We need to change the parenting rhetoric that has gotten a lot of attention this week. Raising children is important, but parenting is not a job—it’s a part of the human condition.
That is not to imply that it requires no ‘work’ or ‘effort’. Parenting is incredibly hard work at times. And it’s not to imply that parenting has no value—the social values of the community are so intertwined with parenting that the monetary value of doing it well is almost completely intangible.
But the parenting rhetoric causes a problem when it distract the conversation away from other issues. Important issues. The Romney v Rosen fiasco is a perfect example. One person claims that the other has never worked a day in her life; a ridiculous notion if you consider parenting ‘work’, but not if the context is based on one’s record of employment (the truth of which I am uncertain). The argument is confusing ‘effort’ with ‘employment’; doing something because it needs to be done vs choosing to be compensated for doing something for someone else, at an agreed value.
A slip of the tongue—and a twisting of the meaning—caused people to ignore the issue of one person’s understanding of the economy in a political debate, and turned it into a class-culture-gender war. The soapbox rhetoric clouds the real issue at hand. An important issue. Accusations and semantic tap-dancing hijack the conversation, distracting the debate. And I believe people who grasp at any opportunity to support their own agenda do more harm than benefit to their cause.
The value of parenting gets platitudes of support instead of true respect, dismissing the distraction more than changing perceptions. The rhetoric must stop.
Being a parent isn’t a job. I am not employed by my child. I can’t be fired or laid off. I can’t be replaced by someone more skilled when my performance is questioned. I can’t find a child more suited to my parenting style when our missions don’t align.
To call being a parent a job was an argument to assign value to the work of raising kids, and it’s a critical issue in the feminist/modern family movement. It’s an easy way to connect effort and value in a way that makes sense to people, while also drawing an awkward line-in-the-sand between breadwinner and homemaker. But the “it’s a job” metaphor is an argument that has run it’s course, and we need to shelve it if parents—both at-home and those who are employed—want respect in discussions about other issues, such as the economy, gender equality, the definition of family, the 1% vs 99%, or any other issue facing society.
Parenting is important, and no doubt takes more effort than most jobs (and certainly more continuous attention than any job). But to imply that someone who is a parent has a “job” gives the neanderthals fuel for their out-dated beliefs about homemakers. It’s too easy to dismiss the importance of a committed parent when the comparison to a job lacks equivalence. It’s too easy to dismiss a partner as an employee, not as, …well, a partner.
You can’t hire a parent. You aren’t legally entitled to take a holiday from being a parent. You can’t employ the emotional connection—the unconditional love and commitment—that is at the very foundation of being a parent.
It’s not a job. It’s far too important to be as simple as job.