A frustrated single mom writes:
I stumbled across your website while searching for ideas about how to handle Father's Day. I pride myself in being a single mom who works hard to find ideas and facilitate change. At this time, I could really use some help! My daughter, who is three-and-a-half years old, attends a very exclusive school of two-parent households. They are having a Father's Day breakfast and presentation much like they had on Mother's Day. I have gone from planning to attend to wanting to take her out of school for a week to prevent any hurtful backlash. Please help me with any ideas you may have. Thank you so much!
First, it really frustrates me when schools don't think more broadly about the communities they serve. For what it's worth, I'm sure you're not the only mom at your daughter's school who's struggling with the same concerns. And most of the time it's pure ignorance -- as in, they have no idea. They slap something on a flyer without thinking about what it means to the kids who don't have dads in their lives or whose dads can't attend. And while it's upsetting, it usually isn't malicious.
Here are a few of the things you could do:
- Ask the school to rename the event. These kinds of events are often run by volunteer committees who are, sadly, just not considering the needs of every child when they're putting an event like this together. (To give them the benefit of the doubt, they're often juggling many tasks at once and simply defer to whatever each event has been called previously.) So call the director or principal and let them know that not every child in the community comes from a dual-parent household and ask them to rename the event using language that is more inclusive. For example, the Father's Day Breakfast could be renamed "Special Person's Breakfast" or "Tea for Two" so that the children can bring whomever they want to the event. For more names, read How to Rename School Events With More Inclusive Language
Related: When to Share Family Problems With Your Child's School
- Send your daughter with a surrogate parent. Another option would be sending your daughter to the event with a father-figure -- an uncle, a grandparent, a neighbor -- and pointing out your concerns to the school after the event takes place, focusing your call for change on next year's event schedule. Timing is everything, and the benefit here is that addressing it in a way that puts the planning committee less on the spot with the school administration may help them be more receptive to what you're saying.
- Take your daughter to the event yourself. If you get questions, just smile and say, "In our house, I get to be both mom and dad." There's nothing wrong with being proud of the work you're doing as a single parent!
- You could boycott the event. Technically, this is an option. And when you're brainstorming solutions, it's important to look at everything available to you. However, if you go this route, I recommend talking about it with your daughter first. If she feels strongly that she wants to attend, listen to what she's saying and figure out how you can abide by her wishes and still address the issue. If you both decide that skipping the event is what you want to do, plan something special instead. For example, go out to dinner, go to a "paint your own" pottery place, or take in a movie she's been asking to see.
Related: 101 Absolutely Free Kids' Activities
As far as backlash, there shouldn't be any -- from the kids or the parents. Your daughter's classmates may be from dual-parent households today, but half the kids being raised in the U.S. right now will spend some part of their childhood in a single parent household -- so family diversity is not an issue elite schools can continue to ignore anymore!
Finally, the most important thing is that you and your daughter are both be comfortable with whatever you decide. There's no right or wrong answer. And it will probably come up again, so however you handle it this year doesn't have to dictate how you'll handle it in the future. (I'd like to hope that by the time she's in elementary school more schools will "get it," but a lot of them need to actually be told that it's an issue before they start to think creatively about what to call these events...) So whatever you decide to do, step forward with the inner confidence that comes from having your daughter's best interests at heart!