When Lynne Polvino was helping her 6-year-old daughter Hazel with her homework, she almost lost it.
The first-grade assignment was a story called "Back to Work," in which students have to fill in the blanks by choosing words from a word bank. It starts, "Lisa was not happy. Her mother was back at work."
Well, this can't be good.
In the narrative, Lisa's mom had "worked in a big office" before her daughter was born and is now returning to work. But because of this, Lisa's morning was "terrible" since now both of her parents are in a rush.
The story gets worse. Apparently, because her mom was also in a rush to work, Lisa's father made breakfast that "was not too good," Lisa had to wash the dishes and she had bad day at school.
While Lisa is walking home, she wondered when her mother will be home because she will be "lonely." Turns out, her mom surprised her by leaving work early so they can be together after school. The result? "Lisa feels fine now."
For Polvino, a mom of two from Queens, New York, who works as a children's books editor, the story hit a nerve.
"My shock and dismay quickly turned to outrage. I mean, what decade are we in, anyway? In this day and age, we're going to tell kids that mothers working outside the home makes their children and families unhappy? That fathers don't normally do things like cook and wash the dishes?" she tells Today. "What message was it sending to little girls who dream of having careers and families? And what about all the other working moms—did they feel, as I did, like they’d been punched in the gut when they read this?"
Married, full-time moms are already more likely to do more housework and provide more child care than married, full-time dads. Adding mom guilt to that can be heart-wrenching and exhausting.
"That guilt monster has a way of masquerading as maternal instinct. It insinuates itself into the deepest emotional crevice and whispers that we have to be present and involved, whenever and however possible, even when there's a perfectly capable partner at home," writes Mom.me contributor Sarika Chawla.
Polvino wanted to change the narrative to reflect the world she wants her kids to live in. So she posted a photo of the homework assignment on Facebook, then created her own version of the story that uses the same vocabulary words in the same order.
In Polvino's story, the mom is killing it at work before Lisa was born and was offered "nearly a year of paid maternity leave and flex time upon her return."
"The morning was wonderful," and no one was in a rush because dad, who was on paid paternity leave, had things under control. Dad was also "caring for Lisa's younger brother and contributing equally to the running of the household." Oh, and turns out, he can make a pretty good breakfast. In the morning, Lisa also washed the dishes "because all functional humans should learn how to clean up after themselves and help others."
After an amazing day at school with "play-based learning" in a "state-of-the-art public classroom," Lisa spent her afternoon at a "free, federally funded after-school enrichment program" learning Lego robotics and painting, then went home to spend time with her whole family.
"Lisa was glad she was growing up in a society free of gender bias and misogyny," Polvino ends.
Working moms praised Polvino for calling out the assignment and rewriting it. They shared their own stories of juggling work and parenting. Many couldn't believe the original was given to kids in 2017.
But there are always critics. Some parents are telling Polvino to "get over it!"
"Yeah because kids are stoked when mom goes back to work and drops them off at daycare. ... What's wrong with the assignment? Goodness, the things people complain about," writes one commenter.
Polvino didn't send her version to the teacher, but did voice her concerns. The teacher agreed the assignment was outdated and promised to review worksheets more carefully before sending them home.