It may be 2019, but the Parent-Teacher Association, or PTA, is still — for the most part — the realm of moms, not dads. So when tennis star Andy Roddick decided to get involved in the preschool version of PTA, his wife, Brooklyn Decker, admitted on Twitter that she positively swooned:
My husband just joined our kids’ preschool Parent Council (our version of PTA) as the only dad and honestly he’s never been sexier. @andyroddick
— Brooklyn Decker (@BrooklynDecker) August 29, 2019
Kudos to Roddick for getting involved — but to be fair, why should dads get applause for volunteering when moms are expected to give up their extra time to do the same? This phenomenon has been referred to as “the second shift” in a book by Arlie Hochschild, a Berkeley sociologist. In her studies of couples, she discovered that the women endured a “double day” — that is, they returned home from a full day’s paid work to another round of unpaid housework, childcare and expected volunteering, which added up to an extra month more than their partners every single year.
That’s especially sobering considering that women are increasingly becoming the main breadwinners of their families — and yet the expectations to volunteer in, say, PTA situations, linger on. The guilt of not volunteering is still an overwhelming burden for many mothers, much less so for fathers. Will this dynamic ever change?
Well, there are some hints and stirrings that change is, in fact, happening — slowly but surely. A decade ago, in 2009, a father became the head of the nation’s Parent Teacher Association for the first time. That was quite a big deal for an organization founded as the “National Congress of Mothers” in 1897.
The National PTA now offers a male inclusion toolkit to encourage chapters to seek out father representation. It turns out there are major benefits to having dads on board when it comes to PTA groups. Research shows that having dads and father figures involved in kids’ education tends to increase student test scores and grades, as well as attendance at school and extracurricular activities. Dads getting involved with school groups is linked to better cognitive development and improved socio-emotional and academic functioning in children as well.
There’s also some hopeful research from Pew on fatherhood in 2019 that makes us think the PTA won’t be the realm of mostly moms forever. Take these facts to heart:
- More dads than ever are staying home to take care of their kids.
- Dads are viewing their parenthood as central to their identity in far greater numbers.
- Working fathers are newly challenged by work-family balance.
- Many dads feel they’re not doing enough as parents — an uptick for sure.
Hey, welcome to our world, dads. We know the feeling. We’ll see you on Tuesday at PTA.