Why Working Parents Need a Family Email Address

Family email addresses: The idea conjures up memories of AOL and the year 1998. But, inspired by a conversation I had with a friend, I recently set up a shared family email address, and it’s been AMAZING — I think every working mom needs one. So let’s talk about WHY every working parent needs a family email address — and in general, how to signify to teachers and institutions which parent or caregiver is the point person for communications, tasks and more. (This is partly inspired by a zillion reader complaints along the lines of, “No matter how many times we tell the school that my husband is a SAHD, they keep calling me at the law firm when they need something!”)

First, some backstory: We’ve talked before about the concept of the default parent — the parent whom everyone presumes is the one in charge, the parent who cares about the little stuff. In other words, it’s the parent the school calls to say that you need to file a different form, or that your child needs to wear a blue shirt on Tuesday. But the problem that many readers have noted is that no matter HOW often you suggest that your husband or partner is the one who’ll be responsible for anything regarding daycare or school — by telling them verbally, making it clear on all the paperwork, etc. — people STILL assume that Mom is the one in charge, and if they see her listed on paperwork, they call her even if she’s the second contact.

So how do you correct this assumption among teachers and caregivers that the mom will do everything?(Yes, it’s ridiculous that we have to have this conversation in 2017.) Here are some tips:

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How to Share Emotional Labor as Parents (AKA, How to Get Your Partner To Care About the Little Stuff That Keeps You Up At Night)

Are you always the parent who makes sure the kids’ homework is done every night? Schedules/attends/follows up on all the kids’ doctor’s appointments? Referees the sibling rivalries? Buys holiday gifts for teachers? We’ve talked before about being the default parent, sharing parenting duties with your husband, as well as mommying your husband, but we thought we’d have a discussion focused on ways to share emotional labor as parents — AKA, how to get your partner to care about all the little stuff that keeps you up at night (and take on some of it). Do you find yourself performing a lot of emotional labor and noticing that your partner doesn’t do their share? What are you doing about it, if anything? Has anyone set up a family kanban board or some other method?

If you need a good definition of emotional labor, try this one from Everyday Feminism:

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Being the Default Parent — and Asking for Help

Being the Default Parent -- and Asking for HelpA few months ago, I was really stressed. It was of those times where you’re vibrating from stress and you can’t fall asleep because of your stress, and then if/when you wake up in the middle of the night you pick up right where you left off worrying (perhaps with a few more anxiety loops thrown into the mix for extra middle-of-the-night fun). The why doesn’t terribly matter, but it was a perfect whirlwind of traveling for a work conference (stressful!) right before taxes were due (stressful!), in a really complicated tax year for us (as I realized with a sinking feeling when I sent them off to my accountant on April SEVENTH), with upcoming knee surgery (torn ACL!), and the added stress of getting enough blog content in the bank so that I could actually HAVE the surgery and recover without feeling like I was ducking tomatoes the whole time. And I was the default parent.

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How Do You Share Parenting Duties with Your Spouse?

maternal gatekeeping

2017 update: We still stand by the advice below on how to share parenting duties with your spouse; you may also want to check out our more recent post on how to get your husband to care about the little things.

Are you an “equal parent” with your partner? What steps did you take to make that happen — and what happened organically? Do you foresee times when your partnership won’t be equal — and how do you feel about that? If your roles are not equal, how much of that is due to maternal gatekeeping — as in, you take on a certain task because you’re the only one who does it “right”? (Sandberg defined maternal gatekeeping in Lean In as women discouraging their husbands from doing their share at home by being too controlling or too critical.)

There was an interesting article in Daily Worth a while ago with suggestions for how to equalize your parenting, so I thought we’d discuss here as well. I always get frustrated when I read articles like this that exclusively focus on housekeeping (the easiest thing to outsource!) and dismiss what I like to call the “cruise director duties” (meaning the mom’s role is cruise director for the family, explained in this HuffPo piece as the “default parent”), so let’s try to discuss the following topics:

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