Like most families who live in expensive areas of the country, Lynne Polvino and her husband, from Queens, New York, both work and coordinate their schedules as much as they can to look after their two children. This isn't uncommon, with the Pew Research Center finding that in 46 percent of families, both parents have a full time job, up from 31 percent in 1970.
So when her 6-year-old daughter came home with an assignment called "Back to Work," that began "Lisa was not happy. Her mother was back at work," Polvino decided to rewrite the "outdated" homework to better reflect the modern world.
The original assignment asked children to pull words from a pool to fill in missing segments from a story about a girl called Lisa. The story starts on a morning, with Lisa upset because her mother was going back to work.
"The morning was terrible," the assignment reads. "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 has to make her breakfast, which was "not too good." When Lisa gets to school, she wonders: "'what time Mommy will come home. I will be lonely at home.'" The story ends on a higher —if unrealistic— note when Lisa's mother leaves work early so they can be together.
Polvino told Today that she rewrote the assignment "to reflect the kind of world I want to live in, the kind of world I want my kids to live in when they’re old enough to have jobs and families." Her version reads:
"Lisa was happy. Her mother was back at work."
"Before Lisa was born, her mother worked in a big office. Because it valued her important contributions to the workplace, her employer offered nearly a year of paid maternity leave and flex time upon her return."
"The morning was wonderful. 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's father made breakfast. It was very good. And he had Lisa wash the dishes because all functional humans should learn how to clean up after themselves and help others."
"Lisa liked her day at school. She enjoyed play-based learning and small student-to-teacher ratio in her state-of-the-art public school classroom. Her teachers were well paid and happy. On the way home, she thought about it: "I wonder if I will become an engineer like Mommy when I grow up, or a teacher, or something else. I can do anything!"
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.
"Lisa feels fine now."
Polvino explained her reasoning for sharing the rewrite on Facebook:
“It just pushed so many buttons for me, and with each sentence it managed to get worse! 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?”
She went on to explain that while she has an amazing boss, many women don't have the support that she did and find it even harder to balance work and children.
"I have a very supportive boss, but still, I’ve had so many moments where I’ve felt that I wasn’t doing either thing — work or motherhood — very well. There’s not nearly enough support out there for working moms: inadequate maternity and paternity leave policies, the lack of affordable childcare, and all the subtle and not-so-subtle messages we hear — even in our children’s homework! — telling us that we should be at home taking care of the kids and managing the household make it hard to not feel guilty, to not question ourselves."
Polvino rewrote the story "to reflect the kind of world I want to live in, the kind of world I want my kids to live in when they’re old enough to have jobs and families.”
And it seems to have worked. Polvino didn't send the rewrite to her daughter's teacher, but did send an email expressing her concerns. The teacher agreed, and said homework would be reviewed more carefully in the future.
What do you think of this rewrite?