As a very recent new mom, I’ve just landed the toughest job in the world.
As a teenager, I toiled a couple of summers at a spice factory. There I laboured on the lines, packaging bottles of spice, shrink wrapping bundles of bottles and sweeping the floors of overflow. It was a tough job, for sure. I had sore feet from standing for hours and aching arms from repetitive motions.
Then there were the days when I was sent upstairs to dip into the barrels of spice with a shovel and dump the spices into the machines below. I threw out my back on that particular assignment.
Besides the heavy lifting and repetitive strain, there was also the stench. Praise be the days we had cinnamon on the lines. Some days you reeked of garlic, others of onion powder. If you took the bus home from work, your fellow travellers avoided you like the plague. Yet those smells were nothing compared to someone accidentally blowing onion powder in your eyes while cleaning the machinery.
Tough job, sure. But nothing compared to my present occupation.
Another summer, I worked at an inn as a chambermaid in Normandy, France where I served a slave-driving witch of a woman that I’ll kindly refer to as “Madame.”
Madame was the type of woman who stood behind you when you washed the dishes and told you how to hold the cloth. She scolded you for leaving a speck of skin on a peeled potato, and barraged you with comments like “We don’t eat like pigs in France” – implying, of course, that we do eat like pigs elsewhere.
She was loathed by all her staff. Once, when I mentioned to a part-timer that I planned to work the entire summer at the inn, she shook her head and told me angrily, “Tu vas craquer!” You’re gonna crack.
To get her money’s worth (and she was paying me pennies), Madame got me up at the crack of dawn and kept me working until the late hours of the evening. I recall hanging laundry on the line while bats circled my head one night. Her idea of a “day off” was allowing me to sleep ‘til noon just once the entire time I worked there.
When I told Madame that I quit, she refused to drive me to the train station until I had put in another week of hard labour. Being in the countryside in the middle of nowhere, I grudgingly accepted the terms.
It was a tough job, for sure. I was frustrated, physically worn out and completely sleep-deprived. Still, those days look lazy now compared to my recent undertaking as “mother to newborn.”
“Mother to newborn” simply takes the cake as the toughest job on earth. Even at demanding jobs, you get a few hours off. Mother to newborn gets no such luxury.
Mother to newborn is on call 24 hours a day, seven days a week. After an exhausting day and just as she passes into blissful REM sleep, she is awoken again – Back to the grind! Back to the grind!
Mother to newborn passes through her day in a zombie-like state, learning new newborn-related jobs, navigating the surprisingly difficult task of breastfeeding, whilst recovering from the most painful experience of her life. And unlike other tireless, devoted workers who put in insane hours at the office, she is not recognized for her efforts.
When an employee at a company stays late and works weekends to get a job done, he may be rewarded with a promotion. At the very least, someone considers him a martyr. But when a mother puts in overtime and volunteers for 24-hour call day after day after day, she’s not considered a martyr. She’s simply doing what every mother in the history of the world has done before her.
Wow, new moms, I salute you. Since giving birth to my baby on December 8, I’ve joined the ranks of the toughest workers in the world. What a grind it is, but, thankfully, unlike the tough jobs I worked as a teen, I also find being a new mom the most wonderful and rewarding job in the world.