, you find out pretty quickly what you have left in common. And sometimes it’s a huge shock.

There are a number of people with whom I now have nothing to do with other than the occasional small talk at parties, or congratulatory messages at major life events. Life has simply taken us in different directions, without enough in common to stay connected. Yet these are people to whom I thought I was very close; with whom I had shared many an after work drink and gossip, celebrated promotions and struggled through tough jobs with, and with whom I thought I’d be close friends permanently.

And it works both ways - people with whom I had a great working relationship but did not consider to be friends, who have turned out to be just that. It may not have been entirely their job that acted as a barrier from my perspective, but it was certainly the starting point. Now, one is a godmother to our daughter and another is someone I turn to for trusted advice on everything in life, knowing I will not be judged.

Had I continued to measure them largely by their jobs, these close friendships would undoubtedly not exist, and my life would be the poorer for it.

Our friendships are built on so much more than a job, but in many cases it’s where they start. And that’s where being a mother has changed me in yet another way.

The women at Mothers Group are people about whom I already know so much. I know things about them that usually require several stiff drinks and a few years of mutual confidences before friends tell each other.

Bound by our mutual recent experiences, we are now mums first, and our work lives come in second, third, or not at all for a few of the group.

And so I’ve found that my mindset has been shifted. Maybe it’s not really motherhood that has afforded me the unusual luxury of getting to know people by their personalities before I find out their job. Maybe that happened when I stopped working in an office, and started meeting a larger proportion of friends outside the work environment. Maybe it’s simply a function of growing older. But it is certainly motherhood, and my mothers group that made me put the pieces together. 

Now I can see someone’s job not by my view of it, but as whatever it is to them – a small part of their life, or the very thing that makes them who they are.

In the end, I think there’s nothing wrong with wanting to be recognised largely for your achievements in your chosen occupation. There’s also nothing wrong with wanting to be seen solely as a great parent. There’s nothing wrong with wanting a bit, or a lot, of both. And that’s where I am.

I’ve worked extremely hard to be able to enjoy the lucky position of doing what I love to make a living. And I couldn’t do it without the emotional and financial support of my husband. For me, the same can be said for my role as a mother.  I don’t see motherhood as a job. I see it as a blessing, as a choice, a constant, and a part of the evolution of life. It’s a challenge, a joy, and a huge learning curve. It is an incredible and welcome addition to my relationship with my amazing husband. It is a million things, but it is not a job. 

And in terms of success in business? I can’t say that I no longer seek it. Of course I do. I love writing something a client is blown away by. It makes me really proud. But when it comes to motherhood, I no longer apply business criteria.

I’m pretty sure the fact that I made my daughter laugh until she farted this morning wouldn’t be held up as a major achievement in the workplace. But it certainly impressed the hell out of me.

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4 Total Comments
Jacki says: 2012 05 29

I too relished the fact that I met a bunch of lovely women at the same life stage as me. It was in fact months before we shared our pre-motherhood lives and careers. It was the diversity of the group that made it the most interesting for me.

Sadly… the competitive power struggles that you face on a daily basis at work eventually worked its way into our mothers group and began to tarnish the experience. There is always one! But I am grateful for the friendships I still enjoy, across a wider range of ages and backgrounds than I typically would meet.

Jules says: 2012 05 29

Beautiful, insightful article. thanks for making me think.

If you take the description of a job ‘a duty, something you are responsible to do’ it is the biggest job in the world. Someone else calls the shots and decides what you do with your time. The difference and why being a mum doesn’t feel like a job is because of the emotion involved. A passionate, love for the chores you ‘have’ to do can make them an absolute pleasure. You have to get up at dawn for feeding…. But the look of thanks and love you get makes it a pleasure. Being mum is a pleasure not a chore .... And when times get tough with the kids when they loose the baby smile we should remember to see the pleasure they bring rather than the chores (homework, soccer, washing etc). Thanks for reminding me of that.

...and if we can find a ‘love’ for our paying job and find enjoyment in that too - that’s lucky!

Ps friends are for a reason, a season or a lifetime.  let them grow or go.

Carlie says: 2012 05 30

I think the reality of viewing motherhood as a job is totally unrealistic.  I certainly would not put myself through the trauma and craziness that is being a mother for any employer or any amount of money (she says as one screaming child has just woken the other early from his sleep all the while trying to hide my disappointment of having my lunch in peace while two babies sleep).

Jen, your article did reminded me how i thank god for the wonderful mums I met and how, with words of encouragement, we dragged each other through the first 2.5 years (so far) of our 1st babies and now 2nd babies lives.

The highs are high, the lows are low but you can always get through with a glass of bubbles and some beautiful girl friends.

Marie Leverton says: 2012 05 30

It made me think/reconsider how I approach motherhood. A very insightful article.

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