Girls Don’t Work: Truths from the mouth of a four-year-old
When you decide to stop working and stay home, you never think about the adverse impact it will have on your kids. Sure, you know that you’ll still have plenty to do and it’ll be anything other than easy. You know you won’t technically have a job, but you’ll still be working. You don’t process any of the potential negatives until they happen, like your child processing that mommy doesn’t work and believing that girls don’t work.
As my husband was getting ready to leave for work, my four year old looked at me and said, ‘I’m a girl. So I don’t have to work.’ I was appalled and completely crushed.
So taken back by what she had said for two reasons:
1. She had made the connection that mom stays home, so all girls must stay home.
2. She thought I didn’t work. That girls don’t work.
At that moment I wanted to scream, with every feminist bone in my body, that I chose not to work. Couldn’t she remember the earlier years of her life where she went to daycare every day? No. Of course, she didn’t. I needed her to know that not working has been the biggest sacrifice I’ve made since having children. I resent giving up my career- no matter how temporary it may be. That working in the home has been challenging in ways I never expected, and some days, more challenging than working outside the home. I needed her to know that mom works too, in a different way from daddy.
But I didn’t say any of that. Instead, I sat in stunned silence.
She doesn’t see the endless piles of laundry that I’ve washed, folded, and put away. Or the mountain dishes stacked by the sink that have been cleaned and are ready to be put away. She must not notice the applesauce she spilled was miraculously cleaned up. Or how every toy has a place to call home. She doesn’t know how menial, mundane, and isolating doing these tasks every day has become. Why would she? She’s only four.
She must not see the exhaustion in my eyes when she asks to play kitchen for the 500th time. Or look of desperation when I’m pleading with her to pick a different movie because we’ve watched the same one several times a day for two weeks in a row. She doesn’t know this is my work, at least not yet.
As I reflected on her comment and why it stung, it came to me. She does see me and everything I do. Maybe not in the way I want to be seen and appreciated, but she does see me. She sees my tired eyes and my pleading looks as we play kitchen for the umpteenth time. She feels me when we’re curled up on the couch watching her favorite movie. Because right now, in her world, mom is with me and the rest doesn’t matter. She knows everything I am, everything I’m not, and all that I hope to be. She knows me as Mom. And for today, that’s enough.