Trying to argue whether or not mommyhood is the most important job in the world is akin to the chicken-or-egg debate. You immediately have people on one side of the line saying, "But what about doctors?" and people on the other saying, "But who raised those doctors?!"
In short, it should be a dead argument. Because, after all, motherhood is not a job. It's not a profession. You don't get paid, you don't even get the eventual promise of pay. But it is an important and vital human process, and one argument that you definitely don't want to make is that it's unimportant because men don't really want to do it full-time.
But Catherine Deveny went there, y'all. Shots have been fired in the great WomanWar and she's chosen her side:
For any woman who uses that line, consider this: if this is meant to exalt motherhood, then why is the line always used to sell toilet cleaner? And if being a mother is that important, 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".
Here's the immediate problem with this line of reasoning: it pretends that to exist in a world where workplaces, departments and industries that employ more women than men aren't typically undervalued and underpaid.
Moreover, a lot of hokey shit is spewed trying to get people to buy dumb stuff. Is friendship or love pointless because it's used to sell hamburgers and Coke?
In reality, though, Catherine isn't bashing mothers. Nay! She's worried about all of the other important caregivers in a child's life.
The deification of mothers not only delegitimises the relationship fathers, neighbours, friends, grandparents, teachers and carers have with children, it also diminishes the immense worth and value of these relationships. How do gay dads feel about this line, I wonder? Or the single dads, stepdads or granddads? No matter how devoted and hard working you are, fellas, you'll always be second best.
I know someone who had a kid in his early 20s. He and his partner wrote a blog during the time when they were expecting, and after they'd had their child, and they documented a lot of the wonderful, weird and not-so-wonderful stuff about parenthood. One thing that the guy wrote about a lot was the way that he seemed to get a gold star just for showing up. He relayed an anecdote where a friend patted him on the back for not running out on his girlfriend when she told him she was pregnant, and also said he is regularly asked if he's "Giving the little lady a break" when he goes to the grocery store alone. Even I tend to smile a little more fondly when I see a dad playing with his child than a mother. Why? Because we don't deify mothers — we expect certain things of them, and if anybody else helps out, that's gravy.
In any event, Deveny goes on to wonder what makes a "real" mother — ie. if an adoptive mother is as real as a birth mother — or whether motherhood could really be more difficult than a 16 hour shift in a Bangladesh clothing factory.
She very briefly tackles the hierarchy of mothers who work and mothers who don't. Needless to say, she presents a weak, scattered, confusing and ultimately offensive argument.
No, motherhood is not the most important job in the world — because it's not a job. It's a vital life process, one that — no matter how you look at it — none of us would be here without. And ridiculing women who take pride in their roles as mothers on the basis that men wouldn't want to stay at home (which actually isn't true for everyone anyway) is not only a harmful argument — it's a blatantly sexist one.