Woman rewrites daughter’s sexist homework after it shames working mums

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Amy Swales
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What with the pink, miniature domestic items for girls to play quietly with and the blue, fighty shouty toys for boys to throw around, we’re just not sure there’s quite enough reinforcing of outdated gender roles in childhood.

So it’s great if schools are willing to pick up the slack, you know? Like teaching girls how to be “ladylike” on dates (“Don’t criticise his driving”) and letting them know which parts of their bodies are frankly way too “distracting” to be on show (again and again).  

Or, as one New York mum revealed recently on Facebook, sending young children home with worksheets essentially shaming working mothers for a. going back to work in the first place, and b. not being home when their child arrives back from school.

Oh, except it’s not great, is it? It’s actually pretty depressing.

However, Lynne Polvino was so frustrated with the homework given to her six-year-old daughter Hazel that she posted a feminist riposte on Facebook – which at time of writing was racking up reactions and shares.

Polvino posted a picture of what she says is the original worksheet, which first appears to be a simple enough ‘fill in the blanks’ affair, but on closer inspection reveals a story of true woe – that of poor neglected Lisa and her haphazard father attempting to navigate the chaos of a household abandoned by a mother reigniting her career.

The sheet starts “Lisa was not happy. Her mother was back at work” and goes on to detail a “terrible” morning, in which both child and father needed to be on time, but were hampered by the “rush” Mum had also imposed upon herself.

“Lisa’s father made breakfast. It was not too good. And he asked Lisa to wash the dishes. That was not too good, either,” the sheet laments, before describing how Lisa worries her mother’s absence will leave her “lonely”.

But all was not lost, as Mum made up for her selfish actions by ensuring she was at home when Lisa returned from school.

So working is just about acceptable as long as you’re back for hometime. Way to play on working mother guilt and diss Dad’s ability to do anything domestic at the same time.

While she says Hazel didn’t pick up on anything about the story, mother-of-two Polvino said the homework left her feeling “punched in the gut” and she worried about the effect on other working mums, telling “It just pushed so many buttons for me, and with each sentence it managed to get worse!

“My shock and dismay quickly turned to outrage. I mean, what decade are we in, anyway? In this day and age, we're going to tell kids that mothers working outside the home makes their children and families unhappy? That fathers don't normally do things like cook and wash the dishes?”

She added: “What message was it sending to little girls who dream of having careers and families?”

Well, quite.

So she rewrote it.

“Before Lisa was born, her mother worked in a big office,” she writes. “Because it valued her important contributions to the workplace, her employer offered nearly a year of paid maternity leave and flex time upon her return.

“Lisa had to get to school on time. Her mother had to get to work on time. Her father was home on his paid paternity leave, caring for Lisa's younger brother and contributing equally to the running of the household. No one was in a rush because Dad had things firmly under control.”

In Polvino’s version, imagining a world “free of gender bias”, Lisa still had to wash the dishes, not because Dad was too inept, but “because all functional humans should learn how to clean up after themselves and help others.”

Polvino says she has now elicited a promise from school staff to review the original worksheet after emailing them with her concerns.

While the usual types crawled out from under their bridges with accusations of misandry, overreacting and championing women doing “exactly what they want” (er, sorry about that?), most comments have been in support of the tongue-in-cheek rewrite, and at time of writing, the post had 1.4k reactions and nearly 800 shares.



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Amy Swales

Amy Swales is a freelance writer who likes to eat, drink and talk about her dog. She will continue to plunder her own life and the lives of her loved ones for material in the name of comedy, catharsis and getting pictures of her dog on the internet.