Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Moms, Jobs & Fun

The other day, my daughter and I were walking and talking.

Daughter: Do you remember when I did that profile of you for Mother's Day for a school assignment?

Me: Of course I remember. You drew a picture of me and you wrote a very kind of description of me and my life. I especially liked the part about the "laugh lines".

D: When we were writing about our moms, our teacher told us to stop writing so much about our mother's job. She said that was boring, and we should write instead about our mother's hobbies and what our mom did for fun because that was more important.

Me: What did you think about that?

D: I thought it was stupid so I ignored it.

Me: Why? Because I don't have hobbies?

D: You have hobbies, they are just strange hobbies, but that's not why. I told my teacher that you love your job and so it is an important part of you. You do your job for fun, and so it's not just a job, and I wanted to write about that.

Me: What you wrote was great. I wonder why your teacher thought that mother's jobs weren't interesting or important to write about. She clearly loves her job, and she's a great teacher.

D: Yeah, it was weird.

22 comments:

Dr. Jekyll & Mrs. Hyde said...

I'm dying to know whether your daughter thinks you have "weird" hobbies because she's pre-teen-ish and all girls that age think their mothers have weird hobbies; or because you genuinely have weird hobbies.

I mean, aside from the decidedly non-weird hobby of blogging.

PhysioProf said...

While it is sad, it should not be at all surprising that schoolteachers pull this shit. Primary and secondary schools are maelstroms of indoctrination into tradtional gender roles and other patriarchal norms. The fact that your daughter's teacher is "good" and "conscientious" doesn't change this one bit.

The_Myth said...

While my first thought was parallel to PhysioProf's above, I then stopped a minute and thought:

Maybe the teacher wanted her students to think of their mothers as something more than *just* their jobs. I mean, isn't that one big criticism of men these days [and in the past]?

Maybe she wanted the students to think about everything their mothers do, not just work. After all, she did recommend focusing on hobbies...not housework or motherhood stuff or other domestic arts.

Maybe [just maybe] the teacher was performing a little bit of feminist criticism right there in the classroom!

Good heavens. This could be dangerous.

hypoglycemiagirl said...

A bit far fetched but alternative interpretation could be that the teacher knows that many moms with full-time jobs don't have much spare time for hobbies. So if they actually DO have hobbies, that would be something for their kids to write about.

But I'm not sure I believe this interpretation myself

joanium said...

Too many people are defined by their jobs. When you meet people for the first time, almost the first thing you talk about is what you do for a living.

People are more than just their jobs. They are their hobbies, friends, volunteer work, favourite foods, fashion sense, beliefs, talents and personalities...

I think your daughter's teacher might have been teaching a useful lesson. Be more creative in the way you describe people.

stepwise girl said...

I think your daughther sounds great. It's great that she sees you having fun in your job.

Anonymous said...

I wonder if it mightn't have been a misguided attempt to not discriminate against those kids with stay-at-home mothers (since they don't have job-jobs, but presumably they have hobbies, and no one wants to write about housework?). Just to throw the idea out there.

Mister Troll said...

Well, I for one am not sure this is "indoctrination" (although I admit that possibility occurred to me).

I wonder if it might be broadly cultural -- that we define ourselves and others as the job we have. "My mom is a secretary." "Well, *my* mom is a doctor."

I think the teacher's approach might be commendable. But it's hard for me to understand being so far removed.

Anonymous said...

My guess is that the teacher was not being sexist. She may simply believe that your occupation (what you do to pay the bills) should not define your identity. She was probably trying to get the kids to see the difference between "what I do to make money" and "who I am as a person". Many people -- especially if they have boring jobs -- define themselves much more by what they do in their free time than by what they do during work hours (and the majority of jobs are, presumably, a great deal more boring than yours). Also, most people work for someone else in a very concrete sense, whereas for you, work is probably more something you do for yourself, something internally motivated, which happens to pay the bills. This is a wonderful state of affairs, but unfortunately not everyone can have that.

It would be interesting to know whether the teacher would have said the same thing if the essays were about the children's fathers.

ceresina said...

I'm entirely of pp's opinion about public education, but is it possible that this teacher wanted the kids to realize their moms were more than just "Mom, the secretary," or "Mom, the business executive," -- that is, they were "real" people?
(I also second dr. jekyll's comment about the hobbies.)

River Tam said...

I'd be curious to know if they had a similar activity on Dad and if they were also not supposed to talk about Dad's job. The question in my mind is: was it gender indoctrination or the sign of a teacher who cannot imagine defining his/herself by his/her job (and can't imagine anyone else would either!).

Notorious Ph.D. said...

I agree with the ambiguity (though my first impulse was to interpret it in the same way as FSP), but I think it's great that your daughter knows that you do your job for fun.

(Now I'm dying to know what these "weird hobbies" are!)

Anonymous said...

Oh come now, we all know that FSP's weird hobbies are running some strange experiment in the basement (or garage, depending on where yo live). She probably makes spaghetti on a Bunsen burner, too, or maybe with lasers. :-)

I'm glad your daughter knows that you love your job. Not sure whether that's an attainable goal for everyone, though, and therefore, it's not a bad thing to teach people not to let any one aspect of their life define everything about them.

Female Science Professor said...

my first impulse was to interpret it in the same way as FSP)

I didn't interpret the incident. I was puzzled, that's all, and felt I had incomplete information to conclude anything in particular.

kt said...

This makes me think of the article Sandra Tsing-Loh wrote for the last Atlantic Monthly. It was about the "wars" between people who think highly-educated women have a responsibility to use that education in the workplace and those who think highly-educated women have the same choice between staying home and working as any woman, roughly. The point at the end is that this discussion is a red herring. Many women (and men) have jobs that they find mildly fulfilling, at best. For most people there's a difference in fulfillment between being a supermarket stocker and being a professor. I don't think that your daughter's teacher should have said that "mom's jobs are boring," as that is often false, but it is true that many moms and dads need to find their fulfillment outside of work. When I talk to my office worker/middle management/retail employee friends, I am *so* *glad* that I get to do this interesting and challenging job (grad student) for crappy pay and good health insurance.

I'm glad that your daughter knows her own mind and listens critically to her teacher :)

Anonymous said...

FSP's hobby? Cat-whispering!

alice said...

That's such a nice exchange between you and your daughter and so well written. Those of us whose work is also our hobby are lucky.

drdrA said...

Who cares what the teacher's intent was... but I would feel completely pleased if one of my daughters noticed that it is possible to find a job that you love, and that you can do a job you love well while raising a family.... because I showed her this by my example.

The_Myth said...

Anonymous said:
"Oh come now, we all know that FSP's weird hobbies are running some strange experiment in the basement (or garage, depending on where yo live). She probably makes spaghetti on a Bunsen burner, too, or maybe with lasers. :-)"

Holy crap!

Now we know where the Flying Spaghetti Monster came from...

prof_j said...

One of the things I find so interesting about being a parent is the time it takes for kids to tell something to their parents. Your daughter waited a while before telling you this. Did she forgot and it popped into her head? Did she ponder over it until she felt comfortable telling you? Did she wait until school was out for the year? My kids sometimes tell me confidential stuff months to years after it happens.

Melissa said...

Your daughter is amazing!

Female Science Professor said...

prof_j: It's very true that there is sometimes an inexplicable gap in time between events and conversations with kids about the events, but in this case I was traveling for much of the time between the event and the conversation, and there was also a gap between the conversation and when I wrote about it.