Thursday, March 01, 2007

Hannah on Working Moms (well, one mom, anyway)

Late yesterday afternoon I was sneaking in a few minutes of writing time while Hannah was watching a movie. Once she realized what I was doing, the movie was no longer interesting:

"Do you want a sticker? I love stickers. Let's play a game!"

"Can I just finish up this one section? I'm almost done . . ."

Hannah (with world's largest pout):
"I'm really frustrated with you for working.

It's not meant for you.

Only boys, not Mommys.

Mommys don't go anywhere or do anything."

Um, not good. I don't want Hannah and Charlotte growing up thinking they just have to know how to be a good wife, how to cook, do laundry and keep the house clean. Which is basically what my mother told me, and probably my sisters, too.

Mom later apologized for it, but in some ways the damage had been done. After all, when you spend most of your early years doing all of the household chores (don't leave a dish dirty or you'll have to wash every one in the house. Every last one. Good times!), not being allowed to play sports, and not being encouraged in math and science, you sort of get it set in your mind that you can't do those things. Not just "not allowed" but actually "incapable." It's a hard lesson to overcome and most emphatically not one I want my daughters to learn.

Today, my sister Sarah told me that my eight year old niece, who has been playing soccer since she was three--the last couple of years in an all-girl league--had her first practice with her new, co-ed league. Inexplicably, she decided to pretend to the boys that she didn't know how to play. She then stood back and let them do everything.

Fortunately, Sarah was having none of that. After practice, she pulled her daughter aside and asked her what that was all about. When there was no satisfactory answer, my niece was told that this was not to happen again. That she knew how to play--probably better than most of the other kids there, including the boys. That, next practice, she was to go out there and be aggressive and do her best or there would be no soccer.

All three of Sarah's girls have been told, basically from birth, just how lucky they are to be girls: they can do anything that the boys can do and then go home and put on a pretty dress if they want to. Something that most boys don't get to do.

Amen to that.

She is my younger sister, but I want to be just like Sarah when I grow up.


Jessica Córdova said...

I'm so fortunate to know my friends Kim and Derek. Derek is a stay-at-home dad, and Antonio and Maggie know that sometimes daddies stay home and take care of kids while mommies go to work. :-)

Anonymous said...

I'm grateful to both of my parents (including a working mother in the 1950s/60s) and my best friend from birth who all helped me realize my potential was what I wanted it to be, not something imposed on me by my gender.

Melanie K said...

Those are both lessons I learned late, but I'm trying to make sure that my girls will never have to figure it out on their own. Sadly, Hannah doesn't yet see "writing" as being a job. But then again, a lot of adults don't either :)

Anonymous said...

A friend's daughter announced she wanted longer days at preschool to have more time with her friends, she's 4. The friend said, "Honey, [those friends] stay all day because their mommies have to work." to wit the daughter said, "Well, then I want YOU to work too!"
I look at these comments from a child developmental standpoint (huge surprise, I know). At this point even the most precocious of 4 year olds is really saying, "You're not doing what I want you to do." with more creative language, social know-how and relationship awareness.
Oh, also... I was dumped into daycare by the time I was 2 weeks old. So I thought I was spoiling my kids to pieces by staying home. Now they both want more time with friends and more activities. Ech well... on motherhood evolves.