New York mum Lynne Polvino was helping her six-year-old daughter Hazel do her homework recently, when she noticed something that disturbed her.
Hazel had been given a short story worksheet with blank spaces for missing words. The worksheet was entitled 'Back to Work', and told the story of a little girl named Lisa whose mother had returned to work.
Lynne read the story and realised it painted a very grim picture of working mums. The first sentence read: “Lisa was not happy. Her mother was back at work.”
The story went on to explain that Lisa’s dad made breakfast which wasn’t “too good”, and asked a disgruntled young Lisa to wash the dishes.
Lisa’s woes continued as she worried about her mum not being there when she returned home from school; but, to her delight, her mother returned saying she would leave work early every day to be there for her.
Lynne told Today she was “outraged” when she realised that the homework exercise presented such negative connotations about working mums.
“I mean, what decade are we in, anyway?” she asked. “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 decided she couldn’t let her daughter complete the exercise and instead rewrote it a different twist.
Lynne’s new story began: “Lisa was happy. Her mother was returning to work.”
Lynne’s version presented a much more positive outlook on working mums, with her version of Lisa feeling inspired by her mother and wondering if she too would become an engineer like her mum.
In the new version, Lisa’s dad is entitled to paid paternity leave, and is happy to stay at home and run the household. He asks Lisa to wash the dishes, because she “should learn to clean up and help others”.
Lynne’s story continues with Lisa enjoying her day in school without any worries, and attending a fun afterschool programme. She concluded the story with a message of her own: “Lisa was glad she was growing up in a society free of gender bias and misogyny.”
Lynne, who works as a children’s books editor, said she was compelled to rewrite the story because of the message it sent out about working mums.
“What message was it sending to little girls who dream of having careers and families? And what about all the other working mums — did they feel, as I did, like they’d been punched in the gut when they read this?" she asked.
She shared photos of the original story and her rewrite to Facebook, where it has received over 700 shares so far.
We think Lynne is setting a great example for her daughter by standing up for other mums and dismissing outdated stereotypes about working mums.