Sisterhood Blog

Why We Shouldn’t Call Mothering a ‘Tough Job’

By Elissa Strauss

  • Print
  • Share Share
Thinkstock

A recent poll from Parents magazine found that 92% of mothers agree with the statement: “There is no tougher job than being a mom.”

The survey looked into whether or not the mommy wars actually exist — they don’t — and whether the decision to stay at home or work outside the house is a really a choice for most women — it isn’t. Most moms are just doing their best to balance their needs with their family’s needs and for the most part they feel supported by other moms.

Though regardless of where they spend their days, or nights, it seems like most moms are on board with the notion that parenting while female is the hardest work out there.

I’m only 8 months into the gig (albeit, some of the hardest 8 months), and I can’t deny that this is tough. Still, I am not so sure that moms do themselves any favors by categorizing their parenting work as the toughest job around.

For one, it perpetuates this “mother as martyr” vision of parenting that can be as bad for parents as it is for kids. Studies show that happy parents make for happier, more confident and higher-achieving kids. A mom who views parenting as the hardest thing ever, ever, ever is probably making too many sacrifices for her wee little ones, at the expense of her physical and emotional well-being, and, just maybe, her hair. She might think her kids are reaping the benefits of her bottomless selflessness, but they aren’t.

The other issue with this “toughest job” thing is that makes it sound inevitable. Mothering is the toughest job and there is nothing we can do about it, besides issuing every mom some lip service version of a Purple Heart for surviving it all. But the thing is, there is something we can do about it. A lot in fact. We can make sure that everyone in this country can spend a few months with their newborns without sacrificing their salaries and can have access to affordable and safe healthcare. We can also make sure that more Dads do their fair share of housework. And as long as we are at it, we could also convince my favorite Italian restaurant in Brooklyn to get a few high chairs. Mothering doesn’t have to be all about sacrifice. We can get by with a little help from our friends.

In response to the poll, Eleanor Barkhorn at the Atlantic suggests that we call mothering “important work” as opposed to a “tough job.”

It doesn’t do mothers any favors to overemphasize the hard work that goes into being a mom–the claim is too easy to ridicule and disprove. And anyway what many moms find undesirable about parenting is how un-stimulating it is: how repetitive and numbing it can be, especially compared with paid work outside the home. Emphasizing the importance of caring for children and running a household sticks closer to the truth–and may even inspire dads as well as moms to take it seriously.

Amen. By focusing on parenting’s importance, as opposed to its toughness, it is easier to see how supporting parents and children benefits us all.

Follow Elissa Strauss on Twitter at @elissaavery.


Permalink | | Share | Email | Print

The Jewish Daily Forward welcomes reader comments in order to promote thoughtful discussion on issues of importance to the Jewish community. In the interest of maintaining a civil forum, The Jewish Daily Forwardrequires that all commenters be appropriately respectful toward our writers, other commenters and the subjects of the articles. Vigorous debate and reasoned critique are welcome; name-calling and personal invective are not. While we generally do not seek to edit or actively moderate comments, our spam filter prevents most links and certain key words from being posted and The Jewish Daily Forward reserves the right to remove comments for any reason.




Find us on Facebook!
  • How about a side of Hitler with your spaghetti?
  • Why "Be fruitful and multiply" isn't as simple as it seems:
  • William Schabas may be the least of Israel's problems.
  • You've heard of the #IceBucketChallenge, but Forward publisher Sam Norich has something better: a #SoupBucketChallenge (complete with matzo balls!) Jon Stewart, Sarah Silverman & David Remnick, you have 24 hours!
  • Did Hamas just take credit for kidnapping the three Israeli teens?
  • "We know what it means to be in the headlines. We know what it feels like when the world sits idly by and watches the news from the luxury of their living room couches. We know the pain of silence. We know the agony of inaction."
  • When YA romance becomes "Hasidsploitation":
  • "I am wrapping up the summer with a beach vacation with my non-Jewish in-laws. They’re good people and real leftists who try to live the values they preach. This was a quality I admired, until the latest war in Gaza. Now they are adamant that American Jews need to take more responsibility for the deaths in Gaza. They are educated people who understand the political complexity, but I don’t think they get the emotional complexity of being an American Jew who is capable of criticizing Israel but still feels a deep connection to it. How can I get this across to them?"
  • “'I made a new friend,' my son told his grandfather later that day. 'I don’t know her name, but she was very nice. We met on the bus.' Welcome to Israel."
  • A Jewish female sword swallower. It's as cool as it sounds (and looks)!
  • Why did David Menachem Gordon join the IDF? In his own words: "The Israel Defense Forces is an army that fights for her nation’s survival and the absence of its warriors equals destruction from numerous regional foes. America is not quite under the threat of total annihilation… Simply put, I felt I was needed more in Israel than in the United States."
  • Leonard Fein's most enduring legacy may be his rejection of dualism: the idea that Jews must choose between assertiveness and compassion, between tribalism and universalism. Steven M. Cohen remembers a great Jewish progressive:
  • BREAKING: Missing lone soldier David Menachem Gordon has been found dead in central Israel. The Ohio native was 21 years old.
  • “They think they can slap on an Amish hat and a long black robe, and they’ve created a Hasid." What do you think of Hollywood's portrayal of Hasidic Jews?
  • “I’ve been doing this since I was a teenager. I didn’t think I would have to do it when I was 90.” Hedy Epstein fled Nazi Germany in 1933 on a Kinderstransport.
  • from-cache

Would you like to receive updates about new stories?




















We will not share your e-mail address or other personal information.

Already subscribed? Manage your subscription.