A new school year has arrived and, as is tradition, moms across the country are now flooded with a new laundry list of tasks they need to complete in, like, a day. No, I'm not being sexist in casually assuming it's just moms. I'm being intentional. #NotAllMen or whatever but, let's be honest, there's a lot of back-to-school things dads should be doing. And they're not, because moms are picking up the slack.
Anyone who has spent any amount of time in the parenting corner of the internet knows that study after study has shown that, when it comes to family management, moms do more work. Whether this is ingrained sexism or natural instinct no one can definitively say (though, full disclosure, all my money is on ingrained sexism) but when it comes to managing school, moms are often the default parent. Now, of course, every family has a different dynamic. A stay-at-home mom, for example, is simply in a better position to take on the majority of the household management (since she's there most of the day), but that doesn't mean she has to take on all of it. And when there's two working parents? My dudes, that's a 50/50 situation.
So, on behalf of overworked mothers everywhere: step it the hell up, dads. It's not that we don't appreciate you or think you're a bad guy. It's because we love and respect you that we expect a lot from you. So it's time to ask yourself, honestly, are you doing the following? Because you should.
Know Who Your Kid's Teacher Is
Believe it or not, this is a thing. Some dads literally do not know who their children's teachers are. Now, I wouldn't have believed this nonsense myself, but I have seen it in practice. You guys, this is a person who is responsible for your child seven hours a day. How do you not at least know their name? This feels emblematic of the entire issue, to be honest.
Prepare The Night Before
Mom shouldn't be the only one running around packing lunches, checking calendars, and folding laundry so everyone has clean underwear the next day. I'm not saying you should "pitch in." I'm saying that you're just as responsible for taking initiative on these things as your partner is. So, you know, maybe do that.
Get Them Out The Door
This is an all-hands-on-deck process. If you're home, you're involved. No one gets to sit with a cup of coffee if there are children to be sent off to school. Involve yourself in making breakfast, checking backpacks, and helping with shoes or hair care.
Know Your Child's Schedule
Like, what day is their science project due? What day does your daughter have P.E. so you can tell her she has to wear sneakers and not her beloved "fancy shoes"? When are they going on that field trip where they were asked to bring a towel with them for reasons that were never made entirely clear? The usual schedule and the aberrations in the schedule are important to keep track of
Keep Track Of Relevant Paperwork
Permission slips, vaccination records, absentee notes, contact sheets: the bureaucracy involved in having a child in school can feel overwhelming, especially at the beginning of the year when there are 500 different forms to fill out. So maybe divide them between you and your partner to make it go faster.
Know The Names Of Your Kid's Friends
This can be difficult in some cases (I know some kids who have a new best friend every five minutes) but at least attempt to take an interest in your child's social life. Because I guarantee you at some point it's going to become relevant in your home life and it's going to be good to have some idea of who is who.
Know What's Going On At The School
Is there a Family Fun Night scheduled? Is there a budget vote coming up? How's the search for the new principal going? Is there still time to sign up for intramural kickball?
Look, it can be hard to keep track of all that's going on at all times, and no one expects you to know everything, but having a general idea about the big things is a good move. Check your email. Browse the school website from time to time. Talk to the teacher at drop off or pick up. Talk with other parents. Just, you know, be involved.
Read Materials Sent Home
Hey, we all know that kids don't always bring everything home, but when they do take a look through their assorted folders and binders and see what's going on.
Remember The Various "Wacky Days"
Wacky Hat Day! Silly Socks Day! Super Hero Day! 100th Day of School. It's important to remember!
LOL! I kid. No one remembers all the wacky days. Just do your best, dudes.
Be In Touch With The Teacher
Teachers across the board have told me that one thing they appreciate and, indeed, depend on, is open lines of regular communication with their students' parents. I'm not saying email them with questions you can just as easily look up on your own or anything, but it's helpful to keep track of your child's progress, see if there's anything they should be working on at home, or if there's an issue they think everyone has to come together to address.
In other words, nothing important should come as a surprise when parent/teacher conferences roll around.
Take Turns With Sick Days
Obviously if your partner stays home or has a day off then, mazel tov: you have a built-in "sick day" person. But if you both work you need to coordinate who takes a sick day. Barring unusual circumstances (your partner having unlimited sick days and you having none, for example) this should be something that's evenly divided as much as possible. There's no de facto parent to regularly take sick days.
Help With Homework
Whether it's reading at night or struggling through common core math (YouTube is your friend, folks), your kid will often need an adult and, yep, you're an adult. Dive on in there, papa.
Volunteer If Possible
Obviously whether volunteering is possible depends a lot on work schedules and other assorted factors, but if it's at all possible maybe look into whether this is something you can do. It's a great way to get more involved in the school community.
Communicate With Your Partner
Parenting is hard and throwing in all that goes along with sending a child to school makes it even harder. The good news? Handling it as a team makes it a whole lot easier. So grab their hand and jump on in. Together, you've got this.