Twelve parents arrived this morning to help shepherd students on today’s middle school field trip. Predictably, only three of those parents were fathers. While some disparity might be explained by the fact that mothers still out number fathers as the stay-at-home parent, I wonder why fathers remain so clearly underrepresented at school functions:
- Do fathers exclude themselves from involvement in school activities or do mothers exclude fathers? Perhaps fathers feel out of place in these functions, knowing (or fearing) that they will be in the minority. Perhaps mothers think this is their domain.
- Do society’s gender stereotypes influence who attends? Perhaps fathers and mothers assume that child-rearing is somehow more domestic and, therefore, primarily the mother’s responsibility. Perhaps education remains cordoned off as the mother’s domain.
- Do assumptions about the value of the parents’ different careers influence which parents attends? Perhaps fathers and mothers assume that fathers’ jobs are inflexible or somehow more essential than mothers’. Most of the mothers and fathers I spoke with today talked about having to make up today’s work. Some of us were planning a couple late nights. Others had scheduled the weekend to make up the missed time.
- Are fathers just not that interested in this aspect their children’s lives? Maybe fathers generally care less about their children’s day-in and day-out education or less about extracurricular activities.
Whatever the reasons (excuses ?), children and parents would benefit from greater father involvement. Judging from the comments I overheard today, kids want their fathers there. A number of students said to their three friends whose dads were there: “It’s cool your dad came.” Or “I wish my dad could have come.” Or “My dad would have liked this.” Driving home this afternoon, #1 leaned over, hugged my arm, and said, “Thanks for coming today. It was fun having you there.” Trust me, kids notice when their fathers are present.
And think about the other beneficiaries: I would guess that most mothers would appreciate knowing they have a partner in this chaos we call childrearing. Teachers are always asking for more parental involvement. They would appreciate not only knowing both parents but also knowing that both parents are involved in raising the child. Most selfishly, perhaps, you fathers will benefit from spending time with your kids, watching your them interact with colleagues and peers, in their native environment.
Risk it! Risk feeling out of place surrounded by mostly mothers. Risk experiencing a bit more of your child’s education. Risk asking your boss for a day off to spend with your kid. Risk being more involved or differently involved in your child’s life. You’ve got nothing to lose and everything to gain.