A friend of mine sent me a link to an ABC feature piece. It starts with this 40 year old riddle: A father and son are in a horrible car accident. The father dies at the scene. The son is transported via ambulance to the closest hospital. In the emergency room, the head surgeon says, “I cannot operate on this boy; he is my son.” Who is the head surgeon?
This is easy, right?
Except, for some people, it isn’t.
The thought behind the ABC piece was to survey different generations; ostensibly to demonstrate that kids raised in the 21st century view the world more broadly than kids raised in the 70s. And largely, I think this is true. We’ve come a long way, baby.
I couldn’t wait to pose the riddle to my own brood. After dinner, while my husband was clearing the table, I put the question to Small, Medium and Large.
They were stumped.
First, I was shocked. Then I was mad at myself. I had incorrectly assumed they would consider the answer obvious: the head surgeon is the boy’s mother. (I think another correct answer is that the boy has two fathers and, interestingly, Liam did suggest that as a possible answer. It just wasn’t the one I was looking for.)
While they eventually came to the right conclusion (after some large hints from me), I was saddened by the whole thing. Why hadn’t they guessed it was the boy’s mother? And then it hit me: It’s my fault. I haven’t done enough to teach them about gender equality. I quickly traversed my well-worn path of self-doubt. Am I doing more harm than good by staying home with them? Am I just perpetuating a stereotype? It’s not as if I’ve ever been a model for feminism but I never talked with them about my career or explained how difficult it was for me to leave my job. How difficult it is for me some days, even now. In all likelihood, they just see me as their mom. The woman who nags them to do their homework and wash behind their ears and pick up after themselves. The woman who makes dinner and folds laundry and carts them to their after school activities. That’s probably how they view most moms.
That has to change.
And that’s my job.