Noticing Work

dreamstime_xs_34342688I was talking with a friend recently.  Both she and her husband have careers that require quite a bit of their time.  They also have two small children that require a great deal of time.  She mentioned that she wished her husband would do more around the house and with childcare.  I asked her whether she thought he could see the work that needed to be done.  She didn’t think he could.

I don’t think that is unusual.  Unless you are the one doing the work on a regular basis, I think it can be difficult to see that it needs to be done.  If someone else is being proactive and doing the work before it even needs to be done, it can be even more difficult.

There are many things in our house that I do that my husband doesn’t notice.  But then there are many things that he does that I don’t notice.  I’d notice if the furnace didn’t work, for example, but I don’t notice when he changes the filters to keep the furnace working properly.

A simple solution to this is communication.  Before assuming the person won’t help, or doesn’t want to help, ask for help.  This can apply to your professional life as well.  If you need help from your supervisor, ask.  If you don’t think she is aware of all you do, tell her.

Also take the time to find out what the other people in your life are contributing.  It might be more than you think.

Girls’ vs. Boys’ Chores

dreamstime_xs_26395482A friend’s daughter said something once that greatly disturbed me.  She was probably seven or eight at the time.  When her father asked her to help him with some yard work, she replied, “No, that’s boys’ work!”

The reason this disturbed me was that if she already saw a division between chores appropriate for girls and for boys, how could that not lead to a division in men’s jobs and women’s jobs?  In men’s careers and women’s careers?  How much had she already limited her career choices without even realizing it?  How much had her parents and the other adults in her life limited her career options by promoting work stereotypes through words and by example?

People cannot make a choice if they do not know that a choice can be made.  If girls think that they cannot, or should not, do anything other than “girl’s work” how can anyone expect them to enter male-dominated fields, such as STEM, if they do not even see it as an option?

Another aspect of this, of course, is that it limits boys in their career options as well.  It also influences them to think that there are things that girls cannot do.  They can then too easily grow into men who think there are things that women cannot do.

I believe that work is work.  Whoever has the ability, time, and/or desire to do something should do it.  Gender does not matter.  I think it is great for children to see fathers doing housework and laundry and see mothers doing yard work and home repairs.  If they see their greatest role models doing everything, it encourages them to think that they, too, can do everything.

It is wonderful that so many schools are doing more to encourage girls to be interested in STEM.  However, if girls are being taught stereotypes at home, school may be too little, too late.  If children see stereotypes in chores, then that has to lead to stereotypes in jobs and careers.

Are you inadvertently promoting work-related and career-related stereotypes to the children in your life?

The Little Red Hen

The Little Red Hen (Video Link)dreamstime_xs_40324783, resized

My paternal grandmother’s favorite story was “The Little Red Hen.” I am not sure if it was because she liked the message or that she liked chickens.  (Chickens on a farm were important then.)

For those of you who have not heard the story of the little red hen, or have forgotten it, the basic story line follows. The little red hen found some wheat grains. She wanted to grow and harvest the wheat so she could make bread. At each step in the process (planting, weeding, and harvesting the wheat, grinding it into flour, and making bread) she asked each of the other farm animals if they would help. Each one, at each step, said, “No.” When each one said they would not help, she replied with, “Then I’ll do it myself.” Finally, after months of work, the little red hen had her bread and was sitting down to enjoy the results of her efforts. Each of the farm animals came up and wanted some of her bread. She told each one, “No, I’ll eat it myself.”

There are many people in the world who are like the little red hen. They know what they want and they work hard to make it happen. If they do not get support from others, they do it anyway.

Unfortunately, there are also many people who are like the other farm animals. They want the results, but they do not want to work for them.

This can occur in very obvious ways. For example, there are people who want money, but do not want a job. They want someone else to give them money without giving anything in return.

This can also occur in less obvious ways. For example, there are people who have a job and want to make more money. But they do not want to gain the additional knowledge, skills, or experience necessary to be promoted. They want to receive more without giving more.

Another example is group projects. I hated group projects in college. Usually everyone in the group wanted an “A.” Usually it was me and maybe one other person that was willing to work hard enough to actually earn an “A.”  The same thing happens in work situations.

Think about your professional and personal relationships. In each relationship are you a “little red hen” or are you one of the “farm animals?” Which do you want to be?