Polvino recently shared a homework assignment that her daughter brought home from school that bizarrely takes mothers to task for returning to work after staying home with their children for a few years. The lesson, called "Back To Work," starts with the sad tale of a little girl named Lisa who "was not happy. Her mother was back at work." It doesn't take long to see Lisa's transformation from a beloved child into a chimney sweeping latchkey kid whose parents decide to leave her to the dogs, all because of her mother's professional caprices.
"Before Lisa was born, her mother worked in a big office," the assignment begins. "Yesterday, she told Lisa that she was going back to work. The morning was terrible. Lisa had to get to school on time. Her father had to get to work on time. And now, her mother was in a rush, too."
To keep things going, Lisa's father takes on her morning meal. Unfortunately, he's incapable of making a palatable breakfast for this curious child he's never concerned himself with before; her food "was not too good," the assignment continues. "And he asked Lisa to wash the dishes. That was not too good either."
Lisa's terrible, horrible, no good, very bad day only improves when she gets home and finds her mother waiting for her. "I leave the office early so we can be together after school," Lisa's mother says. The assignment doesn't include the part where Lisa's mom gets paid less money than her peers due to her flexible schedule, but obviously what's already present is enough of a nightmare for one vocab lesson.
Fortunately, IRL, after Polvino reviewed her daughter's assignment, she decided to handle the revise herself. In it, she imagines a world where Lisa's mother receives nearly a year of paid maternity leave and flex time, and in which Lisa's father (who is taking his paternity leave) "had things firmly under control" in the mornings.
Instead of worrying about why her mother has forsaken her, on her way back home, Lisa thinks about her future based on the affirming example that her parents have set. "I wonder if I will become an engineer like Mommy when I grow up, or a teacher, or something else. I can do anything!"
Although this version seems impossibly far at the moment (Polvino's letter also imagined free federally-funded after school programs), it's way less of a bummer than the original. And Polvino offers a final touché: "Lisa was glad she was growing up in a society free of gender bias and misogyny."