First things first, I am not a mother. I wouldn't presume to speak as if from personal experience in conversations about parenting and motherhood. I have no right, nor desire to suggest that I have any idea what it is like to be a mother, and I've learnt from experience that it's very important for a childless woman to get that disclaimer out of the way before daring to make any statement about child rearing.
That said, I have a lot of respect for mothers. I may not be a mother, but I have one, and I know that I'd be lost without her. She is one of the most selfless people I know. She's always put the needs of her child before her own, which seems to be a common feature of motherhood. When I look back at my childhood, I don't know how she managed to juggle all of the responsibilities she had on her plate.
But she did. Because that's what mums do.
Essentially, my mum had two jobs. One that she was paid for and one that she wasn't. As a small business owner in the hospitality industry and a mother, both of her jobs involved very long hours and no holiday pay, sick leave or public holidays. Both of them were challenging and rewarding in their own ways.
When I spoke to her on the phone this week, she wryly pointed out to me that the job of being a mother never stops. She's right. I may be 28, but I still need my mum.
Over the years, I have found myself thinking occasionally about what it would be like to be a mother, and while I think it would be a wonderful, fulfilling and life-changing experience, I also think that it would be bloody hard work. If my child were anything like me (sorry, Mum), I know it would be hard work.
Yes, work. Work that is vital to the health and continuation of our society (although I'd venture that the same work that mothers do could easily be done by fathers too, and should be), but still, work. Research released in 2017 found that mothers work an average of 98 hours a week. That's more than double the time that 9-5 workers spend at the office.
Mark Richardson, who is not a mother, does not believe that being a mother is a real job. And maybe he would know about things that are not a real job, given that his past job was to spend the odd day plodding 22 metres up and down in short bursts between lunch, afternoon tea, and dinner breaks, and his current job is to talk about sport for a few hours on weekday mornings.
And before cricket fans come after me with pitchforks, I say that in jest as a cricket fan myself.
Barbs aside, however, when I read about Richardson's comments, I could barely muster an eye roll. It made me wonder whether he is now making a deliberate effort to say plonker-ish things in order to create some kind of brand as a talkback shock jock. Does Mark Richardson really believe the things that Mark Richardson says? One hopes not.
Whether Richardson intended it or not, his comments diminish the work of mothers. As a Twitter user pointed out to me, "generally anyone describing work you do as a 'blessing' (or vocation) is trying to devalue it". As someone who began her career as a singer, I can certainly agree with that. Generally those who described my work as a "blessing", "vocation", or some other warm, fuzzy, non-professional term were people who were trying to get me to do it for free.
I think it's pretty safe to say that being a mother is much harder than being a singer, or a cricketer, or a media shock jock. Arguably, motherhood is also much more important to the survival of the species than most other careers. While it's certainly not for everyone, the decision to become a mother and take on that difficult and crucial role deserves to be supported, rather than devalued.
Let's face it, if we paid mothers what they were worth for their work, we'd probably bankrupt every economy on the planet. A better solution, in my humble opinion, would be for families to share the unpaid labour that generally falls to mothers more equally, and for workplaces to implement policies that are supportive of parents. With two parents sharing the load, childcare options made available, and with other family members pitching in, the job of being a mother would hopefully be a lot less labour-intensive.
There's been an assumption in our society for too long that mothers will handle the bulk of the childcare and domestic work by default, and it's high time that we rethought that idea. I don't believe the fact that childcare and domestic work are generally carried out by women, and that those tasks are unpaid, is a coincidence.
When Clarke Gayford becomes a stay-at-home dad in a few months, I wonder whether people will tell him that his work is not a real job. I wonder whether he'll be told that his role as a stay-at-home parent is a "blessing", and that it can't possibly be considered a job.
Regardless of what the naysayers might say, he'll be doing some of the most important work known to humankind.