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We cannot stress this enough

Many jobs are stressful, but which is the most stressful? There are many claims for such an honour (or should we say ‘millstone’) – traditionally, people have said that the position of air traffic controller is a highly stressful job, though, if truth be told, such a job at our various Zimbabwean airports may not really be considered.

Others declare that the job of a brain surgeon is an extremely stressful job; there is certainly little room for error.

At the opposite extreme some might argue, with considerable persuasion, that in fact being unemployed is more stressful than any job.

Not knowing where the next meal is coming from, whether we have anywhere to stay tonight, and much more besides, will only apply considerable stress to our very existence.

We can nowadays be more specific in determining which the most stressful jobs are. We could look at Forbes.com and discover the‘10 Most Stressful Jobs 2016’ (though we should understand these are jobs found in the US, not in Zimbabwe).

The job search site Career Cast evaluated the two hundred professions on their Jobs Rated Report, and did so according to eleven widely-accepted specific stress factors including “travel required, deadlines, working under public scrutiny, physical demands, environmental conditions, hazards, risks to one’s own life, and interactions with the public at large”.

They discovered that in first place was Enlisted military personnel, presumably as they deal with life and death situations. In a similar vein, the second job on the list of most stressful jobs also dealt with life and death scenarios; these being firefighters.

It is not air traffic controllers that are next on the list, but airline pilots, followed by police officers (maybe more so in Zimbabwe where they may not have any vehicles to undertake their duties).

Next on the list come event coordinators, public relations executives, senior corporate executives, while broadcasters are next, followed by newspaper reporters, perhaps because they face potentially gruesome scenarios and deal with bad news all the time.

Number ten on the list, interestingly, are taxi drivers (all the more so, perhaps, driving on Zimbabwe roads).

Yet, here is a thought though: parents are not mentioned on that list.

Yet there are two very strong reasons why parents should be on that list, based on the points made above.

Firstly, the list of stress factors quoted above can equally and fully apply to parenting: there is a huge amount of travel required; deadlines have to be met constantly; they are working under public scrutiny; there are enormous physical demands (especially with young children); environmental conditions are not always conducive; they face regular hazards; they sacrifice much at risk to their own life, while all their interactions are done in full public view. Parents face them all.

Secondly, the role of parenting includes all the jobs listed above as being highly stressful. 

Many times in their life parents will take on the role of enlisted military personnel.

They are constantly fire-fighting (dealing with tantrums, arguments, fights among the children) and constantly on call for emergencies.

They seem to be flying here, there and everywhere like airline pilots; controlling riots and dealing with crimes like police officers; organising regular events for their children; promoting the good in their children to all concerned; making life-changing decisions like a senior corporate executive (often at the drop of a hat); making constant announcements as a broadcaster, attending to big “stories” like a newspaper reporter; always carrying children round in car like a taxi driver.

Some might argue, though, by applying further logic, that in fact parenting is actually stress-free.

After all, we face no appraisal, no formal one at least; no-one sits down with senior corporate executive (often at the drop of a hat); making constant announcements as a broadcaster, attending to big ‘stories’ like a newspaper reporter; always carrying children round in a car like a taxi driver.

Some might argue, though, by applying further logic, that in fact parenting is actually stress-free. After all, we face no appraisal, no formal one at least; no-one sits down with us at the end of the year and says, “Let’s have a look at how you have done during this past year, shall we?” In fact, there is no written, formal contract.

There are no worries about promotion, impressing the boss (we are the boss!), or being sacked. In contrast to other jobs, we have that job for life. It is ours, no matter.

Why are parents not mentioned on this list of most stressful jobs? It is not because it is not stressful – far, far from it.

No, it is perhaps for the simple reason that parenting is not a job; it is not a career. It is a calling, a gift, a privilege, a responsibility.

That is what needs to be stressed!

  • Tim Middleton is the executive director of the Association of Trust Schools [ATS]. The views expressed in this article, however, are solely those of the author in his private capacity and do not necessarily represent the views of the ATS. 
  • email: ceo@atschisz.co.zw
  • website: www.atschisz

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