Now I know how women become secretaries: it starts at primary school when the class is asked to nominate themselves for specific prefect tasks. There are a range of options – library, sports, recycling, assembly and office administration. The teacher asked the children to write her a letter explaining which job they wanted and why they were the most suitable child in the class for the job. My daughter desperately wanted the office gig and when I asked her why, she explained that all the girls want to be the office prefect. “You get to help the people in the office to tidy up things and organise stuff for everyone else,” she sweetly said. “All the boys want to do is sports and recycling.”
While a couple of nerdy kids want to be in the library, the gender lines are so predicable – the boys want any opportunity to exert some physical energy while the girls are keen for responsible and bossy positions.
When she told me that the all the other mothers were going to help their children, I went into overdrive. I could write a better letter than all those other mothers put together. I taught her to spell exuberant, exemplary and proactive. I suggested she embellish some of her musical achievements and make a note of her good deeds to old ladies. I encouraged her to write down how confident and self-assured she is, about how she would do an excellent and professional job.
“ Mummy – no one talks about themselves like that. That’s really showing off.”
I was crestfallen. Doesn’t she realise that she will come to naught if she doesn’t promote herself? Being modest was going to get her nowhere.
She turned her back on me and scribbled a note. I stole a glance.
Please let me be the office prefect because I really, really want to and I promise to try my best.
Well, at least there was no concern that a pushy parent had written that letter for her. It was obviously the work of a mediocre 10 year old.