A friend sent me a passage from Dare to Lead by Brené Brown. She quotes Melinda Gates:
“I also started talking a little bit more about my children in these meetings. I’d always shied away from the subject just because it felt so personal. But it’s turned out to resonate with a lot of employees who are also trying to balance work and home life — and who are also living their values every day at the foundation and through their parenting. I feel more connected to the individuals and the collective culture of the foundation because Ive taken steps to let myself be vulnerable”
“This is what you’ve been saying!!” said my friend.
I’d like to take it a step farther. I don’t think you should talk about your kids at work just because it makes you more relatable. Although that’s nice.
One of the stickiest lies that patriarchy has propagated is the idea that the work that we do educating young children is dismissible and should be hidden from site, when it’s actually the most important work on Earth.
The most important work on Earth. That’s not my opinion. It’s verifiable fact. Our children know nothing of the world or the universe when they’re born. They didn’t ask to be born. We completely mold their reality and what they think is possible.
When I say “we,” I mean all adults, but particularly early childhood caregivers — parents and whoever else is caring for our children during the day. Because 0–3 is when you lay the pipes into your brain and encase them in cement. (It’s ironic that that’s the same period of your life when you don’t form long-term memories.) If you want to make a change to the way you relate, to mindset, to your very perception of reality after 3 years old, you have to break through that cement. But before then, the cement is still being poured. Our children don’t know a thing, and that means they can be or do anything.
If we accept all that I’ve written above, then the idea that we shouldn’t talk about our kids in work settings is bonkers. The work we’re doing raising young children is the most important thing that we do collectively, as a society, to create change.
All the evil in the world is passed down through generations.
Here’s an example:
The number of things women are allowed to do has expanded. But the frame is the same. Our society allows women to do and to be certain things and not to do and to be other things.
That’s in Jane Austen. And it’s in our culture today. So how does that frame get passed down over 300 years? Everyone from Jane Austen’s era is dead. Everyone from the next generation, and the generation after that is also dead.
But before they died, they passed it down to very young children, who then grew up and passed it down to very young children… and so on. Until it got to us.
The idea that you’re supposed to hide your home life because it’s domestic, or be embarrassed that you’re being interrupted by your job molding the people who are going to take care of — not just the entire planet, but our view of what reality is and what is possible — is just an idea that was passed down. And it’s ludicrous. Why is that work subordinate to anything else? Why is it silent and hidden?
Stay at home mothers have been saying what I’m saying for a long time. But sometimes — because they live in the paradigm that women are allowed to do certain things and not others and must justify all their actions so that they fit in the “allowed” category — they are insecure about their choice to stay home. So they present this idea in terms of being superior to those women who choose to or have to work. “I recognize that educating your children is the most important thing you can do and therefore I’m better than you because I’ve decided to exert control over what that means by being present for it 24/7.”
That presentation of this idea makes me defensive. But the idea itself is not different.
The question is not, “How can you leave your baby with someone else when taking care of your child is the most important thing you can do?”
The question is, “Why do we live in a society where we present women who stay home with their kids as the ones on one side of this work, and women who don’t stay home with their kids as if they’re on a separate side?