I was thinking again yesterday about the trope that “motherhood is the toughest job in the world” and how it’s never sat quite right with me.
I think I’ve figured out why. However tough and relentless family relationships might be, the vast majority of humans are naturally inclined to spend most of their time and energy on their own personal lives– romance, friendships, and family.
What’s more difficult for most people is spending time and energy thinking about the larger world. Voting, volunteering, even serving on a condo board– it’s much more difficult to get people to participate in larger issues outside their personal concerns.
As single, childless women get older, they are asked to do the reverse from what feels instinctual to most people. They spend the vast majority of their time with unrelated co-workers solving impersonal problems, whether it’s in service of a corporate entity, the government, or a nonprofit agency. Their personal lives start to disappear, so unless they are particularly dedicated to a cause, the motivation for career success becomes fuzzy. They also lose the personal support that can ease the strain of tackling large, impersonal problems every day.
To me, that’s a tougher road.