Dads Want to Help. Will Schools Let Them?

Does equality start at home or at work?

It’s the chicken-or-the-egg question for the post-Covid world of life for working parents.

One place where the conversation around gender equality for parents needs to happen is our kids’ schools.

I just took my youngest daughter to her friend’s house for a birthday party. We got the present – a puppy necklace and a bath bomb. She put on her dinosaur sweatshirt because her friend likes dinosaurs. I got our raincoats and umbrella, and we headed out.

My wife made plans to go out with our older daughters.

Pretty much we were killing it on a rainy Saturday.

But when I got to the birthday party house, it was pretty quiet. We were a few minutes late so maybe everyone had already dropped off.

We walked up to the front door, and it was quieter still. But maybe the party was in the basement?

Then the dad answered the door, alone in the house with his dog.

“Didn’t you get the update? The party got moved to next week. My wife sent out the update.”

I knew immediately what had happened: His wife had sent the update to my wife whose inbox of unread emails gives me agita, and it was overlooked.

I had been the one who replied to the invite. I had been the one who said I’d be taking our daughter to the party. I’m the one at all of these parties. I’m the BPP in our house – that’s Birthday Party Parent because, well, I’m chatty and like cheese pizza.

Still, so many birthday emails only go mom to mom.

This is easy to change. And it needs to change. Here are three reasons why:

1) If we want men to be more equal partners at home and allies at work, shouldn’t we include them on information related to their children from school and on the weekends?

2) Not including both parents makes a presumption as to who does what at home. It also keeps the mental load firmly on the mom, since she has to respond or forward the email to her husband – if he’s a Lead Dad or The BPP.

3) It causes kids to think that certain activities that have no connection to gender – driving to a party and eating cheap, cheese pizza – are supposed to be done by a mom and not a dad.

When it comes to companies, I say change starts in the middle, with those emerging leaders who are closer to the life experience of their direct reports leading the charge. They see it and live it far more than the C-Suite, with their ingrained behavioral biases from their path to success.

When it comes to our communities, change starts at school. Schools can nudge parents to include both parents on an invite. Last I checked E-vite doesn’t charge for putting both parents on the invite. While the playground is a wasteland for inclusion, schools can set a standard for parental inclusion.

Otherwise, the least of our problems will be kids missing out on a birthday party.