Monday, January 27, 2014

The Hand That Rocks the Cradle

"Being a mother is not the most important job in the world."

Nor is it the hardest, according to columnist Catherine Deveny.  Even if motherhood were a "professional" job, she says, "there is no way [it] could be the hardest when compared to working 16 hours a day in a clothing factory in Bangladesh, making bricks in an Indian kiln, or being a Chinese miner. Nor could it ever be considered the most important job in comparison with a surgeon who saves lives, anyone running a nation, or a judge deciding on people’s destiny."

Well, yes... if you think that this life is all there is.

But if it is indeed true that God's work and glory -- that is, His whole purpose for creating this world and sending us to live in it -- is "to bring to pass the immortality and eternal life of man," well, then raising children is a heck of a lot more important than turning in your quarterly reports on time.

But even placing religious beliefs aside, I find Ms. Deveny's arguments difficult to swallow:  "If being a mother is that important," she says, "why aren’t all the highly paid men with stellar careers not devoting their lives to raising children? After all, I never hear "being a father is the most important job in the world".

It couldn't be the simple fact that if fathers and mothers both devoted 100% of their time to raising children we'd all starve, could it?  Nope.  If parenthood were truly that noble, we'd all sit around in glowing family circles while the government dropped manna from Washington on our heads...

Ms. Deveny insists that declaring motherhood the most "important" job "only encourages mothers to stay socially and financially hobbled [and] alienates fathers..."  But she doesn't understand that the two roles go hand in hand, that one cannot diminish the importance of fatherhood by elevating motherhood, just as one cannot diminish motherhood by elevating fatherhood.  There is no one without the other, as much as society would like us to believe otherwise, and there is no more important job for a man than being a father.  That he goes to work to support his family does not change this fact.  It simply means that meeting the needs of his family is a necessary part of his fatherhood.  To suggest that his doing so somehow exposes the insignificance of parenthood in general is unbelievably clueless.

What Ms. Deveny fails to recognize is that when we speak of motherhood being "harder" or "more important" than other jobs, it is not a statement of comparative day-to-day tasks and which is technically more difficult.  It is a statement of value.  It is an understanding that these children will grow and influence hundreds and thousands who come after them.  And beyond that, it is an understanding that there is more than this life and more than this world, that raising children is about souls and eternities -- not bodies and time.

"No other success can compensate for failure in the home."  No other job will ever be as important or as meaningful as raising your children.  When we are all dead, it won't matter if we sat at a desk or performed heart surgery or worked in a coal mine.  It won't matter if we were a CEO or a CPA.  But it will matter if we taught our children to choose good.  It will matter if we raised our children to do good.  And it will matter not just for them, but for generations who come after them.

That sounds pretty important to me.


Bonnie said...

Thanks, Chris, for sending me the article!

Chris said...

Sure thing, Bonnie. The article just didn't sit well with me, and I knew you'd have some good commentary on it.

I think the wrong-ness of this article can be summed up in two ways:
- comparisonism,
- Children are a burden.

Many people compare themselves to others with negative effect. If it is said, "Being a mother is the most important job in the world," does that discredit all other jobs? The article deals in absolutes, as if a "most important" job were determined, then that's the only job that everyone should being doing.

Why does a mother feel the need to say that in the first place? Is she trying to assign value where she doesn't really feel it? I think parents who do well and feel satisfied with the positive aspects of rearing children won't feel the need to compare over others that way.

Children are a burden? If we've chosen to rear children, and find value in it, then parenthood is not "financially and socially hobbling." It would only be viewed as hobbling if the parent DOESN'T find intrinsic value in parenthood.

Certainly it takes a lot of resources to rear children. The author of this article seems to think those resources should be spent elsewhere.

MyDonkeySix said...

Well said, as always. You really need to write a book or column because people need to hear a voice of reason in this crazy world. You express yourself well. I'd read it!