I've been wondering about the notion of Mother's Day and Father's Day for a while now. How does that work for people who are non-binary or people who gave birth to their child but identify as male? How does it work for the families where everyone takes whatever role is necessary? How does it work for the single parent home where the one person might be fulfilling all of the roles? And, really, why are we even defining parenting roles as masculine or feminine?
Today, on this Father's Day, I saw a post from a local school district where it stated, “We applaud all the dads who . . .” and proceeded to list all of the things a mother would be expected to do all of the time. Why are we still, in 2023, suggesting that when a man fulfills his responsibility as a parent he deserves applause and congratulations but a woman doing the same thing is just expected to do that? When women are still fighting for equality, and even for the right to control their own bodies, we can support equality by NOT assigning roles within the household based on gender. Meanwhile, an organization in charge of the education of children should not be continuing the relegation of gender roles with such comments about fathers being applauded for being the parents they chose to be.
Certainly, fathers and mothers deserve recognition for the hard work of parenting. Perhaps, in June, which is also Pride month, we need to take the time to question the way society imposes gender roles which results in discrimination and inequality. In Pride month where we are trying to gain recognition for the equality of all people regardless of sexual orientation or gender identity, it is time to think about all of the little institutionalized rituals and celebrations we do in this world that are heteronormative and actually promote the separation of genders by distinguishing between masculine and feminine roles. Though male and female physiology may result in different skills and strengths between the sexes, they do not need to define our expectations of how we function as adult human beings in this world. We should all be responsible for the care and love of our children. We should all be responsible for making sure that they have food, water and shelter. Gender does not dictate who is capable of fulfilling these responsibilities. All parents involved in a child's life should be going to parent-teacher interviews and supporting them in their learning while making sure they have the advocacy they need in their schools and in their communities. These roles and this work does not require a specific gender and we get better results with a collaborative approach within the child’s village rather than focusing on a "your job-my job" paradigm.
Parenting is one of the most challenging and most important jobs in the world. Let's not make it any more difficult than it needs to be by suggesting that your gender identity determines your role within a child’s life. I think it may be time to move away from celebrating “Mother's Day” and “Father's Day” and just combine it into one very important “Parents’ Day.” On this day all people who function as parents to young people should be celebrated and thanked within our society. For instance, if they show up at a restaurant with their children, they get a free course to their meal, and if the children are well-behaved, the parents get free dessert too 😊.
All kidding aside, Parenting is so challenging and rewarding, and so very important -- let's stop making it about gender roles. Let's make it about the important work that's being done to ensure that all children's lives matter, that every child has an advocate and has someone who sees them as precious and wonderful.
Happy Parents' Day to all the adults who care for our young people!