Holy trinity: English triplet babies are held by their grandmother, vicar and mother following their christening, 1942. Photo: Getty
Show Hide image

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 freelance journalist based in Beijing. You can follow her on Twitter @DHawkins93.

Photo: Getty
Show Hide image

It's not WhatsApp that was at fault in the Westminster attacks. It's our prisons

Britain's criminal justice system neither deterred nor rehabilitated Khalid Masood, and may even have facilitated his radicalisation. 

The dust has settled, the evidence has been collected and the government has decided who is to blame for the attack on Westminster. That’s right, its WhatsApp and their end-to-end encryption of messages. Amber Rudd, the Home Secretary, wants tech companies to install a backdoor into messages like these that the government can then access.

There are a couple of problems here, not least that Adrian Russell aka Khalid Masood was known to the security services but considered to be low-risk. Even if the government had had the ability to gain entry to his WhatsApp, they wouldn’t have used it. Then there’s the fact that end-to-end encryption doesn’t just protect criminals and terrorists – it protects users from criminals and terrorists. Any backdoor will be vulnerable to attack, not only from our own government and foreign powers, but by non-state actors including fraudsters, and other terrorists.

(I’m parking, also, the question of whether these are powers that should be handed to any government in perpetuity, particularly one in a country like Britain’s, where near-unchecked power is handed to the executive as long as it has a parliamentary majority.)

But the biggest problem is that there is an obvious area where government policy failed in the case of Masood: Britain’s prisons system.

Masood acted alone though it’s not yet clear if he was merely inspired by international jihadism – that is, he read news reports, watched their videos on social media and came up with the plan himself – or he was “enabled” – that is, he sought out and received help on how to plan his attack from the self-styled Islamic State.

But what we know for certain is that he was, as is a recurring feature of the “radicalisation journey”, in possession of a string of minor convictions from 1982 to 2002 and that he served jail time. As the point of having prisons is surely to deter both would-be offenders and rehabilitate its current occupants so they don’t offend again, Masood’s act of terror is an open-and-shut case of failure in the prison system. Not only he did prison fail to prevent him committing further crimes, he went on to commit one very major crime.  That he appears to have been radicalised in prison only compounds the failure.

The sad thing is that not so very long ago a Secretary of State at the Ministry of Justice was thinking seriously about prison and re-offending. While there was room to critique some of Michael Gove’s solutions to that problem, they were all a hell of a lot better than “let’s ban WhatsApp”. 

Stephen Bush is special correspondent at the New Statesman. His daily briefing, Morning Call, provides a quick and essential guide to British politics.