The feminists’ son

            Usually, I am into excessive narrative, but this conversation really requires no commentary.  It took place as I pushed three-and-three-quarters Zachary in the stroller home from the birthday party of a classmate.  Benjamin was home with a sitter, and I was starting to feel that third trimester creeping up on me.

Zach: It’s really hard being a boy.  I don’t want to be a boy and a man.  I want to be a girl or a woman.

Me: Why, sweetie?

Zach: I don’t want to have to work in an office.  I want to work at home.

Me (putting the break on the stroller and getting down to eye level): Zachary, lots of women work in offices.  E’s mother works in an office.

Zach: But you don’t.

Me: I used to.  We’re really lucky I can be home with you.

Zach: Was it before I was born?

Me: Yes, it was.  We’re really lucky that we can have me home working and with you and Benjamin.  But, baby, lots of mothers work.  C’s mother works in an office.

            Oh, sweet petunias, what are we teaching our boy?


Updated to add: He was referring, I think, to the non-Mommy work I do: the writing.  He simply sees that as easier or more pleasant.  But, I worry even more for what he seems to be inferring about the quality of his father’s life.  Does he seem that unhappy to him?

19 responses to “The feminists’ son

  1. And (though you’ve probably already mentioned this to Z) plenty of dads are at home — either because they’re SAHDs or, more often, because their jobs don’t require them to go to an office.

    It took our son a long time to get the concept that, yes, there are some families where the mom is at home and the dad is the one who goes to the office every day.

  2. V funny that he thinks work in an office (which he doubtless doesn’t see) is far more onerous and difficult that work at home which he has a front-row seat for!

  3. It’s not just you and what you’re teaching him–it’s everywhere. It’s still the dominant idea on most kid’s programming, in kid’s books, and embodied in kid’s toys (with Frances’s much-beloved calico critters, you can tell who the mothers are because they wear aprons). So don’t take all the blame, eh?

  4. I always find it interesting the conclusions kids come to, not even necessarily because of what they’ve been told but what they observe.

    and, btw, I know that SAHD’s DO exist…but I have never in all of my 27 years encountered one in real life. How sad is that?

  5. By the time he has a job, I’m sure there will be lots more at-home options. And who knows? It might be a phase.

  6. i think kids – especially the observant ones – often go through a period where they are the most conventional, conservative creatures imaginable, because they are inferring and processing the dominant norms of the culture around them (often in skewed ways) and trying to internalize them or resolve them with their own lives…

    plus right now he’s living the classic mom at home and daddy away a lot for work kinda life. he’ll get his groove on and expand his mind with all you provide for him to put into it…i bet the Archie Bunker worldview will expand. 🙂

  7. You may have been thrown for a loop, but it’s GREAT that you’re having these discussions. I have been lucky that my three sons have seen my husband be the at-home caregiver at various times (this summer, too!) and one uncle a full-time SAHD.

    Get those great Todd Parr books (The Mommy Book, Daddy Book, etc) — simple, great messages about different roles that a mom and dad can play.

    Meanwhile, did you read Sunday’s NYTimes magazine article about shared parenting:
    Can’t wait to discuss this with my friends!

  8. You’re teaching him that sometimes families have the luxury of dedicating a parent to raising a child, and sometimes they choose to take that path.

    And if you frame it up right, he’ll see that he can possibly choose to be the at-home parent, and even if not, either way, office or at home is equally valuable to families.

    I actually say good that he thinks he’d prefer the at-home job to the office job—it means he sees the value!

    All you need to do is let him know both are open to men and women and they choose based on what works for them.

  9. ditto these previous comments about value and choice.

    I admit to being caught off guard when my daughter said she wanted to be an at-home mom, since I model it as such an onerous choice. But then again, she says other off-the-wall stuff like “I’m going to spank my kids and send them to their rooms until midnight.” (Later when she misbehaved, I teased her by asking, “shall I spank you and send you to your room until midnight?” and she riposted, “No-o-o, no. I’m going to be a BAD mom.”

  10. I find it interesting that he already knows he doesn’t want to work in an office. That is very telling! Smart kid! 🙂

  11. He is a brilliant thing, isn’t he?

  12. You could also point out that, just as many mommies work in an office, many daddies work at home…he can be a man and be home, or a man and be in an office, or a little bit of both!

  13. I have no doubt that you will continue to teach him about all the ways and places people work. He’s still very young.

  14. I think he is a genius!

  15. Little kids always think the whole word is just like their house! When my niece was about 3, her dad was a stay-at-home dad, and her little friend nextdoor had a stay at home mom. The two little kids would play house, and they’d argue over whose job it was to take care of the house and kids and stuff! (“I’m the mommy, so I sweep the floor!” “No, I’m the daddy! The daddy sweeps the floor!”) I think as they got bigger they started to understand that everyone can do everything!

  16. they are little mirrors, i tell you. all of our parts are reflected back.

  17. I am married to a Stay at Home Dad. There are lots of them out there but they mostly watch ESPN instead of blog 🙂 Before that he was a work at home graphic designer. He still does freelance stuff, just a lot less than before. I wonder if my son will grow up thinking that ALL daddies stay home, and all mommies work. I think though he sees all kinds of lifestyles at the preschool he goes to three days a week now. They’ll figure it all out, eventually.

  18. Pamela Sansour

    Maybe he could have an outdoor office….just exploring some possibilities.

  19. I had this exact same conversation with my boy just a couple of days ago. He’s told me several times that when he grows up he’s going to marry a woman that works to that he can have the babies and stay home with them. I guess I haven’t done a very good job getting through to him yet.