This past Halloween, I was volunteering in my kid’s classrooms. It was my first time volunteering in their new school and we have lived here for more than a year. I have a lot of feelings as I type the word “first” – sadness, grief, acceptance, and more but I am digressing from the real topic so back to it.
I was blown away by the effort several mothers had put in days & weeks in advance to create incredible experiences for these kids. Even as an adult. I had so much fun experiencing the excitement, & joy, alongside little humans. This might now become my annual Halloween tradition.
But I also know something didn’t feel right that day.
I realized how little we celebrate these mothers, many of whom had meaningful careers outside their homes & many who had chosen to give more to their local communities than their resumes. They are both beautiful & powerful in their own ways and yet we forget how much this institution of parent volunteers influences children’s experiences in their schools & communities. Until I became a parent and to a large extent until I saw these mothers’ leadership firsthand, I didn’t realize I wasn’t applauding them enough.
And then I was so disappointed to not see any fathers volunteering that day. There were grandmothers in the classrooms too but not one grandfather caught my eye. What are we modeling to our kids when they only see mothers juggling the myriad responsibilities between work, home, and school?
I even saw a third grader dressed up as a “tired mother” with one kid on her chest and the other on her back. I suspect she has seen way too many exhausted mothers in her life and thought it was a good idea to dress up as one. It both made me feel seen but also sad that this is the message we are giving our daughters.
Now, I am well aware there are many fathers who do contribute quite equally in many ways and volunteer and give back in other avenues. As a mother, I am grateful to all of them for the role they play in their own families and society at large. For some families including mine, this was a conscious choice on how we split tasks that day where I volunteered & my husband focused on work but I realized this choice (as all choices!) came with a cost I hadn’t considered before. My kids & other kids not seeing fathers in the classrooms on Halloween comes with a cost to our children, the messages they internalize about gender norms, and the roles men & women are expected to play in the world.
Dear fathers – If you are in a season of your life & career where you can carve out a few hours to be in your child’s classroom, know that your contribution will influence not just your own kids but will play a role in inspiring other men to do the same and our children to think differently about the gender roles in caregiving & volunteering at school.
I hope to see more of you next Halloween not just trick or treating with your kids but also in their classrooms.