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:

  • As soon as your kid starts attending daycare or classes, or some other situation where people might need to contact a parent, implement a family email address. Don’t give a Parent #1 email and a Parent #2 email — just give the family address. In my family I actually AM the one who deals with most kid-related emails, signups, and scheduling, but I get so many other emails via my accounts that things get buried WAY too quickly. Personally, I have three main email addresses: the personal one my friends use, the random one I give out when I sign up for newsletters, and my work one. I was giving out the middle one, my “newsletter” address, but a) that one is automatically funneled to a separate folder, so messages never hit my inbox, and b) I get hundreds of emails a day at that one. So when a friend casually mentioned that she and her husband have a family email address that forwards to both of their personal addresses (and they’ve given access to their au pair and the grandma who most often babysits), I thought that was BRILLIANT. We set up a new Gmail address this year for our family, and it’s AWESOME — my husband sees things when I do, and we can remind each other about what needs to be done — and if I ask him to follow up or address something I don’t have to comb through hundreds of emails to try to find the correct one to forward. I truly regret not setting up a family email address earlier!
  • The phone is where a lot of readers have run into problems. If you provide your cell number at all, they will CALL your cell phone, even if you’ve made it abundantly clear on the paperwork that they should call someone else. With my family, my husband is about 250% better at the phone than I am. I actually get annoyed at interruptions and have set my phone’s default ringer to a silent ringtone I bought on iTunes — so I return calls far more than I answer them in the first place. So my advice here is to only put the cell phone you want them to call, whether that’s your partner’s, nanny’s, or other caregiver’s — as well as your landline (if you have one).
  • This one is tough, but: Let whomever is the intended contact person for the school handle all initial interactions by him or herself. In my family, we often show up together for events — both parents plus a kid — and the staff seem to immediately gravitate toward me, as if Mr. G is a bemused but detached onlooker and I’m the, well, default parent.

To be totally clear, in my family we tend to share all of these parenting duties, which kind of makes it even harder for schools to know whom to call. But if I wanted to make him “head of the school communications committee,” I’d take these steps to the extreme.
Readers, what are your tips on how to make your partner the default parent as far as your school, daycare, or other institution is concerned? How do you manage who is the contact person? And — have you set up a shared family email address that multiple people can access? (It’s great, isn’t it?)

Picture via Stencil.why every working parent needs a shared family email address

Family email addresses: not just via AOL in 1995 -- they're also a GREAT way to share parenting duties and make sure both parents are in the loop for school communications. (You can even let your nanny and other caregivers have access to the email address!) Working moms discuss the family email address, and ponder other ways to share the burden of being the touch person for communications.


  1. EB0220 says:

    I have a family email address, but it seems daunting to switch over to it. Any advice?

    • ElisaR says:

      i don’t do this – but isn’t there an autoforward feature? i think you can have it autoforward to your personal email (and your husband’s)? maybe that defeats the purpose of the family email though……

    • EB0220 says:

      Yes, I have autoforward set up. My issue is switching all of our existing accounts, etc. to that new email address. I don’t even know how to change our address of record with the school district, for example.

      • I’ve just been doing it slowly — whenever I register for a new season of class, or have to fill out new paperwork, or whatever, then I make the change.

      • EB0220 says:

        Thanks, that makes me feel better. I thought I was missing some magical trick!

    • Anonymous says:

      how to do a work email address ?

  2. mascot says:

    Maybe our school is an outlier, but we’ve not had any issues with the school putting both email addresses in the database, distribution lists, online directory, etc. There’s no reason that a class newsletter in 2017 can’t have 2 email addresses for a family and I’d push back to my school if they gave us a hard time about that. If by chance we get an email to only one of us, we cc the other person in the reply. Obviously they have to have one number to call first so we alternate whose that is.

  3. I’m curious to hear from others that use a family email address. We do have a shared family Google calendar, which is a total lifesaver for keeping us organized, but have not taken the extra step to create a family email address. I definitely get called more often than my DH does, but all of our daycare and classroom teachers have been great about emailing us both — but it sometimes takes a gentle reminder early in the school year.

    • We have a shared gmail account that my husband and I both use. We also keep our joint shopping list on that account (notes, on the iPhone) and a joint calendar. Anything the other needs to know about – playdates, working late, etc, goes on the joint calendar. Joint bills, like our water/electric/mortgage also use the joint email address.

  4. Sarah says:

    We have a family email address leftover from wedding planning (best wedding planning advice too!) but our daycare by default emails everything to both emails on file. Sounds like we may need to pull it out of hibernation in the future.

  5. Funny that schools and doctors will always call mom. When we were dealing with a mortgage application, everyone would only email/call Mr. AIMS even though I was very clearly the person responsible for that whole thing. Same with many real estate brokers.

    • I just yesterday gave daycare our daytime contact info for me and my husband. I purposely put his name/info first to see whether they’d default to calling him or me

    • 2 Cents says:

      Me too! I was the main person on the mortgage app, but everything was directed to Mr. 2 Cents. Until I said, “Well, I’m the one who has the money, so maybe you should talk to me.” :P

  6. Jennifer FP says:

    Has anyone set up an email in their kid’s name? We set up a gmail account that we both monitor (account is logged into both our phones, so we both get notices), and then we can enter her calendar stuff separately onto her calendar. Have they tried doing that with schools? We’re starting MDO and thought that would be a good way of doing things.

    • Mom Doe says:

      We have set up emails for each of our children. And then we have set up forwarding for [email protected] to go to my personal email address and my husband’s personal email address. This way: 1) both kids have an email address in their name already; 2) we both get the emails sent for anything related to Jane Doe; and 3) as you said above we can both monitor the important messages. For Jane Doe 1’s school they have her email address on file and Jane Doe 2’s school has her email address on file, and they do not have my husband’s email or my own for official correspondences. It’s worked very well so far. On our google calendar each child has their own color category and we both have access to those shared calendars. It’s helpful for us to both see that Jane 1 has a doctor’s appointment this week, Jane 2 has swimming lessons, etc. etc.

      • Won’t this become an issue as your kids get older and actually start to use their email? Or do you plan on having their emails forwarded to you until they’re 18?

        • Mom Doe says:

          We’ll obviously turn off the forwarding as the kids get older, but for us that’s a cross that bridge when we get to it issue. Our kids are 3 and 5 right now.

    • EB0220 says:

      Each of our kids has an email address but we don’t use them for logistics. We started them so family members could send them emails throughout their life. We haven’t used them as much as we’d like but still neat. Thanks for jogging my memory!

  7. ThatGirl says:

    Eh. We only have one kid rn so YMMV, but I’m hesitant to create yet another email to maintain. Only the adoption agency emails us, and when they do they almost always cc us both. Caseworkers and day care call or text. They usually call me – not because I’m the mom but because I actually answer the phone. DH has one cell phone which he also uses for work so he’s usually on it. Day care really only texts and only in an emergency, which I appreciate. I’m open to the email but just don’t find it necessary right now.

  8. Yes to shared email! We started one for wedding planning and use it for dealing with bills, banks, pet and baby sitters, coordinating with extended family, and getting info from school, religious institutions, kids sports leagues, music class, travel, etc. Also switched this to our main amazon address. We each have other addresses for keeping up with friends and family, non-family shopping (DH prob doesn’t need to know every time loft has a sale, though maybe neither do I?). We use gmail so we can easily search, sort, flag, categorize. So much better!!

  9. If I were listed as the secondary contact, and the daycare or school called me, I would ask them if they had tried to contact my husband first. If they said no, I’d tell them “Okay, well he is the primary contact and the person you should be calling to handle this. If you can’t reach him then call me back.” Barring emergency situations, of course. I bet it would only take a few calls to retrain them.

  10. Not sure I get this. I have four kids. It is not like my kids’ schools or coaches call me or my husband on a regular basis at all, and I just get emails about things like upcoming school events or parent teacher conference or whatever. Nothing that both parents urgently need to see, and nothing that is written specifically to me. And like others have said, we gave them both my email address and my husband’s and they email us both.

  11. Kelly says:

    Our school includes both parents’ email addresses on all their distribution lists. I just wrote them down on the contact information form and both addresses were added. For phone calls, they do typically call me first, but if they can’t get a hold of me they move on to my husband. More than once, my husband has texted me about an emergency issue that he responded to because I was in court and the school couldn’t reach me. I am definitely more involved in the minutiae of school activities and do a lot of volunteer work so I am the primary contact for those issues, but that is my choice and I wouldn’t expect my husband to be a primary contact for that stuff.

  12. We got our shared email address actually at the time we got married…so it has my maiden initials on it but whatever. All our household accounts (utilities, mortgage, netflix, etc.) are set up on this email unless the account was created prior to the wedding. Really does make life easier.

    RE: the issue with phone number – what about a google voice virtual number? I believe you can set it up to ring multiple numbers at once. It doesn’t always place nice with text messages from certain bulk services, but it’s nice as you can check it both from your phones but also from a browser.

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