Newspaper article The Record (Bergen County, NJ)

This Job's for the Moms? Don't Tell These Dads

Newspaper article The Record (Bergen County, NJ)

This Job's for the Moms? Don't Tell These Dads

Article excerpt

On Friday, Alissa Lenda will go to her first Daisy Troop meeting. She is very excited, especially about one member of the troop.

"My dad is in it," the 6-year-old Paramus kindergartner said with a shy smile when asked about the best part of being a Daisy.

That's right, her dad: Joseph Lenda, co-leader of Daisy Troop 95768.

When talking about gender equity in America, the conversation typically centers on women continuing to fight for equal rights and pay. There are places, however, where cultural and social standards allow men to be marginalized and considered incapable - the mom- dominated groups and activities like Girl Scouts, home and school associations and "Mommy and Me" classes.

Some North Jersey fathers, however, are ignoring the anachronistic cultural norms and occasional cold shoulders and finding their place in these estrogen-fueled worlds.

"Men are just as capable as women, how's that sound?" said Lenda, a stay-at-home dad with three daughters - Alissa, 8-year-old Christina and 17-year-old Melody. "It seems to me the tide has turned."

Tina Robinson agrees. She's president of Clifton School No. 5's home and school association where a father, Jim Sieradzki, is vice president.

"It's changing for the better," Robinson said of parental involvement.

While working on his 2010 documentary, "The Evolution of Dad," Ridgewood's Dana Glazer interviewed Michael Kimmel, a researcher and writer on men and masculinity. Kimmel told Glazer he saw a changing trajectory. Twenty-five years ago, when he asked his college sociology students how they would balance work and family in the future, the boys didn't seem to understand the question. They never considered it. When he has asked in recent years, he gets a response that shows they do think about it now.

With many social issues, he says, each next generation assumes what their previous one had to fight for.

Fight for men's rights

"This generation, we're fighting for the right of men to be equal parents and still feel like real men," Kimmel said in an interview with Glazer that can be seen on YouTube. "Our children are going to take that for granted."

Lenda is doing his part. The Girl Scouts of Northern New Jersey estimate that less than 2 percent of the area's troops have male leaders, according to spokeswoman Jamie Watkins. Lenda accepts his place in the minority, where his mere presence can create a few sideways glances.

"I'm a stay-at-home dad, so I'm used to being looked at in the supermarkets," he said.

Lenda doesn't think in terms of gender stereotypes and never considered whether it was odd for a dad to lead the Daisy troop.

"It never occurred to me," he said. "I've got three girls and I tell them: 'Everybody is out for the same thing. We're all trying to get through life and do the best we can. We all have our strengths, men and women, we all have our abilities and we work to those."

Lenda feels more appreciated than judged by other parents. "In this day and age, there's a lot of people who work and a lot of people who can't volunteer their time and I think they're appreciative that there's someone there to do it," he said. "I don't think they are looking at the sex of the person."

Girl Scouts meetings aren't the only place where fathers are in the minority. Look through lists of North Jersey home and school associations (HAS/HASA) - whether they are called an HSA or Parent Teacher Association or Parent Teacher Organization - and it's one mom's name after another. The gender inequity in education is particularly clear with a search of local school boards, which reveals mostly men. The message seems to be clear: The men make the serious decisions; the mothers handle fundraisers and field day.

Last year, Sieradzki shared the School No. 5 HASA vice president's seat with his wife. This year, it is all his. He is the only man on the executive board, but says their school is good about father involvement. …

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