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The Hardest Job in the World

Ah, parents. They create children, and that keeps me gainfully employed.
Logically, then, I should be writing naught but praise for them and the
work they do.


Our very strange society encourages everyone to have children. A childless
adult is barraged by (presumably well-meaning) questions about when--
not whether--s/he will be having children. Recent books have questioned
the integrity of women who choose to remain childless.Yet teaching
parenting skills to high-school students is seen as ludicrous, and
providing government- or corporate-sponsored childcare is laughed
at as some socialist/feminist brainfart. Mixed signals indeed.

The drive behind this "everybody have a baby" pressure is mysterious.
There are more than six billion people in the world. There is no reason
to encourage breeding. The species is in no danger of dying out from
reproductive failure. Many arguments are advanced that those with the
most desirable genetics are failing to reproduce in numbers large
enough to compete with those with lesser genetic gifts; such arguments,
exposed to the sun, fall apart into the obvious racism that they are.

As any parent can tell you, raising children is about the most demanding
occupation that can be imagined. The hours are 24/7/365 for at least
eighteen years. For the first two or three of those years, sleep
deprivation is the norm. It is financially draining (and those dimbulbs
who think welfare generously rewards single moms need to educate
themselves ). It doesn't add spice to a CV. It is an emotional rollercoaster.

Why, then, are ridiculous rosy portraits of parenthood held out to
youths entering their most fertile years? The paranoid in me remembers
that children have been famously described as "hostages to fortune",
and that parents--who have a lot to lose--are less likely to be political
dissidents. There is also the oft-repeated observation that misery loves
company: those who suffer under the yoke of mommying (and, less often,
daddying) might well feel some schadenfreude seeing others similarly
afflicted. Finally, tradition--that musty old murderer--doubtless
plays a role. After all, virtually every parent had parents. Might as well
keep the rhythm rolling, right?

I fantasize about proper education for potential parents in this country.
I dream of the day that all prospective parents have already chosen a
pediatrician and a health plan, and laid in supplies of diapers, and read
up on immunization. I live in a world where the most many can manage
is to open up an account at Baby Gap. I dream of the day that
motherhood is accorded the status enjoyed by other careers. I live in a
world where the spectre of "welfare mothers" is used to justify slashing
society's infrastructure. I dream of the day children stop giving birth to
children because they were made aware of what having children
really meant.

Picture this: a coast-to-coast public service ad campaign. Billboards
would go up with two photos juxtaposed. On the left, an Army Ranger
chest-deep in swampy water, carrying several loaded packs, his rifle
held above his head to keep it dry. He is sweating and clearly bedeviled
by mosquitoes. On the right, a young woman holding a red-faced, screaming
three-month-old. The clock on the wall behind her indicates that it is four
in the morning. She is clearly exhausted. The kitchen in which she stands
is a wreckage of spilled formula and soiled diapers. Beneath the photos,
the caption: "Who has the harder job?"

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