I didn’t take my daughter to work on Thursday.
Kids know fairness. They count the items in their Christmas stockings to make certain Santa is an equal opportunity donor. They know whose turn it is to sit in the front seat of the car, to push the grocery cart, to get the mail. How could we single our daughter out for a fun trip and force our son to face the grind of another day at school? It just wouldn’t fly.
The Ms. Foundation told parents all across the country that we should take our daughters--just our daughters--to work. They called it a national day to make girls “visible, valued and heard.”
It’s not as if we haven’t done our part. We have dutifully told both our 11-year-old son and our 8-year-old daughter that some nurses and teachers are men and some physicians and astronauts are women. We have encouraged them to plan to be almost anything they want to be, if they study hard--and do well on the SATs.
How could I have explained preferential treatment for daughters? By saying girls are so needy, so long discriminated against, that Katie will now begin to get special favors? That Jonathan should stay back in school being taught the Ms.-approved lesson plan designed to increase his consciousness about the plight of women?
Is it really in this new generation’s best interest for me to perpetuate an image of girls as needy victims, requiring special consideration to allow them success?
What were parents in the less-glamorous jobs supposed to do? Was the checker at the supermarket encouraged to pull her daughter from a day of study--her best real chance for a good job--to stand at a cash register for eight hours? Did the garbage collector bring his daughter along for inspiration? The bank teller? The maid? The gardener? What should the stay-at-home mother do? Keep her daughter away from school so the two of them can chase after a toddler sibling?
No, taking the daughters to work is not geared to the real jobs of most people but is designed to let adorable little upper-middle-class girls go to fun publishing jobs in Manhattan or sit behind Daddy’s desk in a pine-paneled office, or wear a shiny stainless steel stethoscope while Mommy does rounds at the hospital.
The truth is, parents who want their children to succeed--their sons and their daughters--can expose them naturally and gradually to their work lives and to the careers of their friends and relatives.
When problems come up at work, the whole family can discuss them, together, at the dinner table. The kids can drop by and see the office or help stuff envelopes on a Saturday morning.
But parents should fret more about securing decent educations for their sons and daughters than about ensuring an isn’t-this-cute lunch and a photo op at the office--with just their daughter. Besides, anyone who can bring a child to work all day isn’t planning on accomplishing a lot of true toil.
We had them flip a coin to see who’d do the dishes.