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Monday, August 25, 2008

Playtime (Before Gender Stereotypes Set In)

Son and Daughter are playing "Doctor." In the manner of all oldest children, particularly those with younger siblings who are still not completely fluent in language that involves words rather than whines, Son insists on playing the better of the two parts.

They haven't broken the game down into Doctor/Patient.

Oh, no. Daddy is the Patient.

The kids are Doctor and Nurse.

Guess which one Son is.

NURSE.

Guess why.

Because "the nurse gives the shots." And that's so much cooler than whatever the doctor does. So, of course, he's hogged that job for himself.

They have just finished fixing up Daddy, and they wander into my office to fix me. Doctor Daughter is carrying the small stool and following Nurse Son's orders. "Put down the stool," he commands. She complies. Nurse Son is carrying our small doctor kit. When Doctor Daughter tries to help out, she is quickly rebuffed. "NOOOOO," he insists. "The NURSE gives the shots." Doctor Daughter is relegated to handing him the necessary implements out of the case and serving as general Dog Wrangler, since I'm working and refuse to be Patient, and thus Dog has the honor of being the next to be fixed.

Dog clearly doesn't understand the rules, as she keeps standing up and running out of the room. So the game disintegrates, despite copious offerings of treats.

Even with the bossy older sibling dynamics that I need to help Son revise, they have no idea how happy they've just made me with their sense that Nurses have cooler jobs than Doctors.

From their perspective, I can certainly see why this would be the case. Whenever we go to the doctor's office, the nurse handles all the gadgets -- thermometer, blood pressure cuff, syringes. Doctors come in and look at them, ask me a lot of questions, scribble things on charts, and occasionally pull out the special light to look in ears. But that's really small potatoes compared to the sharp sharp needles and the right to dispense both flashy cartoon character bandaids AND lollipops.

Also, the nurses wear much cooler clothes.

I know that in the medical field, nurses often get short shrift. I also know from my two short hospital stays in the maternity ward that nurses can make or break one's medical experience, while the doctors are often in and out in just a few minutes.

Granted, I've never nearly bled to death or otherwise been in a trauma where I needed a doctor to save my life. And this isn't me even remotely suggesting a slam on doctors.

All I'm saying is that in a world where far more men than women are doctors, and far more women than men are nurses, where there is a definite professional hierarchy that has to do not only with schooling and salary but also clearly with gender, it is really delightful to hear the play of children who are still innocent of that particular bit of gender-inflected cultural bias. It is my deepest hope that even as they grow and learn more of the world, they continue to make their own assessments of value and do not blindly begin to follow the assumptions that surround them.

In short, in my house, it makes me smile every time I hear the words, "C'mon, Sister, let's play Doctor." Followed quickly by, in his best bossy, hogging-the-plum-role-for-himself voice, "I'm the NURSE!"

15 comments:

Heather of the EO said...

Great post, so true. I love it that your son is bossy about it. So cute.

lattemommy said...

Um... :)

Suz Broughton said...

This is so true. Especially about the hospital stay part. Good nurse= good stay. Bad nurse= bad stay.

Mr Lady said...

Oh, poor Latte Mommy. She didn't mean YOU! You are the best, unpaid, over a beer free retired doctor Doctor I ever had!

Now, to your post.

Nurses ARE cooler! They handle all the gizmos. Doctors TALK. Your kids are totally smart. That is all.

Aimeepalooza said...

That is awesome!

tara said...

i MUST pass this story onto my sister who is a nurse. that rocks!

MommyTime said...

Darling Latte, you MUST know I wasn't making a personal comment, or suggesting that women aren't doctors. I only meant that to kids, nurses seem cooler (like Mr. Lady says), and that I like that they are still able to think outside the box about what kinds of job should have more prestige. You will forever and always be my favorite doctor. AND better than any medical professional I'll probably ever employ in real life too. Honest.

Insta-mom said...

If I were you, I would be just waiting for the day that he says something absurd like "I can't fold laundry, that's a giiirls job" and you can show him this.

Tracey said...

Cute. Make believe is such a thrill to watch...

Fawn said...

Oh, Son's bossiness made me laugh out loud!

Interestingly, even just 5 years ago, I was just as guilty of gender stereo-typing of nurses. Female doctors were old news, but when a male nurse came to the small town I was living in, I was surprised. I actually know about a half a dozen male nurses now (most of them around my age, in fact) so it's not nearly as surprising anymore. :) Maybe by the time Son is older, there won't be such an imbalance anymore.

lattemommy said...

I was just yanking your chain. I wasn't insulted at all. (But I did have a much cooler career than any nurse... just sayin.) ;)

Ree said...

Good for him. We need more nurses. Good, compassionate nurses. Sounds like he's just the man.

ConverseMomma said...

I love this post because I think about things like this all the time. Even with trying my best to be gender neutral, my daughter gravitates to dolls and pink. My son to saws and hammers. The other day Molls picked up the screwdriver and put it in her cradle, and rocked it to sleep, I wept silently inside.

Joanie said...

As a semi-retired nurse, Thank You!

Nurses do have cool jobs and get to spend way more time with patients. We get to stick them with needles, clean up their "accidents", bathe them, talk with them, hear about their families, their dreams, and if we're lucky, they sort of adopt us.

I've been on both sides of the equation: patient and nurse. I prefer to be the caregiver (and wield the needles), but if I have to play patient, I pray that my nurse is skilled, kind, and just a little weird like me.

Da Goddess

MommyTime said...

Ahh..ConverseMama, but just think how great it is that she is learning to juxtapose these gendered toys and play games that cross those boundaries. ALL children like to nurture babies. My brother took my doll away from me when he was about 2 (I was 15; she was just sitting respectfully silent in the corner by then) and nursed her for a few months.

Joanie, you're welcome. I'm so glad this post made sense for you. I've seen you a lot on SanDiegoMomma's blog -- it's very nice to have you here! Welcome!!

 

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