Being a mother is definitely the hardest job on earth

Published 8:44 am Tuesday, April 17, 2012

If you came home this past week and your wife seemed a bit on edge, it might have been she had just heard the comments from Democratic strategist, Hilary Rosen, stating the presidential candidate Mitt Romney’s wife, Ann, had “never worked a day in her life.”
In Ann Romney’s case as a full time mom, she raised five children; all boys. I can’t even imagine having five kids, much less doing all that you have to do to help them become the fine young men the Romney sons appear to be.
These are fighting words for any woman that has chosen to stay at home with their kids. Millions of women across this country make that choice, while millions more balance a career between their work and their children. That means they have two jobs.
Some have a choice, but most women have to work, as this country has moved to a dual-income family model. In either case, I believe that being a mother has to be the hardest job on earth. I know it far exceeds anything that I have done as the primary breadwinner in our family.
We have had friends that chose to stay home with their children and after 20 years were reentering the workforce. “I don’t have any skills,” they said. “All I have done is cook, clean and wash clothes.”
In reality, the stay-at-home mom has many skills. After raising their family, most are an organizational manager, a chef, a purchasing agent, a special projects director, a bookkeeper, a mechanic, and a physician’s assistant. They work long hours, are on call day and night, and often at a financial sacrifice. Who wouldn’t want to hire a person with all those skills?
An anesthesiologist asked my wife several questions before having some kidney stones removed several years ago. “Do you work?” he asked. “Yes, I am a full-time mom,” she replied. “So you don’t work,” he responded. He probably shouldn’t have responded with that question.
They went back and forth for a minute. Aided by some heavy doses of pain medication, Mary Lou replied, “Why don’t you come try it for 24 hours?” She then refused to sign the consent form if he put “No” as the answer to the question. “I’ll take my pain pump somewhere else,” she told the flabbergasted man.
I occasionally watch the television show “The Dirtiest Job” on The Discovery Channel. Despite some of the awful jobs that host Mike Rowe has performed, none compare to cleaning the dirty diapers of recent newborns. Add in the cleaning up after a sick child and you get the picture.
My own mother probably drove more miles than the average long-distance truck driver, during the years we were all playing sports. With her three kids attending different schools, with different schedules, and different interests, we kept her busy by staying on the road all the time.
Of course, when a mother is ready to put the dinner on the table the chances are slim that the entire family will be able to sit down. Late practices, school activities, clubs, after school jobs, and — of course — friends, all combine to make the dinner schedule impossible. It is much easier to run a restaurant than for a mom to coordinate meal plans with a family going in every direction.
Then there is the medical side of being a mother. At first, accidents start out as simple “boo-boos.” A kiss, hug and Band-Aid are all that it takes to make the tears go away. Before long, an active child can look forward to having a tooth knocked out, or breaking a bone or having a few stitches.
With the first child, the mother has to control her on emotions to keep from freaking out with the smallest cut. By the second, third, or fourth child, you just tell them to wash the dirt off and put on their own Band-Aid. Kids get tougher as their parents get tougher.
My wife, during her 11 years as a stay-at-home mom, learned to unstop the sink, change the air conditioning filters, put air in the tires, and mow the grass (briefly). I even got her to wash the dog. However, she drew the line at unstopping a toilet. “That’s a man’s job,” she said.
While a willing participant in washing clothes, I still can’t get it right when it comes to hot and cold water, colors and whites, and detergent and bleach. After 34 years, I think we are finally at a place where she would just rather do it herself.
Despite the many challenges and endless tasks of being a mother, there are many blessings. Mothers develop bonds with their children that are irreplaceable and can’t be duplicated. There are times when I am jealous, even though I have a great relationship with my own children.
I am sure that Hilary Rosen wishes that she could take her words back. Ann Romney deserves credit for raising five sons, just as every good mother deserves credit for their hard and noble work in raising their own children.
For all the credit that I receive for my success in business and politics, I will be the first to tell you that the person in my family that had the hardest job is my wife, Mary Lou.
She gets the lion’s share of the way our children have turned out. I couldn’t have done all that she has done. After all, she had the hardest job on earth.
Dan Ponder can be reached at

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