03/18/2010 05:12 am ET | Updated Nov 17, 2011

More Fathers Present; Sign of Our Times?

I ducked out of my office in NYC early the other evening, at 5 pm sharp, in order to drive like a bat out of midtown up to Westchester to catch my daughter's JV volleyball game for the first time this season. She'd complained twice, "Mom, you haven't seen me play ONCE." Bad mommy. But mommy is a working mother by necessity having to do with paying a mortgage and school taxes for the blue-ribbon public school my two daughters attend.

I arrived in time to see the team trot in and start warming up. I had my work on my lap, and started doing a little editing, ready to stash it once the game started. I looked up during warm-up to see that my ex, a self-employed photographer, had come in and was chatting with two other fathers of teammates, and I immediately did a mental double-take. Huh? It's 5:40 p.m. and there are fathers here. For years, I'd seen mostly just mothers at weekday school events. I looked around and saw more fathers -- in fact, many fathers, along with the familiar crowd of moms who don't commute as I do. (Yes, some years back, I was surprised to note that, statistics of women in the workforce notwithstanding, I was one of very few mothers who worked full-time out of the house in our suburban crowd.)

Anyway, back to the fathers. There they all were and I had to wonder whether a number of them were there because they'd been laid off. Surely, some were there because, like my ex, they have flexible schedules, being self-employed. And some of those surely aren't getting as much business lately, so they have more time to hit the bleachers at the high school gym. And some fathers, of course, are probably employed full time locally, or, like me, left work early. Still, I thought, the preponderance of fathers must be due to the sorry state of our economy, and isn't that a sad thing for them; for all of us?

But wait. Isn't it a happy thing that the daughters playing so fiercely on the volleyball court are casting glances our way between points to check if Dad saw them execute that spike so awesomely? As I was thinking these thoughts, my ex, who'd since sat himself down next to me so we could watch our daughter play together, now stuck his forefingers in his mouth to execute his unmistakable and very loud whistle in admiration of our daughter -- yes, it was she who'd spiked. I resisted the urge to cover my delicate ears, appreciating the whistle as the reason she beamed. And knowing he, as I, felt proud beyond words, and fortunate to be there.