"It's not considered a professional job"

An Alabama school refused to allow a homemaker to Take Her Daughter to Work, for fear the kid would "end up watching TV."

Published April 24, 2009 1:29PM (EDT)

Yesterday was Take our Daughters and Sons to Work Day, a national public education program that, according to its website, "encourages girls and boys across the country to dream without gender limitations and to think imaginatively about their family, work and community lives." One of the goals of the program is to help children get a sense of their parents' work-family balance and "learn that a family-friendly work environment is an employer and family issue and not just a woman's issue." Accordingly, stay-at-home parents are encouraged to participate, and even offered a few handy tips, such as, "research the salary and title for each job you perform by using a newspaper or the web. Add it all up to demonstrate the monetary value of your work -- it's probably in the six figures!"

Nevertheless, when Alabama homemaker Sandra Thompson wanted to participate in the program with her daughter, a teacher nixed the idea, saying Thompson's work was "not considered a professional job." If she kept her daughter home that day, she was told, the absence would be recorded as unexcused. Thompson then complained to the superintendent, who apparently blathered about his deep respect for stay-at-home mothers but refused to excuse Thompson's daughter for the day anyway. Because, says Thompson, "What the superintendent told me is that he felt like if he let stay-at-home moms leave their kids home they will end up watching TV or will not have any activity." Dude, you forgot to mention the bonbons!

Now, given that the program was originally founded (as Take Our Daughters to Work Day), with an eye to exposing girls to the professional world, I can see an argument that having a girl observe her mother's unpaid domestic labor isn't entirely in keeping with the spirit of the thing. But as feminist issues go, that one pales in comparison to the suggestion that a stay-at-home mom would keep her kid home from school -- i.e., make more work for herself -- just to have a buddy to watch the soaps with. Not to mention, when you say stay-at-home parents don't count, you're also cutting off opportunities for boys to shadow stay-at-home dads, which would fit quite neatly with the theme of exploring career options without regard to gender roles.

If there's a silver lining here, it's that Sandra Thompson's daughter still managed to get an important lesson in what her mother does for a living. Observing how the school handled this issue, she learned exactly what kind of treatment a full-time homemaker can expect from our culture -- to wit, we'll tell you it's "the most important job in the world" as many times as you like, as long as you don't actually demand respect (or remuneration) for it. And that's one to grow on!

(Via Womanist Musings.)

By Kate Harding

Kate Harding is the author of Asking For It: The Alarming Rise of Rape Culture--and What We Can Do About It, available from Da Capo Press in August 2015. Previously, she collaborated with Anna Holmes, Amanda Hess, and a cast of thousands on The Book of Jezebel, and with Marianne Kirby on Lessons from the Fat-o-Sphere. You might also remember her as the founding editor of Shapely Prose (2007-2010). Kate's essays have appeared in the anthologies Madonna & Me, Yes Means Yes, Feed Me, and Airmail: Women of Letters. She holds an M.F.A. in fiction from Vermont College of Fine Arts and a B.A. in English from University of Toronto, and is currently at work on a Ph.D. in creative writing from Bath Spa University

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