Holy trinity: English triplet babies are held by their grandmother, vicar and mother following their christening, 1942. Photo: Getty
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The World’s Toughest Job may or may not be being a mother

Being a mother is hard – but we don’t need a greetings card company to tell us that.

What do you think is the world’s toughest job? Nay, the #WorldsToughestJob? Perhaps the post can be claimed by whoever had to count out all one million of Ai Wei Wei’s sunflower seeds. Or by my friend Darren who worked 14-hour days on a rose farm, tagging roses, with a work “buddy” who was widely known to have had sex with his goat. Or maybe it belongs to my other friend (I have two!) who works in a paper factory, where duties include having to shovel pulp that smells like rotting flesh, emptying the roof tank of dead birds, cleaning out the lift shaft with “the lift itself dangling precariously above”, and inhaling so much dust that your snot is black and you suffer random nose bleeds for days afterwards.

Think any of those jobs sound tough? Well then you’re wrong. But fear not, just in time for an artificial national holiday (in the US) celebrating all occupiers of this hashtaggable post, an American greeting’s card company has generously provided us with the answer, and said answer will blow your mind.

Mullen, an American advertising agency, advertised online and in newspapers for the role of “Director of Operations”. Included in the job criteria was:

Must be able to work 135+ hours a week

Willingness to forgo any breaks

Must be able to lift up to 75 lbs. on a regular basis

Unlimited patience

Salary: unpaid

Spoiler alert: it’s motherhood.

They then interviewed the few presumably desperate but also inconceivably good-natured jobseekers (or, y’know, out of work actors) who applied for this unappealing position, shocked them all with this revelation, and compiled the encounters in to one heart-warming reminder that YOU ARE A BAD DAUGHTER BECAUSE WHEN WAS THE LAST TIME YOU MADE YOUR MUM A MOTHER’S DAY CARD YOU SELF-ABSORBED LOUT?

Bet you didn’t see that one coming, did you?

Here are some possible reasons why you might not have twigged the profound message being sold to you by Mullen:

  1. Sometimes, fathers are involved in childcare. Admittedly this probably only happens in weird hippie communes in Scandinavia where no one pays for healthcare and everyone is flying high on drugs and misandry, but hey, they might want a greeting’s card too.
  2. It has also been known in some rare cases (Louis Theroux documentary pending) for Women Who Are Mothers to have other jobs too. Like, maybe they work in accounting. Or write books. Or fly planes. Or perhaps, even, work for Mullen and are so weighed down by their feelings of perpetual guilt at not being a Full Time Mum that they thought they’d make a video showcasing all their failings.
  3. Maybe you didn’t see it coming because you are very much aware that raising children is a hard job, and that some women and men do choose to devote their lives to it at the expense of other careers, but the fact that you have a mum has made you realise this before. You didn’t think an advertising agency would really try and tell you this, as it’s a bit like saying “giving birth is painful”, or “Kate Middleton has nice hair”, but hey, I guess we all have our moments of stupidity.
  4. Maybe you thought we in the developed world had moved past tired stereotypes about the holy grail of womanhood being motherhood. Lol.
  5. You realise that mothers are often underappreciated in our society. There are number of ways to tackle this, you think: improved access to childcare, a supportive system of child benefits, equitable maternity and paternity leave, a change in the way the media presents mothers as one-dimensional caregivers. You didn’t realise that all that Mums needed was a fucking Mother’s Day card! Quick, someone call Germaine Greer, her work here is done.
  6. Some mums are bad mothers. They might be great women in all other respects, or they might even be crap in all other respects, but regarding their children, some mums get it wrong some or all of the time. Like me learning to drive. I’ve had probably approaching 100 hours of lessons, attempted many tests, and I still can’t do it. Luckily, this means I am in fact legally barred from the road, whereas there is no such audit for becoming a mother. But if there was, I’m sure a lot of people would fail.

So, yeah, being a mum is hard. But I think we knew that already.

Amy Hawkins is a student at the University of Cambridge and deputy editor of Varsity, the student newspaper. Follow her on Twitter @DHawkins93.

Photo: Getty
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The Prevent strategy needs a rethink, not a rebrand

A bad policy by any other name is still a bad policy.

Yesterday the Home Affairs Select Committee published its report on radicalization in the UK. While the focus of the coverage has been on its claim that social media companies like Facebook, Twitter and YouTube are “consciously failing” to combat the promotion of terrorism and extremism, it also reported on Prevent. The report rightly engages with criticism of Prevent, acknowledging how it has affected the Muslim community and calling for it to become more transparent:

“The concerns about Prevent amongst the communities most affected by it must be addressed. Otherwise it will continue to be viewed with suspicion by many, and by some as “toxic”… The government must be more transparent about what it is doing on the Prevent strategy, including by publicising its engagement activities, and providing updates on outcomes, through an easily accessible online portal.”

While this acknowledgement is good news, it is hard to see how real change will occur. As I have written previously, as Prevent has become more entrenched in British society, it has also become more secretive. For example, in August 2013, I lodged FOI requests to designated Prevent priority areas, asking for the most up-to-date Prevent funding information, including what projects received funding and details of any project engaging specifically with far-right extremism. I lodged almost identical requests between 2008 and 2009, all of which were successful. All but one of the 2013 requests were denied.

This denial is significant. Before the 2011 review, the Prevent strategy distributed money to help local authorities fight violent extremism and in doing so identified priority areas based solely on demographics. Any local authority with a Muslim population of at least five per cent was automatically given Prevent funding. The 2011 review pledged to end this. It further promised to expand Prevent to include far-right extremism and stop its use in community cohesion projects. Through these FOI requests I was trying to find out whether or not the 2011 pledges had been met. But with the blanket denial of information, I was left in the dark.

It is telling that the report’s concerns with Prevent are not new and have in fact been highlighted in several reports by the same Home Affairs Select Committee, as well as numerous reports by NGOs. But nothing has changed. In fact, the only change proposed by the report is to give Prevent a new name: Engage. But the problem was never the name. Prevent relies on the premise that terrorism and extremism are inherently connected with Islam, and until this is changed, it will continue to be at best counter-productive, and at worst, deeply discriminatory.

In his evidence to the committee, David Anderson, the independent ombudsman of terrorism legislation, has called for an independent review of the Prevent strategy. This would be a start. However, more is required. What is needed is a radical new approach to counter-terrorism and counter-extremism, one that targets all forms of extremism and that does not stigmatise or stereotype those affected.

Such an approach has been pioneered in the Danish town of Aarhus. Faced with increased numbers of youngsters leaving Aarhus for Syria, police officers made it clear that those who had travelled to Syria were welcome to come home, where they would receive help with going back to school, finding a place to live and whatever else was necessary for them to find their way back to Danish society.  Known as the ‘Aarhus model’, this approach focuses on inclusion, mentorship and non-criminalisation. It is the opposite of Prevent, which has from its very start framed British Muslims as a particularly deviant suspect community.

We need to change the narrative of counter-terrorism in the UK, but a narrative is not changed by a new title. Just as a rose by any other name would smell as sweet, a bad policy by any other name is still a bad policy. While the Home Affairs Select Committee concern about Prevent is welcomed, real action is needed. This will involve actually engaging with the Muslim community, listening to their concerns and not dismissing them as misunderstandings. It will require serious investigation of the damages caused by new Prevent statutory duty, something which the report does acknowledge as a concern.  Finally, real action on Prevent in particular, but extremism in general, will require developing a wide-ranging counter-extremism strategy that directly engages with far-right extremism. This has been notably absent from today’s report, even though far-right extremism is on the rise. After all, far-right extremists make up half of all counter-radicalization referrals in Yorkshire, and 30 per cent of the caseload in the east Midlands.

It will also require changing the way we think about those who are radicalized. The Aarhus model proves that such a change is possible. Radicalization is indeed a real problem, one imagines it will be even more so considering the country’s flagship counter-radicalization strategy remains problematic and ineffective. In the end, Prevent may be renamed a thousand times, but unless real effort is put in actually changing the strategy, it will remain toxic. 

Dr Maria Norris works at London School of Economics and Political Science. She tweets as @MariaWNorris.