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.