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

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Staying in the EU would make it easier to tackle concerns about immigration, not less

Brexit is not only unlikely to deliver the control people want, it may actually undermine people’s faith in the system even further.

As Theresa May prepares to set out her latest plan for Brexit in Florence on Friday, those on all sides of the debate will wait to see if there are answers to fundamental questions about Britain’s future outside of the EU. Principle among those is how the UK immigration system will work. How can we respond to Leave voters’ concerns, while at the same time ensuring our economy isn’t badly damaged?

We must challenge the basic premise of the Vote Leave campaign: that dealing with public’s concern about immigration means we have to leave the EU and Single Market.

In fact the opposite is true. Our study into the options available to the UK shows that we are more likely to be able to restore faith in the system by staying within Europe and reforming free movement, than by leaving.

First, there are ways to exercise greater control over EU migration without needing to change the rules. It is not true that the current system of free movement is "unconditional", as recently claimed in a leaked Home Office paper. In fact, there is already considerable scope under existing EU rules to limit free movement.

EU rules state that in order to be given a right to reside, EU migrants must be able to demonstrate proof that they are either working, actively seeking work, or self-sufficient, otherwise they can be proactively removed after three months.

But unlike other continental systems, the UK has chosen not to operate a worker registration system for EU nationals and thus has no way of tracking where they are or what they’re doing. This could be changed tomorrow, if the government were so minded.

Other reforms being discussed at the highest levels within Europe would help deal with the sense that those coming to the UK drive down wages and conditions. The UK could make common cause with President Macron in France, who is pushing for reform of the so-called "Posted Workers Directive", so that companies seeking to bring in workers from abroad have to pay those workers at the same rate as local staff. It could also follow the advice of the TUC and implement domestic reforms of our labour market to prevent exploitation and undercutting.

Instead, the UK government has chosen to oppose reform of the Posted Workers Directive and made it clear that it has no interest in labour market reform.

Second, achieving more substantive change to free movement rules is not as implausible as often portrayed. Specifically, allowing member states to enact safeguards to slow the pace of change in local communities is not unrealistic. While the principle of free movement is a cornerstone of the European project, how it is applied in practice has evolved. And given that other countries, such as France, have expressed concern and called for reform, it is likely to evolve further.

The reforms to free movement negotiated by David Cameron in 2016 illustrate that the EU Commission can be realistic. Cameron’s agreement (which focused primarily on benefits) also provides an important legal and political precedent, with the Commission having agreed to introduce "safeguards" to respond to "situations of inflow of workers from other Member States of an exceptional magnitude over an extended period of time".

Similar precedents can be found within a number of other EU agreements, including the Acts of Accession of new Member States, the European Economic Area (EEA) Agreement and the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union (TFEU). The UK should seek a strengthened version of Cameron’s "emergency brake", which could be activated in the event of "exceptional inflows" from within the EU. We are not the first to argue this.

Of course some will say that it is unrealistic to expect the UK to be able to get more than Cameron achieved in 2016. But put yourself if in the shoes of the EU. If you believe in a project and want it to succeed, moral imperative is balanced with realism and it hardly needs pointing out that the political context has radically shifted since Cameron’s negotiation.

In contrast, a "hard Brexit" will not deliver the "control of our borders" that Brexiteers have promised. As our report makes clear, the hospitality, food, manufacturing and social care sectors heavily depend on EU workers. Given current employment rates, this means huge labour shortages.

These shortages cannot be wished away with vague assertions about "rejoining the world" by the ultra free-market Brexiteers. This is about looking after our elderly and putting food on our tables. If the UK leaves in April 2019, it is likely that the government will continue to want most categories of EU migration to continue. And whatever controls are introduced post-Brexit are unlikely to be enforced at the border (doing so would cause havoc, given our continued commitment to visa-free travel).  Instead we would be likely to see an upsurge in illegal migration from within the EU, with people arriving at the border as "visitors" but then staying on to seek work. This is likely to worsen problems around integration, whereby migrants come and go in large numbers, without putting down roots.

We can do this a different way. The important issues that most drive public concern about EU migration - lack of control, undercutting, pace of change - can be dealt with either within current rules or by seeking reform within the EU.

The harsh truth is that Brexit is not only unlikely to deliver the control people want, it may actually undermine people’s faith in the system even further.

Some will say that the entire line of argument contained here is dangerous, since it risks playing into an anti-immigrant narrative, rather than emphasising migration’s benefits. This is an argument for the ivory tower, not the real world.

There is a world of difference between pandering to prejudice and acknowledging that whilst EU migration has brought economic benefits to the UK, it has also created pressures, for example, relating to population churn within local communities.

The best way to secure public consent for free movement, in particular, and immigration in general, is to be clear about where those pressures manifest and find ways of dealing with them, consistent with keeping the UK within the EU.

This is neither an attempt at triangulation nor impractical idealism. It’s about making sure we understand the consequences of one of the biggest decisions this country has ever taken, and considering a different course.

Harvey Redgrave is a senior policy fellow at the Tony Blair Institute for Global Change and director of strategy at Crest Advisory.