Stop Calling Me A School Mom

If you were to look at the org chart of my children’s school you’d see there’s a very strong representation of women. It begins at the top with a female Director. I’m told by friends who are educators that our Director is very well respected in the international school community. She has a PhD, is incredibly tech savvy (we receive podcasts and a digital newsletter on a weekly basis) and speaks with confidence and passion on developing positive, global, active citizens. The school is not small, with over 2,000 students it’s divided into four separate schools, with four separate principals, all of whom report into her.

When it comes to education my girls are shown the same respect and given the same opportunities as my boys. They’ve had female counsellors, female sports teachers, female principals, and a number of strong female leaders around them.

Which is why the whole concept of the “Class Mum” is so depressing.

Like many schools, a lot of the activities and celebrations are organised by volunteers. At the beginning of the year there’s a sign up sheet for class parents; a job which will involve collecting funds and organising small celebrations (Halloween, Valentines, or my very favourite in this neck of the woods the lets-not-call-it-Christmas ‘Winter’ party). I’ve signed up for three out of the four years we’ve been here to be a class parent, and each year the process looks the same. A large group of women, maybe 50? Maybe more? Assemble in the cafeteria. They collect a folder, ask a few questions, get a few ideas on events and if they’re anything like me they’ll suddenly notice the language is changing. “Ladies, just one more thing…” someone will say towards the end of the conversation. Or “now we know the school Mums/Moms already have a lot on their plate but…” and somehow in that moment what originally felt like an opportunity to get involved in your child’s class, now somehow feels like a step back in time to 1954.

It is at this point of the story that I feel the need to point out that I understand why there are more women available to volunteer. I get it. It would be stupid to ignore the facts. Although many of my female friends are working full-time, there are still more women working part-time than men, and more woman choosing to be a Stay at Home parent. In the expat world it becomes even more complicated when you consider work visas and mobile careers. Statistically I understand that they’ll be more women working in the tuck shop. I get it.

What I don’t understand is why more men aren’t putting their hand up to get involved? And why schools continue to push them away with this sort of language?

Perhaps we need to stop talking about School Mums. Perhaps we need to stop sending emails that are addressed to “Class Mums“. Maybe we need to stop walking up to the same two suckers who have volunteered for the baseball tournament, the teacher appreciation lunch, and the bake sale and asking “Hey ladies, do you think you’d be able to help out with the…”. Earlier this week I received an email to let me know that “a couple of the Mums are organising…” with a request for help, I wondered how many Dads immediately figured the request wasn’t directed at them?

While volunteer work at school continues to have a gender bias, our children continue to see a contradiction. Girls, you can be anything; you’re smart, you’re strong, you’re future leaders. And when you grow up, you can volunteer with all the other class Moms at school.

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