Can We Please Stop with the Gender-Specific Parent-Child Events?


Can We Please Stop with the Gender-Specific Parent-Child Events?

Image credit: shutterstock.com

In traditional and nontraditional families alike, love is love

In the new year, I’ve noticed that there has been an uptick of “mommy-daughter tea parties” as well as “daddy-daughter dances.” As a single parent, I have to say I feel a little left out here because most of the time I’m noticing that in the events’ descriptions, there is always the statement “only girls and their special guys allowed, no moms,” etc.

I know that when they say “daddy-daughter dances,” that could mean any important male figure in the child’s life, but sometimes I find it depressing. When these events come up, I worry that my daughter will feel left out. It’s great that we have an amazing uncle or grandfather she could share the event with, but I just feel that a child will reflect and think about her own situation and how a parent may be lacking in her life if she’s being raised in a single-parent household—why magnify this?

Then it got me thinking about the kids who have two moms or two dads—what about them? What if they get asked to an event such as a mommy-daughter tea party, but the child has two dads? I know, the child can ask an aunt or another female figure to attend, since the parents are restricted from this event. That is so bothersome to me because here are the parents (the people who do everything for their child) who are not permitted to enjoy a parent-child-focused event because of gender. After all we parents do for our children, how ridiculous is that? It’s like saying, “Let’s ignore the actions that we take to provide a happy life for our children,” all because of gender and relationship situations—way to minimize what’s important in life here.

As much as people overlook these nontraditional situations, they have become more common than ever.

Statistics show that there are 10 million single mother–led families in the United States. When it comes to gay families and parents, an estimate of six to 14 million children in the United States are living with at least one gay parent. These numbers are not to be overlooked. That is a decent-sized portion of people comprising “nontraditional” families!

So, getting back to discussing these events, I feel that they can alienate and separate the kids who have nontraditional families from the kids who have traditional families, and I think in this day and age, it’s time to be a little more realistic and open-minded.

Recently, my daughter was asked to a father-daughter dance, and it explicitly said “No moms allowed.” Is that what we want to show our kids? That we should not include people based on their gender and/or what their parental role “should” be? The definition of who and what makes a parent is a personal decision and up to the family that is involved. Maybe a child has two moms or two dads and doesn’t distinguish between the two, labeling them “mother” and “father” or maybe the child does based on who the child feels is more feminine and masculine. (I’d have to look into this more.)

The most important concern through all of this, though, is how the kids feel being invited to these events. Besides the fact that they may think about their own situation, what if they want one of their two moms to attend with them or one of their two dads? Or in a single-parent household, what if they have only a mom or a dad and want that parent to attend their tea party or dance? Kids should feel comfortable asking the person with whom they want to spend that special time.

In my eyes, love is love . . . let the kids decide who they want to go to the dance with, and—most important—let them focus on having fun! Life is too short, and there is enough hardship we have to endure in this world . . . why make something as lighthearted as a party weigh us down?

All this got me thinking back to my daughter’s invitation; when she brought it home, she said, “Mom, I got invited to a daddy-daughter dance. . . . What should I do?” I said that she can ask Grandpa or one of her uncles, but she wanted me to come. I tried to explain what these events are all about, you know, making a special memory with a significant fatherly figure in your life, but she still insisted that she wanted me to go with her.

I honestly don’t mind going with her because I’m proud she wants me there, and why would I ever turn down my daughter’s invitation? So I wonder: What would happen if I were to take a stand and go to that dance with my daughter? The important thing that I want her to know is that, no matter what, our situation is totally OK and that I will stand her by her side through anything and everything. I’m not ashamed of our situation—in fact ,  I’m proud of it.

I may not be a “dad” by physical nature, but I am acting in both parental roles of mother and father. I’m the breadwinner and the nurturer, her backbone and provider. Why on earth should that be overlooked? It shouldn’t.

Would the organization that invited her make a scene and turn me away because only “dads” are supposed to be there?

To be honest, I have never been turned away at the door of whatever club in New York City I chose to get into before I had my daughter . . . so why should I be scared to try to get into the door of one of these kids’ parties? Will a huge bouncer with sunglasses be there to stop me? I think not.

I want to teach my daughter that gender has no bearing on parenting or love. That it is a personal view and preference according to every individual. We are all entitled to our own opinions . . . so why should nontraditional families not be heard?

These narrow-minded, outdated traditions have to change with the times. There are various family types, and when organizations continue to highlight the traditional homes and not address the nontraditional ones, it creates a divide of what is “normal” and what isn’t. Kids (and parents) do feel that alienation and don’t appreciate being overlooked or judged.

Even for the kids who do go to these dances with an uncle or other male relative, etc., how can they not think of their situation and wonder why a traditional father figure is not present in their lives? Kids will go through their own emotions about these things. Why do we have to voluntarily promote events that evoke these inevitable confusing, upsetting emotions?

We never want our kids to feel as though they aren’t good enough or are lacking somewhere, and I just feel that if these events were a little less stringent on gender/parent roles, everyone would feel more open and comfortable to attend just as we truly are—as proud, loving children and parents (whatever gender they so happen to be).

On that note, I’ll end this post with a familiar little quote from a beautiful song that we all know and, you guessed it, love: “Love is all you need.”


Linda Balsamo is a single mother, writer, single mom coach, life organizer, and motivational advocate for mothers’ rights. Visit www.singlemomceo.net to check out her services.


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