Here’s a story about a working parent’s journey from awareness to frustration to complaint (with a detour into unproductive grumbling) and to action to involve dads.
Take a look at the photo. It’s a portrait of engagement and change.
Now before you say, “What is this guy talking about? It’s 20 dudes in vests and quarter zips!”
These are all Dads Who Do Drop-off, and the photo was taken at a morning event at my daughters’ middle school. I asked to organize it.
For as long as my now 14-year-old has been in school, I’ve been a Dad Who Does Drop-Off for her and her two sisters. Four different times, I’ve been a class parent. (Yes, I was the only man in the room, and yes, all of the first meetings began with a rousing call of: “Thank you Moms for doing this!”)
Still, what irked me was the most fixable barrier to including fathers: Moms’ Night Out! Theres was never a parallel dads’ event – as if moms were the only ones who want to know their fellow parents and have time together.
So after getting yet another school email for a Moms’ Night Out, I hit reply and said, We need to have something for Dads, and I’ll organize it if you’ll let me.
At first, it was like I walked into McDonald’s and asked for a Big Mac without the special sauce. There was a pause – like, why would you not want the special sauce??? – but then, to the parent association’s credit, a positive response: Yes, you can organize it.
I picked a Friday, ordered some coffee from the school cafeteria and sent out an Evite.
Slowly the replies began coming in.
By the end we had 20 middle school dads show up for a 9am coffee after drop-off on Friday. We talked, drank coffee, made connections, and were off to start our days at 10am. It was great.
What did I learn from doing this?
- It’s not hard to get Dads involved at school if you have a targeted event.
- Think through the planning. Most parents who work in a hybrid environment are working at home on Friday. This event would have failed on a Wednesday.
- Don’t let history hold you back. I had a separate conversation with a local nonprofit that was hesitant to do something for dads, thinking they wouldn’t show up. I pointed out that Tuesday night meetups for wine were not the way to attract dads – or any working parent.
- We all complain, but if you can, volunteer to bring about change. It was easy to organize a Dads’ event, particularly in a school setting where the food service team supports small coffees on a regular basis.
- Be a voice for Dads. Until men who are Lead Dads get involved with the school parent associations, we’re going to be overlooked. Out of sight out of mind. Be heard.
Bonus Lesson: This all translates to the workplace. Ask for the Parenting ERGs to be more inclusive of Dads. It’s good for everyone, particularly managers who still see women as the default parent. Dads are there too.