Do Dads Volunteer?

Last week, I went to a thank-you luncheon for more than 60 parent volunteers at my childrens' school. There were working moms, stay-at-home moms and one grandmother. Not a dad in sight.

Was this lunch an anomaly, or is the school volunteer ethic strictly pink? What's going on? I see lots of dads coaching kids' sports teams and a few PTA presidents. But almost no Room Dads or male volunteers working at the book sale or the bake sale or the other every day volunteer events.

Why don't fathers volunteer more at schools? Is it simply that there are 5.6 million stay-at-home moms in America and only 147,000 stay-at-home dads? Is some kind of subtle bias at work?

By Leslie Morgan Steiner |  June 9, 2006; 7:00 AM ET  | Category:  Free-for-All
Previous: $48.9 Million Babies | Next: Bed Rest and Work? HOW?

Add On Balance to Your Site
Keep up with the latest installments of On Balance with an easy-to-use widget. It's simple to add to your Web site, and it will update every time there's a new entry to On Balance.
Get This Widget >>


Please email us to report offensive comments.

Both my husband and I volunteer at our son's school, but have never attended the volunteer luncheon. First, it's planned in the middle of the day. If I'm going to take leave, I'm not going to take it off for a luncheon. Second, I don't think most men are into the "luncheon" thing husband would never go to that.

I think men volunteer in different ways than women. At my son's school elementary school, the dads would often help with the more manual stuff of building sets for play, or helping set up/take down for an event. We also have a lot of dads volunteer to chaperone field trips. I can't see most of them doing what a lot of the room mom's do (let's not even open up that can of worms again) but they definitely contribute in their own ways.

Posted by: Tired Mom | June 9, 2006 8:03 AM

Check out "The Young Apprentice" in today's Post to see how important fathers are in their kids' lives!

Posted by: June | June 9, 2006 8:27 AM

In my son's preschool dads volunteer and are very visible in their volunteering. But there are more volunteer moms than dads. Lunches and breakfasts in the middle of the work day is something that workind parents (esp. dads) tend to skip.

Posted by: another (very) tired mom | June 9, 2006 9:16 AM

I agree with the other two tired moms. If these schools really wanted to thank volunteer parents, these "thank you" events wouldn't be held in the middle of the day, making it extremely inconvenient for so many to attend. Just this morning I went to an event that was thoughtfully planned for 7:00 a.m. at my daughter's school. It was over by about 7:45, allowing SAHM/D to get out to get younger kids to school (younger kids were welcome at the event) or working moms/dads to get to work at a reasonable time. That's a school that really values parental participation.

Posted by: A Third Tired Mom | June 9, 2006 9:29 AM

Here Here to not attending appreciation luncheons... If I am going to take my precious vacation time for an activity at school it will be kid focused not parent focused. Same with my hubby. At a recent school fieldtrip there were a ton of fathers there. One exasperated stay-at-home mom commented that her husband never did things at school. My husband looks forward to escaping work to be surrounded by our daughter and her friends.

Posted by: Momma Daria | June 9, 2006 9:36 AM

If you came to Lafayette Elementary in the District, you'd see a large number of dads volunteering, and probably at least half of the school's HSA is male. When my children started at the school, I was very surprised to see so many men volunteering, but now it just seems normal.

Posted by: not tired yet | June 9, 2006 9:43 AM

I volunteer by coaching soccer. School volunteering is very difficult since most of the time is during working hours. School's used to be the natural organizers for sports in most metropolitan areas, but because of budget restraints these activities are no based out-side of the school organizations.

Posted by: eddiehaskel | June 9, 2006 9:49 AM

Our elementary school in Arlington has many Dads volunteering (including my husband). Our school holds a volunteer appreciation breakfast at 8:00 a.m. (babysitting provided). Curiously, I noted that several SAHMs were not in attendance. I spoke a few later that day and asked why they weren't there -- too early, they all said!

Posted by: SLP | June 9, 2006 9:50 AM

From Parenting magazines to this Blog, dad's are viewed as the guys in beer commercials - in front of the TV, while the mom's do all the housework and childcare. When will the stereotyping end? How about giving the modern dads a little credit??

Posted by: One of many dads | June 9, 2006 10:00 AM

When I go to my son's elementary school, I think it must be the dads anywhere. They show up for plays and special events, but never to volunteer. We're constantly hit with emails, newsletter requests, letters, and sometimes threats--if we don't volunteer, programs will shut down--but where are the dads? Many of us are not stay-at-home moms and we make it work...but nobody even seems to question that only women are helping out.

Posted by: Frustrated Mom | June 9, 2006 10:05 AM

Let's see: In my kids' school this year I've done stuff like moving playground equipment, digging post holes and pouring concrete on school work days. I've gone on school field trips and, on one particularly hot day, improvised a large wagon into a mobile heat-exhaustion treatment unit while simultaneously pulling 6 worn out kids over a 1.5 mile hike. I've helped the kids during class with their mechanical skills by showing them how to take apart household devices and examine the insides.

No, I haven't baked. I don't bake. But I did on two occasions make Thai food for the kids.

I've supervised playground play and taught a lot of little kids to throw. I've even gone as far as showing up at school with a football or a playground ball and started an impromptu game--and also mediated the disputes. I've even setup two hands-on music seminars, one on drums and one on piano. Oh, yes, and coached the soccer team.

Oh, by the way. I'm a dad. Is my contribution unique? I highly doubt it. Perhaps if you looked a bit closer you might find dads making a contribution to their local school.

Posted by: anonymous | June 9, 2006 10:17 AM

Last week, I went to a thank-you BARBECUE for more than 60 parent COACHING volunteers at my childrens' school. There were working DADS,stay-at-home DADS and one grandFATHER. Not a MOM in sight.

Was this lunch an anomaly, or is the school COACH volunteer ethic strictly BLUE? What's going on?
Why don't MOTHERS volunteer TO COACH more at schools?

See Leslie - others can play your silly little game too

Posted by: bc | June 9, 2006 10:20 AM

I know I am going to grossly oversimplify this, as usual, but I really think that it comes down to the fact that most people volunteer to help others while doing things they either (a) enjoy or (b) are good at.

My son is still little, but I'll definitely volunteer to coach his sports teams, partially because that will be a venue where we share an experience that we both enjoy. I currently volunteer with my college's local alumni group and with Habitat for Humanity, and the fact is that you feel more fulfilled when you enjoy your volunteering experience (rather than it being just drudgery.)

Baking things at night then taking a vacation day to sell them would not be fulfilling, because the volunteer experience would constantly leave me stressed about how lousy my baking was or whether I'd be better off spending my vacation day with 1-on-1 time with my child.

A better question would be: Why do schools/day cares not set up volunteer events in such a way as to attract equal numbers of moms and dads? Set up a weekend day in the late summer to fix up the school or cleanup the schoolyard and I'll be there.

Posted by: Proud Papa | June 9, 2006 10:31 AM

Perhaps any stay-at-home dads didn't show up because they opted out of anything that looks, smells of feels like the 'mom's club'. Stay-at-home dads learn quickly about the big red 'no dads allowed' sign on the front door of that particular club house.

Posted by: anonymous | June 9, 2006 10:33 AM

The way women continually and without pause hammer away at men, disrespect them, and treat them so much like yesterday's garbage, men never can do anything correctly as far as women are concerned. Do you want to see sex bias in real life? Look at our judicial system, women walk for the very same crimes men are put away for life committing. Funny we never seem to hear women complaining about this bias. Murphy Brown successfully brain-washed women a years ago by stating men are unnecessary. The women seem to use this as a rallying point. Men do plenty for their children, they just never get an even shake or an unbiased report card.

Posted by: Steven Alexander | June 9, 2006 10:43 AM

My children are grown now, but back in the day I was a constant presence at their schools, field trips, bazaars, sporting events, etc. One mother once asked me what government agency I worked for, assuming that was the only way I could participate so frequently during working hours. I had to tell her I was an attorney in private practice giving up billable hours to do what I considered more important. Of course, much midnite oil was burned to make up for the missed work. Tradeoffs and priorities, folks.

Posted by: attorney dad | June 9, 2006 10:44 AM

I agree w/ a lot of the comments that the Dads have posted I use to go to "Mommy and me" w/my son and felt like I had two heads, there are a lot of Mom's only clubs like that. I have also volunterred at my son's school and I was greeted w/ "You must be running for father of the year."
I'm sooo tried of women thinking that they have the complete ownership in parenting.

Posted by: Frustrated Dad | June 9, 2006 11:00 AM

Dads do volunteer from what I see. One of our room parents this year was a Dad, although we are at a Quaker school where there's a little more pressure to be progressive.

I would blame the lopsidedness on two things. First, stay at home parents take on the lion's share of volunteer work, and as you point out, those are mostly moms. Second, even amongst working parents, Dads tend to have the more time consuming or demanding jobs.

Second, as pointed out above, Dads do tend to volunteer in different ways, and I would think that in sports leagues, the volunteer hours skew in the opposite direction on a gender basis. in other words, Dads prefer coaching as opposed to baking and event planning.

Posted by: jli | June 9, 2006 11:01 AM

This blog, as it turns out, couldn't be more feminist than Ann Coulter a conservative.

If you mothers keep comparing yourselves to your husbands and expect them to do EVERYTHING you can do while just because you can do a FEW things they can, then please also expect that divorce rate to only rise.

Posted by: DC | June 9, 2006 11:04 AM

I agree with the first comment. I am a dad who played chess with my kids classmates and was a chaperone for a number of field trips and helped out at the spring fairs. I never had a chance to go to a thank you lunch because it just wasn't a priority.

Posted by: JB | June 9, 2006 11:10 AM

I love being able to co-op at my kids school, seeing them in this setting and learning more about who they are. This makes me a better parent. I think there is a double standard generally that makes the volunteer thing a female oriented activity which extends to the general role that dads play. Dads are a critical component to the parenting process and women need to encourage our participation. But many women can't accept this intrusion into what they had considered "theirs" and will assign dads the stereotypical manual labor jobs. The double standard does exist and like women complain that men objectify women, well, here is an example of women sterotyping men. If women wish to hold onto that perception, fine, it won't stop me from being an active volunteer at school.

Posted by: co-op dad | June 9, 2006 11:11 AM

Don't forget that a lot of dads put their volunteer time into coaching little league and soccer (for both boys and girls)

Posted by: NYC mom | June 9, 2006 11:12 AM

My husband and I split the volunteer stuff for down the middle. Actually he took my turn recently because I had a business trip. I agree with the others on not attending midday thank you luncheons and the sort. We do not have time for self-congratulatory clap trap and would rather devote the available time that we have to improving the quality of life at my son's daycare center.

Posted by: mommyworks | June 9, 2006 11:15 AM

a bit disturbed by this column. I have volunteered at my sones school to lead a book discussion group and to chaperone a couple of field trips, volunteered at my daughters school to teach an engineering segment to 5th graders and chaperone. all of these require vacation and juggling work requirments but it has happened. I would never take time off for a luncheon

Posted by: chet | June 9, 2006 11:22 AM

To answer Leslie's latest loaded question (which are all meant to stir emotions, and they never fail to do so)...

I'm a working dad who volunteers in my daughter's K class once a week for 45 minutes. I usually read with the kids one-on-one, although sometimes we do math or patterns. I've done this all year except for about 4 times because of illness or business travel. I've also been on 2 field trips and gone to one room event.

But I skipped the volunteer luncheon. I didn't feel the need to be recognized or thanked in a special event, and I certainly didn't need it as social time. I enjoy each and every time I volunteer in class, no matter how busy I am at work. I especially treasure the look on my daughter's face when I show up in class, and I enjoy getting to know her teacher and classmates so we can talk about her friends at the end of the day. That's why I volunteer. I know that happy look won't appear on her face in a few years. I'd rather use my limited time to do something related to the kids classwork than attend a "social" event that is really about the volunteers.

Just because you didn't see dads at the luncheon does not mean they aren't volunteering during school hours. I've seen plenty of dads when I've been at the school and on field trips. If you're only at the school for an hour at a time, on occasion, you can't make a judgement about what happens the other six hours.

Posted by: Mont Cty Dad | June 9, 2006 11:24 AM

Haven't you answered your own question? You pointed out there are 40 times - 40 times! - as many stay-at-home women than men. So even if the men were equally likely to attend that 60-person volunteer luncheon, you should have no more than one or two men present.

Frankly, as a man, the idea of attending a 60-person luncheon as the only man present fills me with dread. That's why you don't have any men present.

Posted by: Anon | June 9, 2006 11:33 AM

"I really think that it comes down to the fact that most people volunteer to help others while doing things they either (a) enjoy or (b) are good at." - Proud Papa

"But many women can't accept this intrusion into what they had considered "theirs" and will assign dads the stereotypical manual labor jobs. - Co-op Dad

I think these two statements are really interesting in their different views of the roles men play in volunteering. It seems from the posts that there are a lot of men whose volunteer efforts are focused on more stereotypical male endeavors - sports and physical labor. I'm curious whether these dads do this type of volunteer work do it because that's what they prefer (a la Proud Papa) or because they feel like that is all that is open to them (a la co-op dad).

I feel like this issue dogs a lot of discussions around gender - are we doing something because its what we really prefer or because its what we know people expect of us? Anyway, I'd be interested to hear more dads' perspectives on this.

Also, I totally take issue with the statement by another poster that even when both parents work, usually the man's job is more demanding or intense. I don't see that as true in the couples I know - what do others think? It seems like that can be as much a matter of the choices and priorities of the individuals involved as the actual jobs they have.

Posted by: Megan | June 9, 2006 11:40 AM

Could you please stop jumping to negative conclusions about everybody except yourself. Perhaps the absence of Dads at the recognition ceremony is not caused by a lack of Dad volunteers but is due to some other factor, such as Dad volunteers choosing to work instead of be recognized so that they can afford to take time off to actually volunteer? I care for my son and volunteer as much as my spouse, but I have no interest in going to a recognition event just so I can feel good about it; my son's smiles are adequate compensation.

Posted by: Busy Dad | June 9, 2006 11:46 AM

I recently attended the annual congress of Chicago's Logan Square Neighborhood Association (visit LSNA at The highlight for the congress was the work that was being done in the realm of education and the various programs that were being promoted in this largely poor, largely hispanic, largely uninvolved community.

One of the most interesting was the Parent Tutor program, which invites parents into schools to help as a sort-of teacher assistant for kids who need more attention and guidance. Among the facts that was provided was the participation of 127 mothers and 6 fathers. I was surprised to find even that many dads involved.

You may have hit the nail on the head when you bring to light the fact that there are so few stay-at-home dads in America. But I think that the issue goes a bit deeper than that. I believe that our culture places the role of child-rearing, formation, and education strictly in the hands of the mother--whether or not she works.

Obviously, men do volunteer in a number of ways, but that generally falls outside the classroom, whether for reasons of schedule conflicts, different interests, different strengths, work requirements, or simple indifference.

I believe it is important for fathers to be involved in every aspect of the lives of their kids. It may be that schools need to be more welcoming to them and offer more opportunities for them to get involved inside the school building rather than just as coaches or barbeque chefs.

(Blatant plug: For more discussion of culture, leisure, religion, and politics, visit )

Posted by: Josh Stock | June 9, 2006 11:52 AM

My husband and I get a kick out of all of the unnecessary volunteering that is done and solicited at my daughter's elementary school. Parents are invited to everything, and it is becoming ridiculous.

He refuses to volunteer (he's a teacher himself by the way), and I do what I can, although I'm burned out on it.

He thinks more fathers ought to be in charge if only to reduce the ridiculous number and type of special events.

I was once the class mother for my daughter's preschool and was shocked by how much parents were willing to do for the children (a nice thought, but maybe crossing the line into "overdoing" it).

I think what I'm trying to say is, some activities and events should be strictly for the children to experience on their own, and not as "performers" (even passive ones) for their parents to observe. Does that make sense?

I'm glad my daughter's school has a caring parent community, but I wonder if the level of community involvement is all necessary, and the kids aren't developing a view of the world that is distorted.

And, about thank you luncheons for volunteers, sometimes the nicest thing would be to have a virtual thank you luncheon...let the volunteers stay home! LOL! (Did I say I was becoming burned out?)

Posted by: Kate | June 9, 2006 11:53 AM

My husband and I live in DC (don't have children) and our morning walk to the Metro is along the route for the neighborhood kids to get to school. We regularly see four to six families walking, biking or scootering to school. Most are accompanied by dad. Not a comment about volunteering, but I have always liked to see men of my generation doing things that my father's generation thought of as mom's work. I see some terrific examples being set by the parents of today about opportunities for both parents to connect with their children. We're evolving.

Posted by: DC non-parent | June 9, 2006 11:56 AM

I am very disappointed by this swipe.
Gender bashing is no good with Father's Day right around the corner.
Honestly, I asked to be room-dad and was not selected. We still have the same old stereo-types or many woman feeling threatened by the surge in father's invading a once all-female-world!
I see a lot of father's doing more and more as far as volunteering, but I also see it rejected by status-quo. Please don't knock us for trying!

Posted by: Father4Life | June 9, 2006 12:03 PM

I wish people would quit jumping all over Leslie for asking this question. First of all, she recognized in her column that the luncheon may not have been representative of the volunteering that actually gets done; that's why she was asking the question. To the extent that men do volunteer and just don't always show for the luncheon, then great. She's provided an opportunity for people to talk about volunteer work by dads that may not otherwise be recognized. To the extent that there are more statistics out there like Josh Stock posted (127 mothers and 6 fathers participating in a program) it's legitimate to talk about why that is. And, in response to the post about coaching, I also think it's legitimate to ask why more moms don't volunteer to coach given how much emphasis we've seen on encouraging female athleticism. It's not just a "silly game" to point out a situation where there's gender bias and try to understand the cause.

Posted by: Megan | June 9, 2006 12:10 PM

I'm a volunteering stepparent with a even more so volunteering husband, and we volunteer, but didn't go to the luncheoun. Feels a little too much like patting yourself on the back for my taste.

I'll state the obvious, but you can't judge who is volunteering by who is at the luncheon...

In our school there are many dads that volunteer- hubbie went on a field trip and there were several other dads there, we volunteered at a carnival night and there were tons of dads, the list goes on...

Posted by: VA Stepmom | June 9, 2006 12:23 PM

Thanks for your very reasonable comment, Megan. I think you're exactly on-target. People shouldn't be hammered for commenting on or raising questions about a demonstrable fact.

It seems a little nuts to accuse Leslie or any other female poster here of being anti-male. After all, nearly 100% of those women have married and had children with men--some of them more than once!

Posted by: THS | June 9, 2006 12:25 PM

"I wish people would quit jumping all over Leslie for asking this question. First of all, she recognized in her column that the luncheon may not have been representative of the volunteering that actually gets done; that's why she was asking the question."

Megan, Leslie may have started out asking the question and qualifying, but then made a giant leap to state "Why don't fathers volunteer more at schools?" It's a typical Washington/media/spin/sell-a-book tactic, so see it for what it is. Is it a good discussion topic? Yes, I think so at least. But if someone is going to make a leap like that (even if it's her job) she can certainly be called on it.

Posted by: Anonymous | June 9, 2006 12:28 PM

Megan I think us Dads are reacting to Leslie's black-and-white question: "Why don't fathers volunteer more at schools?"

Some of the indignance being sent back is just a rejection of the premise of the question. It's Dads saying, "Why don't we get to be part of defining what constitutes 'at school' ?" It's a disturbing pattern that some of us see at home all the time. Mom assumes she's doing more or sometimes all of the childcare, because she gets to decide what constitutes childcare. If Dad jumps in to help, it's generally got to be done her way or its wrong. The case in point (to try to sum up some of the other points made in posts) is that in this case Leslie appears to define the thank you lunch as part of fathers volunteering "at school." Some here are reacting to seeing this pattern yet again and I think its frustrating that we assume Leslie has an open mind and access to all these dad's opinions yet she can't break this pattern either. What hope do we have to get through to our own wives?

(Boy was that a rant. I need a vacation.)

Posted by: Proud Papa | June 9, 2006 12:36 PM

I really can't speak for "men". Contrary to what some apparently believe, "men" are no more alike than "women".

Speaking for myself, I cannot volunteer for classroom activities, because I work, as does my wife. However, I am not afraid to say, that even if I did stay at home, I would not likely volunteer for classroom duty. Why, you ask? Because it would be akin to torture to me. Couldn't take it and wouldn't want to. Not to mention that I would be absolutely lousy at it.

However, I DO volunteer to coach my daughter's soccer and softball teams. I've also built and donated furniture and equipment to her school and volunteered to do maintenance and repair work to the physical structure and grounds. None of these things suffers from an overabundance of volunteers in our area.

So why exactly should I volunteer to do something that I wouldn't like and wouldn't be good at, instead of something that I do like and am good at, when each is in similar demand?

Incidentally, while I acknowledge all of these as important activities, I personally feel that all run a distant second in importance to finding time each day to spend solely focussed on my daughter, riding bikes, playing wiffleball in the backyard, playing games or just being silly.

Volunteerism is laudible, but not if it interferes with your primary responsibility of raising your child. Just my opinion.

Posted by: Daddy | June 9, 2006 12:39 PM

"Megan, Leslie may have started out asking the question and qualifying, but then made a giant leap to state "Why don't fathers volunteer more at schools?" It's a typical Washington/media/spin/sell-a-book tactic"

True, that statement was a leap, but I don't think it was a nefarious Washington/media/spin blah blah. It's a relevant follow-up question. It would have been better preceded by "If it is true that they don't volunteer," and I do think it's objectionable that she didn't insert that caveat. But it doesn't mean her entire column is an unjustifiable swipe at men intended to make them look bad and unnecessary etc etc as some posters seem to think. Just as the women on this board have often been accused of being overly sensitive and looking to be victims, I think some of the posters today are doing the same.

Posted by: Megan | June 9, 2006 12:40 PM

Well . . . it was a luncheon. How many fathers who work, but still volunteer, are going to make time to see there, eat, and be thanked? My husband volunteers for my kids' schools and events far more than I do. He works in the town where we live and the kids go to school; I work 40 minutes away. He's willing to take off for times the kids need him. But, taking time off for someone to thank him for it would not make the cut.

And, this is being posted by the mom who is the "slacker" in the volunteering-during-the-workday category.

Posted by: Momof2 | June 9, 2006 12:40 PM

Our elementary school has an active dads group. They organize events like the science fair, have regular dads (granddads, uncles, step-dads) come to lunch days, and do projects around the school. They do a great job for the kids but sometimes they're kinda a pain because they come in with a lot of attitude.

Dads rule in coaching and it's the moms who are rare. In that case, it's the dads who get annoyed at the attitude the moms bring in.

Dads volunteering at school are definitely the new black. And if they held the volunteer "thank-you" somewhere that served alcohol, you know they'd come.

Posted by: coaster | June 9, 2006 12:40 PM

I do have to admit my husband tells me when he volunteers to chaperone field trips, he's outnumbered by moms. He always gets lots of attention. Not all of it good. He always has to take lots of boys to the bathroom. :)

Posted by: Mom of 2 (again) | June 9, 2006 12:44 PM

Oy, Proud Papa this statement made me so sad and frustrated: "What hope do we have to get through to our own wives?" Maybe this is what I'm reacting to when I read all the angry posts. To the extent that the men who are writing these have negative interactions with their wives or other women in their lives with regard to child-rearing, I'm very sorry about that. But to project that onto all women is simply unfair, in the same way that assuming all men don't do something because one husband doesn't (or because they don't show up at the luncheon) is.

Also, on this point: "Mom assumes she's doing more or sometimes all of the childcare, because she gets to decide what constitutes childcare. If Dad jumps in to help, it's generally got to be done her way or its wrong." When LongsPeak wrote in a few days ago about being a stay at home dad and said that his wife doesn't appreciate the work he does in that role, that was ok, and people were anxious to hear more. But when a stay at home mom says the same thing, that her husband doesn't appreciate the work she does, people have responded that she's pushing the dad out and refusing to see what he's doing or its otherwise her own fault.

None of these issues are black and white, and there are going to be different perspectives on all of them, and they are going to play out differently in every household. I don't know where I'm going with this (I guess I need a vacation too!). I guess it just makes me sad to hear people sounding so frustrated with their own situation, and angry that they try to make all of the other gender responsible for it.

Posted by: Megan | June 9, 2006 12:56 PM

And if they held the volunteer "thank-you" somewhere that served alcohol, you know they'd come.

AMEN to that. Let's set up some grills too and cook some meat.

Posted by: Anonymous | June 9, 2006 1:03 PM

Our nursery school requires volunteering by the parents especially in the annual fundraiser and the fall/spring clean-ups. So my wife and I have been very involved in that. In the elementary school and middle school there are parents' nights where all parents are invited to sign up for reading times and other volunteer events and it seems to work well. Over the past years I have made time out to go in to my kid's schools on their "Star of the Week" day or other events. My favorite was when a 3rd grade teacher emailed out asking if a parent could come in and do a session relating math and baseball statistics. That was an amazing experience for me and I think the kids got a lot out of it too. My experience coaching soccer, hockey and baseball at the developmental/youth level was very helpful in retaining attention and keeping all the kids involved as we went through batting average and earned-run average and introducing practical uses of math/probability. My run-throughs with my daughter at home were most illuminating and thanks to her input everything went well - much better than if I had not prepared with her. We kept it fun, it was a Friday afternoon after all.

Posted by: Father of 3 | June 9, 2006 1:16 PM

I volunteer and take vacation time from work to do it. In every case its because the "room mom" can't find drivers for a field trip. I don't know about DC, but where I live, the San Francisco East Bay, many dads commute 30-40 miles from home to work. The only way they can volunteer is vacation time. Which takes away from those family vacations.
Many guys think that since alot more women are at home, they should do their part and help at school. I know its hard, but giving up the Jewelry Network, QVC or Ophrah is not fair, but who said life was fair?

Posted by: Rich | June 9, 2006 1:27 PM

I work four days a week and don't want to lose time with my pre-school age son on my day off by taking him to day care so I can volunteer at the elementary school. So when I volunteer, it's often at night (attending PTA meetings, working at night-time school events, etc.) I couldn't do it if my husband didn't watch the kids, either at home or keeping an eye on them at the school events. So his help at home makes it possible for me to help at school.

I saw some comments on volunteer events being held during the day. I went to a volunteer recognition dinner last night. It was held from 7:00 to 8:30 so working parents could attend, and child care was provided (I left my kids at home but I think there was a movie for the kids to watch).

Posted by: Anonymous | June 9, 2006 1:33 PM


I know you are trying to either provoke a reaction or be funny....

Posted by: June | June 9, 2006 1:34 PM

Sitting down and eating one of those sickening sweet Crisco iced piece of cake off a styrafoam plate with a plastic fork, and then try to cut in on a conversation about how well the table cloth is color cordinated with the flower arrangement... Please, oh please, throw me in the briar patch. Don't make me go! I would rather do 5 loads of laundry, scrub the tub and polish the porcelin throne, at least something productive would have gotten done. As far as Dads go volunteering, you will find us manning the grill during Field Day, doing the firepit at the pilgrim thing, and if you really want to open that can of worms, and bring the kids fishing for a field trip, there won't be enough seats on the bus for all the Dad volunteers. No matter, we'll show up at the park anyway.

Posted by: Father of 4 | June 9, 2006 1:36 PM

The opinions the people on this board hold of each other are appalling (i.e. men as beer swilling absentee fathers, women as lazy, whining housefraus).

Have a little respect for other people's situations, values and opinions.

Do you think these atttitudes don't come through to your kids?

Posted by: Disgusted | June 9, 2006 1:40 PM

My husband volunteers in the classroom and at the events in the evenings in the elementary school - he also helped out in preschool. He is the only dad usually when he is at school during the day - but he has a work schedule that allows him to do so. There are just as many dads volunteering at the evening events as moms - and all of my daughters coaches have been dads.

BTW: I volunteer too - and neither of us has ever attended a volunteer luncheon. It is a nice gesture, but it tends to be the same women who rule the PTA and it is a bit like walking into the Lion's den. I'd rather eat a sandwich at home.

Posted by: cmac | June 9, 2006 1:47 PM

Just two points:

1. just doing the math of SAHM's vs. SAHD's provides soem of the answer as to why so few dads are present at school-day activities
2. legions of dads, me included, spend countless unseen hours doing volunteer work for school activities, with phone calls, late-night e-mails, even workday calls & e-mails, as well as baby-sitting younger sibs while moms volunteer @ school.

Posted by: volunteer dad | June 9, 2006 1:51 PM

My father coached my soccer team from when I was in third grade through my graduation from high school-- two seasons a year, 10 weeks a season. This meant he left work early two days a week and spent the next two hours of his day with 16 hyper kids. In addition he gave at least three hours every Saturday for games and an additional hour each Sunday for practice. Many dads showed up at practice to help coach and spend some time with their kids. Most of these dads couldn't get the time away from work to be at school during the day, so they volunteered where their schedules would allow it-- after work and on the weekends.

Knowing most of these dads now as an adult (I'm 33, this volunteering was taking place in the 80's through 1991), I can't imagine any of them ever showing up to a luncheon even if they had been able to get to the school to volunteer during the day-- they didn't volunteer for an award or to be noticed by other parents. They wanted to spend time with their kids. I know my dad loves the fact that "kids" from my soccer team still drop by my parents' house periodically to see him, and that he got to spend eight hours a week with me doing an activity that we shared. As far as I can tell that's all he ever wanted out of it. It strikes me the same thing probably holds true with today's dads as well.

Posted by: a grown kid's perspective | June 9, 2006 1:55 PM

My husband and I both work. He volunteers once a week for an hour each morning before school to run the chess club. It means he gets to work late and gets home late, but he feels that it is worth it and gives his time gladly.

Posted by: VAmom | June 9, 2006 1:58 PM

Things I have seen dads do in my children's schools....

PTA/PTO officers (next year two of the four officers at the elem. school are men, one of the 3 "main people" in the middle school PTO is a man) and attendance at meetings as a regular member

Come to the classroom to share about their career - I've seen them lead special field trips to teach children about different things

Chaperone field trips (up to half of the chaperones are usually men)

Volunteer in the classroom on a regular basis

Work at PTA events - the carnival, barbeque, book fairs, sock hop, game night, science/art night, etc.

Serve as chairperson for various committees - this year our direct donation drive chair was a man

Serve on the site council

The list goes on and on....but what I probably could have done was just say "I've seen dads do everything that moms do."

Yes, moms tend to volunteer in schools more than dads. And yes, our volunteer luncheons are usually attended by far more moms than dads. But frankly, the luncheon is kind of "girly" ;o)....even though I often see working moms there (they have to eat, don't they? so why not go have a free lunch?), I don't usually see the working dads.....but maybe that's just because a lot of men aren't interested? I don't think the attendance at the luncheon is representative of the overall picture.

Posted by: momof4 | June 9, 2006 1:59 PM

Thank you luncheon? What does that do to help the school? There is no volunteering or benifit to the kids there, just a vechicle to socialize. Dads would rather do something that will help the school and the kids than do something just for socializing.

Lets see what one male does for his kids schools. Creates all the graphics and ivitations for fund raisers even getting them printed and mailed. All the signage for special events. Is the "grounds keeper" for the sports field at the middle school. The only one to cut the grass, keep the baseball diamond in shape and make sure the irragation works. Coaches. Donates around 50 books per year to the elementary school. Brings in paper and art supplies. Will even bake things for class parties. This dad probably spends about 15 hours each week doing things for the school whether it is in session or not. Also raises about 10% of all money that is raised for the PTA. This is probably not an issolated issue and by the way, hasen't seen a women help him yet. Men will do by action and project, but a luncheon is not the thing for me or most men.

Posted by: J | June 9, 2006 2:00 PM

Men have utterly no desire to volunteer for bake sales and such. Men and women have different interests pure and simple. Why do taklking heads act as if they just stepped onto planet earth two minutes ago?

Posted by: PATRICK | June 9, 2006 2:03 PM

Oh, and I forgot to add....

Using the math behind the number of SAHMs vs. SAHDs as an explanation as to why dads don't volunteer as much as moms is very simplistic. It makes the assumption that working parents don't volunteer....and not only is that is far from the truth, it furthers the separation/conflict between working moms and SAHMs because it makes it sound like SAHMs run the show at the school. We already have a problem in some areas of the country with working moms complaining about how they can't do anything what with Muffy and Buffy the SAHMs already doing everything....well.....let's not encourage that problem by explaining the dad/mom volunteering thing by using the working/SAH thing!

Posted by: momof4 | June 9, 2006 2:03 PM

Part of the reason is how women (moms) operate. They want you to help IF you will do it on their time, in their way and to their satisfaction while they run everything. No wonder men say screw that. Been there done that, no thanks

Posted by: James | June 9, 2006 2:08 PM

My husband has been unemployed for several months, so he has fulfilled the volunteer hours requirement this year at our daughter's private school. However, he chose to work with the tech committee on improving the school's computer access, rather than helping in a classroom or chaperoning field trips. Just because you don't see them doesn't mean dads aren't volunteering for the schools!

Posted by: WOHM with SAHD | June 9, 2006 2:11 PM

At my daughter's school, dads have improved the playground by building structures at no cost to the school.
Built gardens and explained medicinal purposes of plants to classes.
I've done career days in front of 30 eager beavers.

I've never heard anyone comment about Dads vs. Moms on the volunteering thing.

As for the recognitions elementary schools do, how about this one? During kindergarten, I used to come in and help with labs just before my lunch time. I'd spend an hour with the class on whatever the teacher was presenting that day. As recognition, at the end of the school year. I was invited for "tea time" with all the other volunteers(mothers all). I just couldn't do it. But I did volunteer for the entire year.

Posted by: Rich | June 9, 2006 2:17 PM

I notice that Leslie was the one at the volunteer luncheon. Where was HER husband Perry???

Posted by: Kansas City | June 9, 2006 2:22 PM

Megan, I swear I'm not generalizing to be irritating or inflamatory. And, I'm sure I don't speak for all the Dads nor am I well-informed enough to comment on all the Moms.

But is your frustration with my generalization really that different from some Dads frustration about how Leslie's questions (like today's) can sometime frame our role in parenting? That's really not to bash Leslie. But by virtue of this blog/community, she has a uniquely broad perspective on fatherhood. Sometimes it seems like it doesn't factor into how she frames the discussion each morning.

On another of your points, the board's reaction to the plight of SAHMs vs SAHDs, I don't see the disconnect there that you do. I think it's exactly aligned with what we are seeing here. I think it ties back into the societal perception of what-is-Mom's-[or Dad's] job, who defines those perceptions and whether people who break those molds are treated unfairly.

[smile everybody, it's almost the weekend!]

Posted by: Proud Papa | June 9, 2006 2:28 PM

I keep our kids and commute two hours a day to work while my wife travels and frankly she has no appreciation at all. She will get home and act as if I was her underperforming employee because we did not do everything to her normal schedule. (She telecommutes)Women don't appreciate men's contributions and deep down are afraid of men replacing them as mother's I think.

Posted by: Wesley | June 9, 2006 2:32 PM

I'm constantly amazed at how you make grandiose conclusions based upon the barest of facts. Do you really, honestly think you can extrapolate your one thank-you luncheon out to the nation as a whole? Maybe you need to take a statistics class. Or, even a basic journalism class.

Here, I'll mess up your stats a bit. I was invited to the "thank you volunteer" night at my kids' school for work that I did together with my wife. Unfortunately, I couldn't make it. Maybe you should, you know, actually interview and talk to people next time before jumping to sensationalistic conclusions.

Posted by: New York Dad | June 9, 2006 2:40 PM

Wesley, I'm sorry to hear about your case and I hope you can improve it, but I have to say that this is not the case in our house. My wife travels a fair amount so I do about 70% of the routine child rearing (bathing, feeding, reading, playing, appointments, bus duty...), and I also work full time. And my wife is very appreciative, towards me and in the company of our other adult friends.

If you haven't already done so, tell your wife. It's your life too.

Posted by: Anonymous | June 9, 2006 2:43 PM

I see this disparity, too, but there are so many possible explanations:

(1) Statistics of stay-at-home moms vs. dads: as noted, 40 times as many SAHMs vs SAHDs means 1-2 dads, on average, in a group that size. But beyond this you also have to consider part-time work: I do not know the statistics, but from my own experience, it seems that more families have dads who work full-time and moms who work part-time than the other way around. So again, mom might have more ability to get off work.

(2) Daytime events: as others have noted, daytime events make it very hard for working parents of either gender to participate. Since that category includes more dads than moms, dads are again excluded at a higher rate.

(3) Priorities: again as noted, if either my husband and I are going to make time out of the day to volunteer at our kids' schools, it is going to be for something that directly benefits the kids, not some thank-you lunch.

(4) Type of event: As a couple of dads have noted, the whole luncheon idea just sounds like a female thing that isn't necessarily designed to attract dads. Heck, it's not my thing, either.

(5) What do we really give credit for, anyway? I get the impression that when we think of volunteering at the school we think in terms of very specific, stereotypically female things -- the bake sales, the field trips, the room moms who were profiled a few days ago, etc. I think there's a good reason for this: a lot of ideas, like bake sales and room mothers, originated decades ago, during a time when women were expected to stay home and dads were expected to go to work, so they naturally were created by women, for women, during times that fit within women's schedules (i.e., after the morning rush of breakfast and bus stop, and before the family came home and mom needed to start cooking, overseeing homework and bedtime, etc.).

Now, of course, fewer moms have time to do things during the day, and a lot more dads are interested in/able to/expected to take a more active role in their kids' lives and schools. But the ways of supporting a school haven't always changed to reflect that -- it's like we expect dads to conform to the traditional volunteer role, instead of changing that role to fit dads (and WOHMs). So we keep asking "why don't more dads do bake sales?" instead of "how can we come up with new ways to give dads an opportunity to support their kids' schools in a way that fits both their interests and schedules?"

I think there are a lot of men who contribute to the schools in any number of ways. As some dads noted, they may volunteer to help fix up the playground, or drive the bus for the field trip, etc. But these kinds of things may not be considered "volunteering" in the same way as being a room mother.

In our family, we split dropoff/pickup and field trips; neither of us does much daytime stuff beyond the periodic field trip, or participates in the various committees, both because of our schedules and because that's just not where our interests lie. But I do like to cook, so I will bring food for class parties or picnics. He doesn't, and so it would be stupid for him to go bake a pan of brownies for a bake sale. On the other hand, he'll happily man the grill at the annual picnic. And if they ever need a power tool of any kind, or someone to help fix something that's broken, he'd be all over that (he's a guy AND an engineer, and just lives for this stuff). When our kids get older and are in real school, I can see him offering to help out tutoring some kids informally in the areas he has expertise in. But those kinds of things don't necessarily get the same recognition as being on a committee or manning a bake sale table.

I think this is true for a lot of families. There are a lot of very involved dads at my daughter's school -- every morning and evening, dads represent at least half of the parents doing dropoff and pickup, I've seen several waiting for parent-teacher conferences (during the day), and the periodic kids' concerts, etc., are equally well attended by moms and dads. So it's clearly NOT that dads just aren't involved or interested in their kids' lives and schools. I think it's more that dads just aren't given the opportunity to contribute in ways that are meaningful to them, and/or aren't recognized for all that they do give.

Posted by: Laura | June 9, 2006 2:51 PM

"Using the math behind the number of SAHMs vs. SAHDs as an explanation as to why dads don't volunteer as much as moms is very simplistic. It makes the assumption that working parents don't volunteer....and not only is that is far from the truth, it furthers the separation/conflict between working moms and SAHMs because it makes it sound like SAHMs run the show at the school. We already have a problem in some areas of the country with working moms complaining about how they can't do anything what with Muffy and Buffy the SAHMs already doing everything....well.....let's not encourage that problem by explaining the dad/mom volunteering thing by using the working/SAH thing!"

Fine - make the algebra a bit more complicated. It's reasonable to assume that stay-at-home anythings find it easier to schedule time to volunteer during the school day. Let's say they can, on average, contribute 8 to 10 hours of time for every 1 hour a working whatever can contribute. Use the assumption of 40 times more stay-at-home moms than stay-at-home dads. You'll get essentially the same result - more stay-at-home moms results in more moms volunteering at school.

If you don't like those assumptions - choose your own. Say, stay at home parents can contribute 4 hours to every one contributed by a working parent? Here's the key issue - do you really believe that there's no difference, that working parents contribute, on average, as many volunteer hours per school year as stay-at-home parents?

Posted by: Anonymous | June 9, 2006 3:08 PM

Proud Papa, I know you're not trying to be inflamatory, I actually really enjoy your honesty and openness.

Re your question: "But is your frustration with my generalization really that different from some Dads frustration about how Leslie's questions (like today's) can sometime frame our role in parenting?" You're right, its probably not that much different; but, I still think the tone of Leslie's post was much less generalizing than what has been posted by some of the angry men today. Leslie basically said, "This is my observation. Is it generally true? Why is true?" Yes, it made an unfair assumption in moving from the first question to the second, but it was generally posited as an inquiry into whether what she observed was generally true. Your remark came across to me as more of a statement that all moms undervalue all dads, without those qualifiers (ie, without the recognition that this was your experience and you wondered whether others had experienced the same); though now that I have the opportunity to compare it with Wesley's, it seems much less that way...

Posted by: Megan | June 9, 2006 3:13 PM

Don't forget the dads that volunteer with scouting groups as well. These activities usually take place after work and on the weekends and many dads end up using an entire week of vacation time to supervise their kids at week long scout camps.

Posted by: Anonymous | June 9, 2006 3:22 PM

Are we implicitly assuming a definition of "fairness" based on both parents spending an equal amount of time on each and every parenting activity? Assuming Leslie's observation is correct - is it necessarily a cause for concern? What if we were to find that more men were soccer coaches than women (or scout leaders, or football coaches, etc.)? Sure - we don't want to exclude women from any of these roles, and there's some value in having moms provide role models to girls in these areas, but do we really need to get to 50%/50%? If so, why? Where's the harm in 60/40 - or 90/10 for that matter (as long as it isn't due to some form of overt discrimination)?

Posted by: Anonymous | June 9, 2006 3:30 PM

I started volunteering 25 years ago when my oldest child started first grade. And I very quickly learned about the "culture" (or should I just say "cult"?) of the volunteer moms. No dads, as I recall.

Volunteering, for the most active volunteers, was mostly about THEM - not about the little kids or the teachers. They were insanely territorial, often pulling rank and insisting on being "the class Mom" every single year their kid was in school! Gossip and back-biting were rampant.

Still, I persisted and volunteered - mostly for one-on-one contact with the kids, like hearing oral book reports for reading club, phonics drills, etc. or for "behind the scenes" jobs. I avoided all "committees". One year, I gave a teacher 4 hours every Monday morning doing whatever she wanted me to do and she said it had been her best year ever! (I was still not the "class mom"! Thank goodness. Let HER decorate the unhealthy cupcakes.)

Why would anyone (male or female) want to skip paid work or yoga class to do this stuff, under these conditions? So, yes, I usually skipped the "thank you" brunch - yet another BIG PRODUCTION of the higher-up PTA volunteers. I skipped them when I was a SAHM, and then a student, and then a full-time working Mom but still kept volunteering. For my kids and their teachers. A short, heartfelt, old-fashioned, thank-you note from the teacher was enough for me.

(PS - Men would not put up with the pettiness!)

Posted by: granny | June 9, 2006 3:56 PM

"Volunteering, for the most active volunteers, was mostly about THEM - not about the little kids or the teachers. They were insanely territorial, often pulling rank and insisting on being "the class Mom" every single year their kid was in school! Gossip and back-biting were rampant."

We all tend to seek "success" in whatever field of endeavor we choose. Could be that what would manifest itself at work as ambition to advance in a career has relatively little outlet in the stay-at-home mom world, and ends up coming out this way.

Posted by: Anonymous | June 9, 2006 4:05 PM

Probably. Sad, isn't it?

Posted by: granny | June 9, 2006 4:07 PM

I'm with the men in my reaction to the piece...whether intended or not, the implication was that men don't volunteer. I think the many points about men doing manual labor or activities outside of the school (coaching, scouting) are right on and maybe point to our bias about what is volunteering and what is not.

I find the volunteer lunches to be an absolute chore, just another chance for the PTA Nazi mom's to demonstrate their superiority. I doubt I would attend even if it weren't planned in the middle of the day. If my husband were to attend, there would likely be blood shed by the time it was over!!

Posted by: Tired Mom | June 9, 2006 4:17 PM

How about it, men? Volunteer! And reform the warped system for the benefit of all of us! We welcome you. (Well, some of us do. HaHa.)

Posted by: granny | June 9, 2006 4:22 PM

I am a stay at home mom and my husband works outside of the house. I do the volunteering at school when there's any to be done, but my husband is also very involved with the kids for practices, homework, and just dad-kid stuff. We are fine with our division of labor.

I also think that this hue and cry about dads not volunteering is sent up by the hens who rule the roost at school -- you know who I'm talking about, the queen bees who like color coordinated paper products at a preschool picnic -- to make martyrs out of themselves yet again. Not across the board, maybe, but primarily the "involved" moms are the ones I'd cross the street to avoid talking with. The helicopter moms.

Posted by: Another Mom | June 9, 2006 4:34 PM

"Cult of Volunteer Moms" (Quoting Granny-'insanely territorial, often pulling rank')is to regular mom, as regular mom is to......regular dad?

Posted by: More Math | June 9, 2006 4:34 PM

Subtle bias? Nothing subtle about it at all. It's the result of rampant societal sexism that gives women CHOICES while denying them to men. You get to choose to work or be a stay-at-home parent to your children. Men don't.

Posted by: Barry | June 9, 2006 4:48 PM

Another Mom - I agree. It sounds like there's too darn much volunteering going on in schools these days. I applaud all parents (moms and dads alike) with the common sense to stay away.

Posted by: Friend | June 9, 2006 4:51 PM

I think it's
a) because we don't encourage males to do those things
b) because we don't expect males to do those things

It's a very rare mom who looks at a dad as more than the "temp who just walked in the office and doesn't even know how to use the coffee machine but at least it's someone answering the phones in an emergency."

Once we start educating, encouraging and expecting dads to do the things that moms do, then it won't be so disparate.

Posted by: Liz | June 9, 2006 4:51 PM


That is not what I'm saying at all. What I am saying is that if we want to change anything about the ""Cult of Volunteer Moms" - the queen bees of colored paper - etc. - that working parents need to step up and volunteer FOR their children's school in some manner that fits their schedules and not just say "I work, I can't volunteer" and leave it up to the Queen Bee Cult. If you don't like the QBC, worm your way in and put an end to it.

'Tis true, working parents often have a hard time helping in the classroom because of work schedules. But there is plenty of help needed that could be done from home in the evenings, weekends, etc. - as well as the running the grill at the barbeque and the manning a table at the science night and the running the beanbag toss at the carnival type of stuff. If we say that "because there are more SAHMs than SAHDs, there will be more female volunteers", we're not giving any credit to the working parents who DO volunteer.

I realize that because of the algebra involved that there will still be more volunteer time available by mothers, but if you explain the difference of volunteerism in schools between men and women by "oh, there's more SAHMs than SAHDs", you're forgetting about all of the working parents - technically if equal numbers of working parents, men and women, volunteered, it would dilute the difference that we see now.

Posted by: momof4 | June 9, 2006 4:54 PM

My last post was in response to this:

"Here's the key issue - do you really believe that there's no difference, that working parents contribute, on average, as many volunteer hours per school year as stay-at-home parents?"

Posted by: momof4 | June 9, 2006 4:56 PM

I agree with the already expressed sentiment that taking observations of a single event and extrapolating them out to draw a conclusion along the lines of "fathers don't don't volunteer more" is ludicrous.

The best point I've seen so far is that certain events draw moms, and certain events draw dads. To add an example, my daughter's school has an annual field trip to the Air&Space Museum that hasn't had a single mother/grandmother chaperone in the last three years. In fact, the field trip actually results in dad (and grandfathers too!) jockeying for the limited number of chaperone slots ...

Posted by: Oak Hill Dad | June 9, 2006 5:01 PM

"It sounds like there's too darn much volunteering going on in schools these days. I applaud all parents (moms and dads alike) with the common sense to stay away."

What a nice attitude.

Just for the record, the volunteering I see in our schools IS for the children. The fundraising that's done at my daughter's elementary school pays for the art teacher's salary, a portion of the music teacher's salary, and part of a reading specialist's salary, in addition to many smaller items like field trip transportion, teacher discretionary money for photocopying, classroom supplies, etc. Volunteers are listening to children read, helping them with math & writing, supervising in the computer lab, library, playground, and cafeteria, and helping in the office. They're doing administrative tasks for the teachers. They're running community builders in the evenings that are attended by all children, not just their own or those of their fellow volunteers.

Class sizes here are in the high 20's for primary (K-3) and low 30's for intermediate (4-5). My children have between 35 & 40 in their middle school classrooms. Having additional adults in the classroom means that the student to adult ratio is lowered, and I think most people agree that is a good thing.

Don't make the assumption that it's all about class parties and spirit week and bake sales (oh, I have had children in public schools for 9 years and have never seen a bake sale.)

Posted by: momof4 | June 9, 2006 5:06 PM

"technically if equal numbers of working parents, men and women, volunteered, it would dilute the difference that we see now."

That would tend to reduce the difference. But as long as:

1) stay-at-home parents volunteer, on average, more hours than working parents; and

2) proportionately more women are stay-at-home parents,

you'll still see a higher proportion of volunteer time provided by women.

I don't see how that takes any credit away from working parents who volunteer. Frankly, I think that ANY parent who volunteers should be recognized (though granny's point is well taken, that volunteers should not be building little empires to rule). Given that it's more of a challenge, I wouldn't even arm wrestle you about it if you wanted to give more recognition to parent volunteers who work outside the home.

Posted by: Anonymous | June 9, 2006 5:06 PM

"You get to choose to work or be a stay-at-home parent to your children. Men don't."

My husband does. He decided to start his own business part time and stay home part time. If you don't have a choice, it's because of who you married or your own sense of limitation, not because no man does.

Seems like some of the male posters have some serious communication issues with their wives. I seems to recall LC criticizing women once for posting their complaints here instead of talking to their husbands; seems like the men today need the same advice. If you are all so burdened and undervalued and have no choices, maybe you should take it up with your wives rather than assuming that all relationships are that way.

Posted by: Megan | June 9, 2006 5:07 PM

Megan, hear, hear. I simply cannot stand spouses badmouthing each other. And it happens all the time, with men and women. It feels like they're trying to invite me into their relationship to give my opinion. Not interested. I respect my husband far too much to ever start ripping into him the way I've seen some people do to their spouses.

Bring your problems up at home and solve them there.

Posted by: Another Mom | June 9, 2006 5:26 PM

"You get to choose to work or be a stay-at-home parent to your children. Men don't."

And we also get to be lambasted for making the "wrong" choice whichever way we go.

Posted by: Rockville Mom | June 9, 2006 5:27 PM

(PS - Men would not put up with the pettiness!) I've come to be very fond of the mom volunteers at our school and I don't find them petty, catty or cliquie. That's such an unfair stereotype.

The moms and dads in our community bring their skills to the school and contribute in so many different ways. I tend to stay out of the classroom because I totally don't belong there. If a call comes out for something where I can contribute and I have the time, I do so.

School is your child's own special environment. Show up sometime and let them share it with you. That alone is worth the time and effort. If you ridicule those who do so it says so much more about you than it does about them.

Posted by: coaster | June 9, 2006 5:38 PM

That's bananas if not an outright lie. Did none of the gay dads volunteer? That guarantees 2 or 3 dads in every class. At a recent Zoo fieldtrip only one mom showed up and the rest were men. Do you live in Herndon or some macho southern haven where men don't watch the kids? I still can't figure out the gay dad angle- did both just not show up?

Posted by: Don | June 9, 2006 6:38 PM

Thank you ALL for your comments about dads volunteering. Didn't mean to insult dads or moms -- I was just really curious. And now, I have lots and lots of information to satisfy my curiousity. Thanks for being so candid, and pointed -- sometimes, being blunt is the most efficient way.

Posted by: Leslie | June 9, 2006 10:58 PM

Leslie went to ONE luncheon in the MIDDLE of the day WITHOUT her husband.
Then Leslie jumped to the nationwide conclusion that father's don't volunteer, and opines that there is gender bias.

Does Leslie have an editor?

Posted by: Arrgh | June 10, 2006 5:37 AM

This is my problem--it takes me so long to read through all of these postings! My daughter's coach for soccer for the last 5 years has been the same guy--and he has three kids. Her girl scout leader has been the same woman for 5 years. My husband, who has a two and a half hour commute each day, has taken vacation time to volunteer his expertise and equipment for a major event at a school where I teach and my kids don't even go! He rarely volunteers at school, but attends the big events. The school is not our social life. He did volunteer to go on the big camping trip last month. That one activity was more than 24 hours long and beats me in hours logged! FYI, I was not going to go on the camp-out, and my kid was not going unless one of us went! He reports that the number of males and females was about equal. He also reports that he is not doing it again:)

I think we are looking at this subject sideways. Is it really about which sex volunteers the most? Who cares? Locally, I care if there is a need at the school. If there is a need, I will either pitch in or find someone to pitch in (sorry, I can't really help with your computer set-up but I can help with the book fair). Another aspect of this subject that has come up is the volunteer clique. Now that would be an interesting column, because it exists and is rampant.

As far as luncheons go, you just can't know how awful they can be. In the last week we had three luncheons. They are very uncomfortable for me on a social level because I am not in the "inner circle." I went to one and even took a fabulous dish and skipped the others.

Some people never really do get out of middle school. I think if we are looking for blanket statements about volunteerism at school is that like everything else, the schools that need it rarely have it and the schools that don't have an excess of it, no matter if the volunteers have a y chromosome or not. Leslie, if you need topics why don't you ask your blog audience?

Here is one for you: who among us feels like they have a balanced life with work, family and children? What constitutes a balanced life? Do you have it every day or does it come and go? What is your recipe for a balanced life?

Posted by: parttimer | June 11, 2006 11:08 AM

My dad volunteered at all of my schools before I reached an age where parents weren't needed for field trips anymore. He was the class favorite, and because he worked from home (he is now retired), he had the time and the dedication to do it. He still has the visitor stickers they gave him and has stuck them on his framed diplomas.

So yes, dads do volunteer. Why did you even ask?

Posted by: Um | June 11, 2006 8:44 PM

My dad volunteered at all of my schools before I reached an age where parents weren't needed for field trips anymore. He was the class favorite, and because he worked from home (he is now retired), he had the time and the dedication to do it. He still has the visitor stickers they gave him and has stuck them on his framed diplomas.

So yes, dads do volunteer. Why did you even ask?

Posted by: Um | June 11, 2006 8:45 PM

If there's any "subtle bias" in school volunteering, I think it comes from two cultural factors: outdated attitudes about parenting roles, and homophobic peer pressure among men. The discredited idea that fathers should be providers and not caretakers still has an emotional hold on many people, even those who have consciously rejected the idea. I suspect on a subconscious level, many fathers see volunteering with kids as "women's work" or worry that it will emasculate them. Or they might worry razzing from other fathers if they're not involved in "manly" volunteering such as sports or computer tutoring. If so, I think that's sad, because they're cheating not only themselves but also the kids.

Posted by: John | June 12, 2006 10:19 AM

If a family is a team, then everyone's contributions are valuable. When a PTA event for the 6-year-old's school needs volunteers, the parents say to each other, "Which would you rather do on Thursday night, volunteer at the book fair, or keep the baby at home?" Then each can choose what s/he prefers. If one parent always chooses staying home with the little ones, and the other always chooses volunteering at school, it could look to the unthinking observer that the first parent (in this case, the mom) is doing all the work, but the family members know differently. They know that each person in the family is fulfilling family responsibilities. It's the same when one parent is earning the family income and the other is taking care of kids at home -- both parents, and all the kids, are doing their part. Everyone doing their part is what makes our homes and schools function well. My kids' school always sent home a little thank you to each FAMILY who participated during the year. Sometimes it was the older kids in the family who came back to volunteer at school when their younger siblings' class events needed help. I remember doing this myself as a high school and college student -- going to the local elementary school events when my youngest sister was there, because my parents had my handicapped sister at home and couldn't volunteer.

Posted by: maryjulia | June 12, 2006 1:22 PM

I am a working single mom. I am also the room mom. I have seen dads at the school volunteering many times. In fact, there are many times when I recruit the dads to help - and not the moms.

You wrote, "Last week, I went to a thank-you luncheon for more than 60 parent volunteers at my childrens' school. There were working moms, stay-at-home moms and one grandmother. Not a dad in sight. "

Perhaps those dads stayed away for the same reason I stay away. I volunteer because I want to. I don't need to be recognized. Besides, if I am going to take a day off, it is going to be to help. In five years, I have gone to one "appreciation"... and I was tricked into it. They presented awards right before a chorus performance!

Posted by: Anonymous | June 13, 2006 8:55 AM

Let me see if this sounds familiar to some dads out there: I drop both of my kids off at school in the morning year round. Then I go to work and stay there until 5pm. Along with some light volunteer work, my wife stays busy talking on her cell phone and driving her Lexus SUV to manicures, pedicures, tennis lessons, piano lessons, the mall, and the ice cream store. Needless to say, after the kids are put to bed, she's too stressed and tired to have sex. This is why escort services and massage parlors remain thriving businesses. Sorry ladies, but it's true.

Posted by: frustrated dad | June 13, 2006 11:25 AM

As a State of Michigan employee, my husband gets eight hours of school leave per year. School leave is not charged against Annual Leave or Personal Leave, it is strictly for volunteering at school. School leave can be used in an eight hour block or in other increments, and must be used for an activity that benefits more than just the employees' own child. Employees without children can use their school leave at any school they choose, as long as their volunteer work benefits more than one child. My husband always uses his eight hours of school leave, and, because he has been employed consistently and I have not, he earns more Annual Leave time than I do, and he uses that for volunteering at school after he exhausts his School Leave. Sometimes, when we are out in our community, women I've never seen before greet him by name because they've volunteered at school with him. He loves it when I ask, "Who is that woman and how do you know her?"

Posted by: Michigan Mom | June 13, 2006 1:20 PM

My dad didn't really volunteer, and he was a WAHD (but traveled a lot for business). My mom volunteered a little bit.

I think one part of this may be that fathers have a harder time getting off in general. Some people say that many companies/workforce, CERTAINLY NOT ALL, are more accomodating to females than males. If this is the case, it is really likely that a full-time working dad would use whatever time he could get for a volunteer luncheon as opposed to when their kids were sick/check-ups/vacation/parent-teacher conferences.

as a sidenote, the census numbers might be a little bit deflated, because it could exlude fathers who are mostly SAHPs, but do freelance a little. They wouldn't be counted in that figure.

Posted by: college kid | June 13, 2006 11:05 PM

Oh and as a sidenote, I think the lack of dads volunteering, or less of it might be a reflection of the lack of gen-x dads touching those numbers yet. Research tends to show gen x dads are more involved in their kids' lives than baby boomers, but my guess is most gen-x dads now probably have like infants, toddlers, and preschoolers, so maybe when their kids reach school, the involvement of dads will be felt more.

Posted by: college kid | June 13, 2006 11:12 PM

To frustrated dad - you wrote, "Along with some light volunteer work, my wife stays busy talking on her cell phone and driving her Lexus SUV to manicures, pedicures, tennis lessons, piano lessons, the mall, and the ice cream store. Needless to say, after the kids are put to bed, she's too stressed and tired to have sex."

I wish I had her day! I wake my daughter up before leaving for work. I come in early if I want to take an extended lunch so that I can help out at the school (not all the time, just when needed). I make the soccer games, chaparone field trips and so on....I start dinner and help with homework when I get home. Then I clean up and getthings ready for the next day. Manicures? Pedicures? TENNIS LESSONS???? Who has time for that? Regarddless of how tired I am, I make sure I make time for my other half. Granted, there are days that I am just beat... but I make an effort.

Your wife (and those women like her) need a reality check. It's funny, I am friends with their husbands, but I could do without the women! I suppose that is why I get those dirty looks. I feel for you. We should have a post on high maintenence wives that don't realize how good they have it!

Posted by: Working my butt off but keeping my priorities straight! | June 14, 2006 8:32 AM

Wow, frustrated dad, that sucks. Why are you in this situation? I'm sorry your wife is high maintenance and rotten, but please don't assume that all of us are, and don't apologize to us "ladies" in your condescending tone about whatever philandering you may engage in because you haven't fixed the problems in your marriage. It's your life, you got yourself into this situation, now get yourself out of it.

Posted by: Megan | June 14, 2006 12:27 PM

I think it has do with the fact that female pundits are invariably wealthy. Which means they are usually married to high income dads who are locked into the traditional role of breadwinner. These parents are the only ones who can afford highly exclusive private schools, where the level of dad involvement doesn't reflect the norm for the rest of the country. The commentariat then feels free to bash dads based on their own skewed experiences!

Posted by: Stephen | June 15, 2006 5:50 PM

The comments to this entry are closed.


© 2007 The Washington Post Company