Being a parent is not a job.
Our culture views parenting as yet another profession, along the same lines as being a PR Manager or Director of Special Events if you get recognition. Admin Assistant if you don’t. Being the circuitous non-professional that I am, I have a gained a good dollop of disdain towards professionalization. Professionalization can look like off-putting formality, jargon, and uncomfortable clothes (yuck). In parenting this can show up in the attitude and language around the child-rearing philosophies which can be just as restrictive as the pantyhose of the 90s. It can also look like idyllic pinterest photos and the overgrowth of how-to blogs and life-hack lists. You don’t have to meander far in the internet to find charming child crafts to pin or hack lists for rainy days. Parenting is just part of the professionalized pinterest pack with its grabby headlines about 5 ways to stop a tantrum in its tracks, precious clothes, and picturesque outdoor activities. It appears that everything can be an outlet for perfectionism, specialization, and over-thinking.
I see another side to the path of parenting as a job. When the role becomes so professionalized and demands such perfection a less gauzy, murkier part of the role emerges. From my own attempts at being a superhero parent and pro homemaker I can tell you I am not meant to be clad in so many hats nor to be so polished at everything from being a patient preschool teacher to a Martha Stewart-esque home organizer and crafter. When I thought I should be all those things, I became subject to a demanding and micromanaged environment where I was undervalued and unsupported. Cultural pressure can be just as bad of a boss as the rest of them. It was a fast road to moody Mondays, burnout, a nagging sense of failure, and too many emails in my inbox. I’ve already escaped this environment once when I quit my office job. I feel no need to go down this path again.
This professional approach to parenting makes me wonder, if everything is a job and a job is always something that should be well done, when does the natural flow of life happen? When are you allowed to let something be good enough, or even just messy and not well done. When can you be an enthusiastic amateur?
I so desire a family life that feels less photographable for pinterest, less condensed to a clever one liner to be made into a graphic and shared on facebook. I want a life that seeps out of any container I attempt to put it in. I want a life that calls for contradictions, blurry photos, run on sentences, flawed definitions, and systems gone awry.
I don’t need chaos but I do want to be real.
I don’t view parenting as my job. Yes, it is most certainly work, but it is not my job. It is the ongoing experimentation with how to connect my values to the way I am with my child. It is not a list of obligations, rules, or accomplishments. It’s the way I try and often fail. It’s the way I try and sometimes succeed. It’s the gutting feeling of being vulnerable. It’s being available and present for my family. It’s being real. Very often it’s saying the wrong thing so I can eventually say the right thing. It’s realizing that getting down on my hands and knees to join my little one who is on the floor under the kitchen table is indeed the best activity. It’s rooting all I do for my family in the rich, deep soil of love.