Lynne Polvino is a working mother of two. Recently, she was shocked to find her daughter’s homework assignment pushing the outdated narrative that moms belong in the home. The New York mom rewrote her daughter’s sexist homework assignment to better reflect her values. Her Facebook post featuring her edited version of the assignment has gone viral since she posted it on May 23, with many parents cheering for her vision of a household in which both parents share domestic tasks, and a mother’s career is a celebrated.
Polvino’s daughter, Hazel, 6, brought the assignment home a few weeks ago. Titled “Back to Work,” the worksheet gave Hazel a short story and asked her to fill in words here and there. The story begins, “Lisa was not happy. Her mother was back at work.” Things go downhill from there:
The morning was terrible. Lisa had to get to school on time. Her father had to get to work on time. And now, her mother was in a rush, too.
Lisa’s father made breakfast. It was not too good. And he asked Lisa to wash the dishes. That was not too good, either.
Lisa worries that she’ll be lonely after school without her mother, but she gets home to find that her mother leaves the office early to be with her. “Lisa feels fine now,” the story concludes.
Oof. So many things. Why does the whole household fall apart when the mom isn’t able to devote every thought to getting Lisa and the dad out the door? Why can’t the dad make a decent breakfast? Why is the mother the only one who can manage to cook and do dishes?
Polvino was not pleased, so say the least. “It just pushed so many buttons for me, and with each sentence it managed to get worse!” she told TODAY. “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?”
Polvino decided to write her own version of the story. It begins, “Lisa was happy. Her mother was back at work.” In this version, the mother has a rewarding job, the dad helps share the parenting load, and they both live in a society that supports working parents. “The morning was wonderful,” Polvino wrote. “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.” Lisa has a great day at school. The story continues,
When Lisa arrived home, there was her mother. Lisa had spent the afternoon at 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 glad she was growing up in a society free of gender bias and misogyny.
In comments on her Facebook post, Polvino clarified that her revision was meant to criticize the worksheet (and the attitudes that went into it), not her daughter’s teacher. “NYC public schools face many challenges, including lack of adequate funding for up-to-date classroom materials, and I admire and appreciate all the good work the teachers and administrators do,” she wrote.
In another comment, she said that Hazel's teacher had agreed that the worksheet was “outdated” and said she’d review future assignments more thoroughly. Polvino wrote, “My takeaway: Our public schools need better funding for materials and smaller class sizes so teachers can focus on the kids, not weeding out offensive decades-old worksheets.” She also thanked “all the working moms of past generations who had to deal with this type of crap on a regular basis!” Hear, hear to that!