Don’t overdo the Mom thing

“Let me tell you a little bit about the job, to get started with,” begins the human resources interviewer on a video that’s gone viral. “It’s not just a job. It’s sort of probably the most important job. The title that we have going right now is director of operations, but it’s really kind of so much more than that.”

Is it ever! This guy, whom we see interviewing about a dozen applicants individually by Skype, goes on to explain that the job requires employees to be constantly on their feet.

Opinion: Lenore Skenazy / Free-Range Kids

Opinion: Lenore Skenazy / Free-Range Kids

“For how many hours?” asks one of the applicants.

“Uh, 135,” replies the interviewer. “It’s basically 24 hours a day, seven days a week. … There are no breaks available.”

“Is that even legal?” asks another aspirant.

The guy ducks that question and continues his litany of job requirements: “You can have lunch, but only when the associate is done eating their lunch.” What’s more, “we’re really looking for someone that might have a degree in medicine, in finance and the culinary arts. … Able to work in a chaotic environment. … No vacations. In fact … on holidays, the workload is going to go up. … No time to sleep.”

Finally, the applicants start to rebel. “That’s almost cruel!” “That’s very insane!” One by one, they set their jaws defiantly, until the interviewer finally tells them that they personally all know someone who has already done that very job:

Moms. Their mom. Every mom.

Immediately, the applicants gasp. Tears fill their eyes. That’s right! My mom did all that! And then we see the sponsor of the video. I think you can guess.

No! Not Valium. American Greetings. A different kind of feel-good drug.

But does it really feel that good to be described as a martyr on constant call? Maybe not. As a blogger called “Evil HR Lady” points out (and who better to understand job descriptions than an HR lady?), motherhood is not the utterly difficult, demanding, exhausting job society and the viral video paint it as. It’s only that way if we believe that our kids can’t do anything safely or successfully on their own.

If you never get a chance to sit down, sleep or go to lunch, “you are doing it wrong,” writes the EHRL. “You are not teaching your child to become an adult, you are teaching them to remain in perpetual toddler hood. This is bad parenting. I don’t know any mothers — even mothers of special needs kids — that don’t get a break.” (Though, she concedes, as do we all, that the moms of kids with special needs often do have a much more demanding job.)

The problem is that exaggerating the amount of work and expertise needed to parent not only creates guilt on the part of parents — who can live up to those expectations? — but also makes it seem as if the best parents are the ones who do treat their kids as helpless and endangered for as long as possible. If, on the other hand, you believe parenting involves gradually letting go, well, gradually you let go. It gets easier.

This cult of motherhood seems to venerate women, but it actually makes them feel bad if they trust their kids to thrive without constant, obsessive assistance. Moms aren’t martyrs. They’re just plugging away. Hugging away, too.

Return the favor and we’ll call it even.

 Lenore Skenazy is a keynote speaker and author of the book and blog “Free-Range Kids.”

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