Friday, February 4, 2011
Playing Mothers and Fathers
Remember that game as a child? We used to play it all the time in primary school. Mothers and Fathers is a game of imagination - playing house, pretending to be parents and children - but it really reflected the inner workings of everyone's family life. We'd always fight over who played which part. (No one ever wanted to be the father because, well, he was a man. Gross.)
Back when I was in primary school, in the 80s, it was a pretty straightforward game. The mother did all the housework and looked after the kids, while the father went to work, then came home and ate dinner and sat on the couch. (Yes, really, this was the 80s, not the 50s.)
My friends were always frustrated playing this game with me, though. I'd try to change the standard format of the game. Maybe they thought I was trying to be different, or attempting to cause trouble, but really it was just because my family worked differently.
My mother was one of the few mums who worked full-time, who had a university degree and a career. My father was the only dad I knew of who was waiting for us when we walked home from school (or who would treat us by picking us up when the weather was bad). My dad worked from home, as a Photographer, and in the afternoons we'd play outside while he met with clients. On the weekends, if I was really good, he'd take me to a wedding with him.
In the school holidays, my time was divided between 'helping' (the quotation marks have been added in hindsight) dad work in his darkroom, and playing at a spare desk at mum's work, where empty tablet boxes and rolls of medication labels provided hours of fun (mum is a Pharmacist). Oh, and the jelly beans; they were the true highlight of those days.
So, when I came to school and played Mothers and Fathers, my friends just wouldn't understand why I wanted the father to stay at home, or the mother to go to work. I, too, didn't see where they were coming from. Why didn't both their parents work?
I've been thinking about this recently, as I wonder how my daughter will portray her family life in years to come. It's an interesting way of thinking about decisions regarding house and career - how is it all viewed by our kids? How do they see their parents' roles in the family? What messages do these roles give them?
I bet it's interesting seeing kids play this game these days. There would be all sorts of scenarios going on, and I wonder if children still become frustrated that their friends play it differently to them. Or maybe it's okay, because they see so many situations on a daily basis.
Is it even still called Mothers and Fathers?
Posted at 10:17 AM