When mother Lynne Polvino saw her six-year-old daughter’s homework assignment, she couldn’t help but react.
“Lisa was not happy,” the fill-in-the-blank homework assignment read, “Her mother was back at work.” That, unfortunately, is the least problematic part of the story. The story goes on to explain that Lisa’s mother went back to work after a hiatus raising her child, and it ruined everything: Lisa’s father couldn’t make breakfast right, Lisa had to clean up her own dishes, and the whole day at school all she could think about was her mother’s absence.
THANKFULLY Lisa’s mother left early from work (possibly jeopardizing her career on her first day back) so that she could be home when her daughter came back from school, so now everything’s okay.
No word on the father, who doesn’t seem to have a role in this family other than, of course, his total inability to make breakfast.
Polvino is a children’s book editor in New York, and she immediately e-mailed her daughter’s teacher, who agreed that the worksheet was “outdated,” Glamour reports.
It’s not hard to understand why she was upset: “It pushed so many buttons for me,” Polvino told TODAY.
Polvino decided to edit the worksheet herself and strip the misogyny from its pages. In her updated version, Lisa is happy for her mother. Dad is home on paid paternity leave pulling his fair share. “No one was in a rush because Dad had things firmly under control.” Lisa’s father (gasp!) knew how to make breakfast, and Lisa knew how to wash her own damn dishes.
The ending is definitely the best part:
“When Lisa arrived home, there was her mother. Lisa had spent the afternoon in her free federally-funded after-school enrichment program, where they offer Lego robotics and painting, and now her whole family was home together. Lisa was so glad she was growing up in a society free from gender bias and misogyny.”
While, yes, it is just a homework assignment (and the teacher no doubt had no role in writing it), ingraining these kinds of patriarchal lessons in young children is harmful. This assignment’s narrative supports the notion that households run smoother if mothers stay at home with their children, and that fathers are unable to be responsible parents. It also perpetuates the idea that mothers should feel guilty for working and leaving their children at home, and that equality in the workplace is at best harmful, and at worst impossible.
They should probably stick to Polvino’s version next year.