OBSERVATIONS · reading the world

How do our children read the work we do?

Today was Take Our Daughters and Sons to Work Day.  Back in 1996, when I was volunteering in the White House Office of Women’s Initiatives and Outreach, it was called “Take Your Daughter to Work Day.”  The name and the concept have changed with time.

Facebook was abuzz today with posts about this special day.  One mom I know, who is a journalist that works from home, lamented about the fact that it was hard to bring her kids to work since she works from home.  Another Facebook friend posted a status update that read (names have been changed):

It’s take your child to work day. Sarah gets to go with Ted even though yesterday she said she wanted to work with me. I told her that most people don’t consider what I do “work.” She said that was stupid, and then apologized for using the “S” word. I agree. It is stupid.

Of course I jumped in and commented, saying, “I love that she wanted to stay home and shadow the work you do. I think you should let her do it next year and call the media to come and watch. This needs to be documented. Sarah is brilliant!”

She wrote back with that “the school would consider her staying with me an ‘unexcused absence.'”  (She also liked the idea about the media coverage, but that’s a whole separate matter.)

Unexcused absence, eh?  If a child chooses to shadow her mother, who happens to be a SAHM, for the day to watch how hard she works, then that should be applauded.  Since when do schools get to decide what constitutes a job for Take Our Daughters and Sons to Work Day?  It’s not as if Sarah wanted to watch her mother break laws as a bank robber.  Quite the contrary, she wanted to spend the day with her mom seeing what she does to keep their household of six afloat.  It makes me sick to think that a school would not excuse Sarah’s absence if she accompanied her mom to work (in the home) today.

Anyone who has paid attention to the Hilary Rosen v. Ann Romney controversy is aware that the mommy wars are alive and well (albeit a bit phony).  Someone’s choice to stay home or decision to go back to work shouldn’t be debated.  The decision over how to raise one’s family is personal.  However, a school that threatens an elementary school student with an unexcused absence for wanting to spend the day with her mom on Take Our Daughters and Sons to Work Day is treating the child as a truant.  Furthermore, schools who do not value SAHMs as working women perpetuate the stereotype that a SAHM does not work.  We all know that being a parent who stays at home raising one child or a dozen is working very hard.  Rather than penalizing a child’s curiosity (to determine whether or not being a stay at-home parent would work for him/her in the future), schools should be inclusive of all types of employment whether it’s a desk job, a stay at home parent, or something that doesn’t fit into any other traditional mold.  All work is honorable and valuable!