Professions (jobs) come with fairly defined hierarchies.
The best paid (rock stars, entrepreneurs…) The most esteemed (surgeons, judges…) The most worthy (teachers, carers…) The most admired (sports stars, actors…) The bravest (soldiers, deep sea divers…)
And the most difficult? (bomb-disposal expert, stand-up comedian…)
No doubt, you can add your own profession/job to the above and a debate can rage. But what about the most important job?
No doubt, politicians would make their case but not a very convincing one in my view. If my son had lost his legs or worse to liberate Helmand Province in Afghanistan, this would be a particularly painful week for me and reflects appalling on certain politicians and their advisers.
Of course the importance of a job is impossible to accurately audit. The back breaking cotton picker has a case because we all need clothes or the paediatric brain surgeon at work while the parents and family cling to each other as they wait.
But ranking jobs in order of importance is easy to resolve if parenting is thrown in to the fray. Surely, the most important job because all successful societies hinge on successful parenting and yet, it is rarely considered or much heralded.
A job so important it takes two people. But a job that comes with no training and has almost no barriers to entry. Not everyone can become an astronaut or a physicist or a rock star but almost everyone can become a parent. And most people do and with wildly varying outcomes.
Technology and our fast changing world is wreaking havoc with jobs. One single man, Mr Bezos is bringing retail to its knees and driverless vehicles threatens millions of jobs. Zoom takes aim at aviation and even traditional roles like teaching are in the cross hairs. Universities in the UK are choosing a dangerous path by continuing with on-line teaching without considering if a lecture can be recorded and viewed anytime, then it doesn’t need to be re-recorded every year.
But parenting remains immune from the reaches of the tech billionaires. Parenting is the only job for life. A relentless task whereby parents do their best, learning as they go from their mistakes. The parent who has never made a mistake is delusional and this will eventually become apparent.
This is an excerpt from the prologue of Eclipsed…
It is the natural order of things that successive generations will achieve more than their predecessors or at least this has been the way until now. Margaret Thatcher’s dad was a grocer, Jim McCartney was a professional trumpeter and had a son called Paul, and Charles Dickens’s dad was a clerk in the navy pay office. It is also normal for parents to be ambitious for their children and so when a child does overtake a parent, it should engender pride rather than any sense of failure.
On this note, a poignant landmark has just been reached in the Holland household. A cause for celebration and perhaps some woe.
As night follows day, every year kids sit exams. We all go to school and we all do the same exams – the metrics on which we are judged for the rest of our lives.
Paddy’s results are in and he completes the rout of old man Holland. I am now officially the least qualified member of team Holland.
The most stupid as one of the boys put it. A dubious upside here being that he didn’t say ‘stupider’ which would have spoiled his point.
And I am delighted. Like any parent, I want my kids to do well in the world and in their lives ahead. Surely, any decent parent wants to be Eclipsed.
I am sometimes asked if I am jealous of my boys and Tom in particular. An enquiry I recoil from because it seems so absurd. But in some respects I am. Certainly at their respective ages I would have enjoyed the options that are open to the four of them. Thankfully though any green tinges of mine are far outweighed by my sense of relief and fun because I can enjoy their respective careers and successes as much as them.
In the 1990s, I took up two formidable tasks: to become a professional stand-up comic and an amateur parent. On reflection, it is obvious in which arena I have been most successful – to date anyway, and I am not anticipating any changes to this particular equation. If anything, the Eclipse is getting broader and darker.
And parenting being the only job-for-life and a job that continues to demand and to provide, my point is this – had I been given such a binary choice all those moons ago – my career or parenting, then I would have chosen where I am now.
Here in the UK, the education secretary – the most senior politician in this sector clearly did not perform well in his public examinations. Being interviewed on the radio.
“I vividly remember the day of my results”
Not that vivid because he then could not recall his actual results. I have some sympathy with him because how we fare at school is not always an accurate barometer of what lies ahead. Some kids are better at exams than others. Better prepared? And some people are late bloomers.
This is my argument anyway but it makes little headway in our house – when my paltry haul of grades is compared with my boys more abundant harvest.
And I am okay with this. It feels right to me. It is how things are supposed to be – as are my continuing efforts to emerge from any familial shadows cast over me and no matter how insurmountable the odds.
The audio edition of Eclipsed is coming soon(ish) and so is my new novel, Made in England. Next year sometime…