Whose Job Is The Most Important?

It was 7.45pm. We were driving back from a hurling match 25 minutes’ drive from our house. I’d left the house just after 7 that morning, had worked 8-4 then left work, called to the house to collect my five-year-old’s football gear and the sandwiches (that my husband had made the night before) and drink bottles (that I’d forgotten to put in to the lunch bags for the kids) and collected them from the childminder’s then drove the four of us to the match.

I stood on the sideline freezing, despite it being August, while my excited boy jumped around, his first match, his first time wearing the club jersey. I cheered as he scored goals, and encouraged him to “block hard” and “chase after it” feeding his sister rice cakes and chatting to other parents at the same time.

On the drive back to our town we chatted. We talked about matches, and songs and why we everyone who has swings in their garden is very lucky. Then there was a few seconds silence and my older son asked “Mam, whose job is most important, yours or Dad’s?” As I prepped my politically correct answer he added “Actually I think it’s Dad’s isn’t it?”.

Whose job is most important Mum, yours or Dad's-


Time froze. I felt a million emotions. A pang. A stab. Here I was a working mother, taking one day off a week to give me work-life balance and my kids some time and it was being used to measure the importance of my work. It felt like it was held against me, not by my employer, not by my colleagues but by my son. He didn’t know of course that that’s how I felt, it was an innocent question and a logical (to him) conclusion.

I tried not to get defensive and asked him why he thought that. “Well Dad has to go to work more than you do, you get more days off”. *STAB*

He thinks that my job is less important because I take time off to do my really properly important job. I want to cry. I wondered why I did it.

Was I devaluing my job to society because I took a day off every week to spend with my kids? If so, what was the point of it all?

How could I give a good example to my children, to encourage them to have careers if the memo about flexible working hadn’t reached them? If they thought that really, Mam’s job wasn’t that important, or was certainly less important than Dad’s.

He needed an answer. I gathered my thoughts and told him that I have a job that only needs me for the amount of time that I do it, but that Daddy’s job takes longer sometimes to do, I said that both jobs are  very important and that his dad and I both spent a lot of time studying and working hard to get our jobs.

I don’t know if he bought it but the conversation moved on, in the car anyway. My internal conversation kept going for hours. It’s down to me. I need validation. It’s not that I need people to think I’m important, but I guess I want to feel valued.

What does important even mean? What’s an important job? Why did I care that he thought that his dad’s job was more important than mine?

Of course now I realise that what I should have said. Why does that always happen?

I should have said that the most important job is the one with the least pay, but the most reward. The one that keeps me up all night and on the go all day, 24/7, but the one that I’ll happily talk about all day long. The one where there’s no salary, no reviews, but oh so many benefits. The one that is on my mind all  the time, the one that makes a difference. He’d probably have smiled a bit as he realised what it was, then told me that that wasn’t really a job, just my life, and could he have something to eat please. That’s what’s the most important.




  1. Oh God that is so hard. I can remember making my mother feel the same way though although I didn’t realise at the time. X

  2. Wow. This post really hit me hard. I’ve had the same internal conversations. And I can’t help but think that the fact that we as women continue to struggle with the answer to the question has a lot to do with systematic subjugation. Makes me wonder, too, what prompted your son’s question. He’s obviously a thinker.

  3. Brilliant piece.
    Great question.
    Better answer regardless that you might think you thought of a better one later.
    “Irishmen and Irishwomen, in the name of God and the FUTURE generations…”
    Now there’s a revolutionary proclamation .
    My father’s generation invoked the dead.
    My generation invoked themselves.
    It took the women of this generation to be the selfless ones and integrate, the past , the present AND the future – ACTUALLY.
    How do you do it ? you are all asked all the time.People are amazed – because it is amazing and women are only beginning to realise they are entitled to be appreciated for it- but we know they’ll do it anyway because they love big in a generous way.THAT’s what is important.Well done girls – you play a hard game real well .
    As ‘ould’ fellas like me say ” You are all playing a blinder”. Really genuine engineering revolutionaries- and with stamina!

    • What an amazing reply from ‘Dad’ : your pride bursts through your words.
      This topic is so close to home at the moment- having had a couple of weeks with a heartbroken boy at crèche drop offs with a new work situation for me.
      It is so, so hard. But posts like this cheer me up and remind me it’s not just me.
      And ‘Dad’, you are fabulous. Truly.

  4. Where do they get these ideas from? I’m sure my son is the same and I worry that he does not see me leave the house in a suit in the way that my daughter did, he was only 7 when I lost my job…

  5. I’ve been asked that by my eldest too. His view was the same as your son’s. I come home earlier and have a day off a week to keep the household going – that must mean my job is easier. I can’t remember what I replied. The problem is, how do explain to a child that you squeeze so much into your day so that you have time for him and the rest of the family as well as getting a challenging job done in 4/5 of the time you used to do it in and that your sacrifice makes everyone else’s life easier and more enjoyable?

  6. I haven’t had this come up for me yet – luckily. But I feel your pain. Mothers tend to make so many more sacrifices to keep everything as balanced as possible. So it STINGS when it’s not seen or valued. Hugs to you x

  7. Thirty something years have passed since my boys made similar comments; as humans, we all require validation as well as to be valued. My boys also insisted Mummy drove “Daddy’s” car…that the family car belonged to Dad even though our two salaries went towards purchasing it. And one time they were amazed to observe me changing a flat tyre…I told them girls could do anything (they put their mind to do) but the seven year old came back with, “Year, but I bet the men showed them how to do it!” That was when I decided to “educate” my boys…now in their 30’s they constantly amaze me showing respect to their wives and taking a fair (and maybe equal) part in child rearing. So, maybe, it just takes time. In the meantime, remember you are valued and your “work” both paid and unpaid is respected but so many both known and unknown to you. I agree though, that the “work” of being a Mum is priceless…no time too valuable, no effort too great, no self-denial (such as sleep) too challenging.

  8. Of course that was supposed to read “…respected by so many …”

  9. Argh – that’s so hard! I’ve been there too, and likewise, the assumption was that mums (generally) don’t have jobs that are as tough as dads (generally) – because mums are around more. There we are, killing ourselves to be everything to everyone – to take parental leave, to help with homework, to be at the match, and they see it that we don’t work as hard. But maybe there’s a silver lining too – if that’s their perception, it means the fact that half the time we’re exhausted isn’t showing through… maybe…

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