While I'm away, readers give the advice.
Comparing child-rearing work with working at a job
"Relaxed": The most exhausting part of parenthood is the fact that for 99.9 percent of the various needs, you can't simply decide to "opt out," or even put them off until later; a child preparing to run into traffic takes precedence over anything else. It is the loss of the smallest measures of mental freedom and self-containment, of ability to pay attention to oneself when needed AT THAT MOMENT, that carry the most impact on our lives, energy and sense of self.
In comparison, a status report doesn't cry or scream if you are an hour late finishing it, nor feel abandoned if you put it aside until after lunch while you take a walk to clear your head.
A typical staff meeting is unlikely to include your co-workers complaining when you bring snacks because they "hate bran muffins, yuck! Why don't we ever have anything GOOD to eat? Billy's team in Marketing gets doughnuts" — accompanied by, in the case of toddlers, throwing of the objectionable food. Your boss is unlikely to wake you up at 2 a.m. and puke on you, or to need her diaper changed or a glass of milk, and if she does you should DEFINITELY leave your job unless you are a live-in care nurse.
If your job begins each day at 6 a.m. with your boss wanting you to carry him downstairs and make him breakfast, then subsequently includes a day filled with a host of never-ending, unappreciated and (socially deemed) menial tasks, ending somewhere around 9 p.m. if lucky, you'd a have a pretty good rant for the blogs, right? You'd also likely have lots of folks asking why you put up with it and hoping you get paid well, as opposed to an astonishing number of people wondering "what you do all day."
Lastly, when a mother does her job, chances are she gets little to no recognition (let alone raises or bonuses), and if she's doing her job "right," chances are also excellent that at some point she will hear with distressing frequency, "I hate you!!! You don't understand!! I WISH YOU'D LEAVE ME ALONE!" If you heard that coming from your boss after a successful ad campaign, you'd leave your job, right? And if not, maybe you are strong enough to be a parent after all and should go get knocked up post-haste.
Whether everyone agrees with me or not (and I realize there are some who will not), the stakes are higher and the consequences of failure are heavier for this job than most any other endeavor, with the grand irony being that because we are human, we are destined to fail on so many levels and with heart-rending frequency.
Carolyn: A worthy rant, but you can't leave out dads! Or other nurses, child care and public-safety workers, ER docs and the others I'm forgetting who are composing their e-mails to me now.
Don't forget, too, that when parents screw up, they have not just one disapproving boss, but family, neighbors, parent "colleagues," pundits, fellow grocery-store shoppers and the guy whose own kid throws punches when he knows his dad isn't looking.
Which is why they make kids so cute.