Sunday, February 28, 2010

What the Mainstream Blogosphere Won’t Tell You: Parenting is Easy

The parenting-industrial complex and their cohorts in the media would have us believe that raising children is a grueling enterprise, fraught with danger and self-sacrifice, offering only rare but important payoffs intangible to anyone but long-suffering primary caregivers.  How many times have we heard versions of this old saw: “parenting is the most challenging, difficult job ever…and also the most rewarding”?

Consumerism dictates that the solutions to the problem of childrearing can be found through products offered by the multi-bazillion dollar parenting industry; so corporate culture perpetuates this truism to the point that it is accepted as common sense.  A case study of an actual parent (me), however, complicates the notion that parenting is “hard.”

This study examines jobs that the subject (me) has held over the past twenty-five years, and presents the subject's own assessment of these jobs using the highly accurate "crap-to-cake" scale. The crap-to-cake scale combines an amalgam of data points regarding such factors as enjoyability, ease, and intrinsic rewards, and represents them in an easily digested format in which "crap" represents the the most unpleasant end of the spectrum, and "cake" represents the most pleasant.

Survey Data
Job: Lifeguard (3 summers during high school)
Pros: easy as long as no rescues necessary, tanning opportunities, twirling whistle on lanyard, girls in bikinis
Cons: tedium, babysitting of ungrateful brats and antique pool filter systems, ignored by girls in bikinis, skin cancer later in life
Score: 7—angel food cake, no frosting

Job: Driveway Resurfacing (1st job after high school)
Pros: N/A (one of my colleagues told me that we would see many fine ladies in our travels, but this claim was vastly overstated)
Cons: many hours in Econoline van full of grumpy rednecks who smelled like asphalt, working on blacktop during summertime in D.C., smelling like asphalt
Score: 3—crap cake

Job: Carpenter (about 75% of the last 25 years)
Pros: sense of accomplishment, decent pay, a certain romantic cachet perceived by people outside of the trades, manliness cred, useful skills, bawdy humor encouraged, tanning opportunities
Cons: injuries, grumpy rednecks, non-tradespeople saying they “have always admired people who can work with their hands,” being called “handyman,” skin cancer
Score: 7—German chocolate cake with a dusting of poop flakes

Job: Ski Instructor (2 seasons)
Pros: free skiing, pro deals on equipment, wielding godlike (but benevolent) power over trembling college coeds taking skiing for P.E. credit
Cons: babysitting ungrateful brats, lining up in the cold with the rest of the instructors trying to solicit customers and hoping the manager would pimp me out to a wealthy tourist for a “private,” kicking myself for not thinking of getting this job while still single
Score: 8—Ice cream cake 

High School English Teacher (3 years)
Pros: those 4 students who I really “reached,” that time the previous night’s Ambien had not yet worn off and I had the class recite The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock in rounds with a couple kids beatboxing and me reading some of the lines as Brando in Apocalypse Now; working with smart teachers
Cons: babysitting ungrateful brats, broken school system, loss of cognitive capacity from reading student essays, loss of self-esteem, loss of faith in humanity, loss of muscle tone, loss of weekends, threat to marriage, grumpy teachers
Score: 2-crap cake with turd filling and ¼ teaspoon of chocolate sprinkles

Job: Adjunct Professor (3 years)
Pros: students not hell-bent on keeping each other from learning anything, good conversations in the copy room
Cons: academic status and job security equivalent to day laborer stationed in Home Depot parking lot, student essays almost as bad as high school
Score: 6—strawberry shortcake with fart glaze  

Job: Stay-at-home Dad of Twins (4 months)
Pros: new Cutest Thing Ever every day, baby laughter, license to act like a complete idiot, people think my job is really hard, decline in existential angst, babies’ 16 hr/day sleeping schedule allows time to get things done around the house (finishing 2-story addition, hanging siding, shingling roof, refenestrating old part of house, teaching online, etc.), excuse to never leave house
Cons: some gross fluids/solids, some crying/screaming, soundtrack from Fisher-Price toys permanently looping in brain, emasculation.
Score: 9—cakey cake

I don’t deny the possibility that other parents may have different experiences than I have had.  Many factors could contribute to less positive outcomes; for example, financial instability, lack of support from co-parent, or inherently fussy children.  But these problems can be attributed to poor spousal selection on the part of the parent or grandparents, and are beyond the scope of this study.




  1. Very interesting. Sorry about the whole loss of faith in humanity thing. Funny that you lost in when you were the one person that restored it to me the most.

  2. Anisa--it wasn't really all that bad. Thanks for the kind words.

  3. DUDE. Good stuff.

    Come up with a fancy title ("Jobs Rated According to the Cake Index" or somesuch), delete the first and last paragraphs, and submit to McSweeney's. Just don't forget to hide it from your blog first.

  4. Thanks John. I need blog advice. I'll email you a bunch of questions.

  5. You've violated the first rule of parenting. Don't tell non-parents that it's easy.

  6. This is really funny! Having worked with kids in residential treatment I can imagine babies being a lot easier.

  7. Wait till they start crawling.

  8. I laughed, I cried (from laughing), it became a part of me. My son is six, and my husband stayed home with him when I went back to work (teaching, yay!) when the child was just six weeks new. I actually love my job, but it's private elementary and middle school, so it's a different world.

    And you can thank Bernie Dodge for your random new reader/commenter. He tweeted your blog URL.

  9. To take only one, tiny thing out of this entire post: Oh hey! I've been a ski/board instructor for 5 seasons. Whenever it's a sucky day I rate it at about a 1 (only frosting, no cake, with toenail clippings), but free season passes and those powder days with almost-no lessons drag the entire average up to an 8.


Don't hold back.


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