(This is a mirror site of my webpage karenjcarlisle.com)

Thursday, November 28, 2013

How to Sew on a Button

My daughter presented me with her school uniform a few days ago (when I was mimicking a snot factory). One of the front buttons had fallen off.
“Wonderful,” says I. “Now you can learn how to sew it on."
“No,” she replies. “I have to do my homework.”

This is one of her standard ‘Get of Jail Free’ answers. She knows that I consider homework a number one priority task.  Trying to stifle yet another gurgley cough, I look at her with watery eyes and utter every mother’s back up plan:
“Go ask your father.”

I am not entirely sure of the actual conversation but it seems like he may have muttered something about not knowing how to sew on a button. Hmmm. I remember talking him through the process of sewing on a button. (I think I had a bandaged hand at the time.) Mind you this was a few years ago. 

Two days ago (when I was still perfecting a cough that sounded awfully like an old car, with an almost flat battery, trying to chug over to start), my husband presented me with the uniform. The intent was to convince me to sew on the button.
“It’s not hard,” I coughed through gritted teeth. “I’ll show you.”
He went off muttering, uniform in hand.

Today I sat down to write my blog and I noticed the school uniform, over the back of the chair beside me, button still unattached. It is a simple task often gender stereotyped as ‘mum’s job‘.  I know that I can do it. I know that I have shown both my daughter (and if I had a son he would have been taught also) and husband how to do it. There is a drawer full of needles and threads all perfectly adequate for such a project.

Now I realise that this is not just a button like a box of chocolates is not just a box of chocolates. It is a symbol of independence.

Who will sew on the button?

Not me. I have survived adolescence, survived university and my career to become an independent woman. I do not need to prove my independence. My husband? He is definitely asserting his independence in not wanting to sew on the button. (Though I may have suggested that he prove that he could actually perform the task.)

This brings me to the first encounter with this particular button and its lack of permanent residence. I consider part of my  responsibility as a good mother is to teach my child to be independent. This will provide her with a strong position to survive and thrive in life. It is also part of my responsibility to teach her that gender roles are not fixed.

This leaves me with two options, if I am to perform my motherly duties:
  1. Homework or no homework, my daughter will have to sew on her own button.
  2. My dearest husband will have to perform his fatherly duties and re-enforce the non-gender biasing task of button closure restoration.
Now that I have exercised my responsibility of preparing the next generation, I am off for a cup of tea.

How to Sew on a Button


  1. and in the end, my dear daughter did indeed sew on that button.

    1. Yayyy, necessity is a powerful motivator!