Mom Wants Schools to Rethink Donuts With Dad & Muffins With Mom

empty.nes27/Twenty20

Donuts in a row
empty.nes27/Twenty20

If you've got one or more kids in elementary school, chances are they return home with a backpack full of flyers for upcoming events pretty much every day. These include fundraisers, school carnivals, and of course, those end-of-year breakfasts: Donuts with Dad and Muffins with Mom. You might find them sweet and even look forward to them -- after all, these well-intentioned school events are meant to make parents feel closer to their kids' daily school routine and celebrate all their hard work. But as one viral post on School Leaders Now points out, these gender-themed breakfasts have got to go -- for more reasons than one.

  • The post makes its mission crystal-clear from the title: "Enough with Donuts with Dad and Muffins with Mom -- Let's Make All School Events Inclusive."

    Although that might sound a tad bit curmudgeon-y at first, the more you stop and think about it, the less sense these gender-themed breakfasts really make.

    "Connecting with students’ families is an important part of creating a strong school community," writes Elizabeth Mulvaill, a writer, mom, and elementary school teacher. "And by family we mean the people who are most important in your students’ lives. Whether that’s the traditional definition of mom and dad, or one mom, or two dads, or grandma or grandpa, or a very loving caregiver."

    Hosting annual events such as Muffins with Mom or Donuts with Dad "bring people in and build community is a great idea," admits Mulvahill. "But sometimes, without realizing it, we put labels on events that may put some people off," she continues. "The last thing we would ever want to do is exclude those kids whose family may not be considered traditional."

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  • The truth is, families look a whole lot different these days -- and we're all the better for it. 

    By perpetuating the whole nuclear family, one mom and one dad, we're not really keeping in step with what's actually going on in households across America.

    For one thing, the divorce rate has altered the way many families are configured. According to the most recent stats, 11.3 million single-parent households exist in America -- and 81 percent of them are headed by a single mother. That means "Donuts with Dad" and father-daughter dances present more than a slight problem for kids whose biological father may not be present in their lives. (In fact, 16.4 million children in America are reportedly being raised without a father.)

    And then there are the kids being raised in same-sex households -- who may have two moms to bring on Muffins with Mom day but no one for Donuts with Dad. Or the kids who may live with grandparents or other legal guardians. Or those in foster care. Or kids with parents who are nonbinary. And so on and so on.

  • When we start to really think about the many kinds of families there are, gendered school events start to feel, well, silly.

    So why not just take gender out of it then, Mulvahill suggests. Do we really only need dads to eat donuts with us? Or moms to nibble on some muffins? NOPE.

    All that matters is that each kid brings someone special to share the moment with. So "why even designate who can or cannot attend?" she asks. 

    "Just give your event a snappy name and tell kids how many people they can invite," Mulvahill writes. "You might be surprised by the diversity of people in your students’ circle of care."

    She even throws in some suggestions for morning gatherings, such as Breakfast Club, Pancakes and Pajamas, and Donut Date -- all things you could your favorite person to, without involving gender.

  • It's a simple solution that could make a world of difference to kids in nontraditional living situations -- which, as it turns out, is a lot of 'em.

    "Thank you!" wrote one mom on Facebook, in response to the post. "I had a nice long conversation with my son’s principal this past year about how gender-specific all their extra activities were and how that’s not inclusive of all. Daddy-daughter dances, muffins with mom, etc. Thanks to our conversation, things were opened up to more!"

    Others shared that their school often hosts "Lunch with a Loved One" to open things up to any family member or close friend, and some schools switched it to "Donuts with Dudes" to include any important male figure.

    Several teachers also chimed in to share stories of times their own students felt excluded from a gender-specific event.

    "We do Muffins for Moms, and I had a kiddo with a mom with MS who could never make it," wrote one teacher. "She was always devastated, so I was her stand in mom. I think an all inclusive event would have been better for those special cases."

    Of course, not everyone's on board with the idea.

    "I understand where this is coming from, but I don’t think we should continue to take away from traditional family values that most students have/see," wrote one woman. "Rather, encourage families who have differences to attend despite the name. I am a mom, don’t take away from that."

  • But surely when you consider the kids on the other end of this, creating more inclusive events to celebrate all families can only be a good thing.

    "t’s so hard when a child doesn’t have a 'mom' or a 'dad' to bring to the titled event," wrote one teacher. "Even though we would always indicate others could stand in place, the child doesn’t understand. It really hit home when a kindergartner said it was a 'stupid' when he didn’t have a mom for muffins with mom day. In fact, he also didn’t have a dad either."

    In the end, perhaps one commenter said it best when she wrote: "Families are dynamic [and] it’s time we change with them."

    Amen to that.