One super important lesson we learned (too late!) was that parents should set up a shared email address right when their babies are born, and then use that address as the primary address for every kid-related activity. You can easily do this with a google email address and have the email do nothing other than forward every email to both of your individual addresses. We didn’t do this early enough, and 15 years later are still paying the price.
We discovered that many kid-related organizations (school, sports programs, medical portals), have a tendency to have one primary email address for parents. They may record a secondary email address, but sometimes they don’t use the secondary email, and you can’t predict ahead of time when that will happen. Which means that when my email address is the first one, or the primary one, my husband may be left out of the loop.
Our oldest son is 15, and we STILL have this problem with his soccer program which we first registered him for at age 5. The first time I created an account on the website, I entered my email address, and that became our login name. Despite many attempts to change it, I was unable to do so without losing our family history with the website because I would have to sign up for a new account with a new address. By the time I’d internalized the problem, both of our kids had played on multiple teams, and there is contact information for previous coaches and previous teams , and even some pictures, stored with our old email address. And we didn’t want to walk away from that history. So now, whenever a game is canceled, or a practice is moved, only I get the email, and I have to forward it to my husband. Even if he is the one standing with our son on the wrong soccer field and I’m off doing something else, he doesn’t get the information until it passes through me. Sometimes we get a coach who understands our request to have emails sent to both parents and they manually address the team’s distribution list, but sometimes they just continue to use the default emails in the system.
We had the same problem initially at school. During kindergarten orientation, the teacher passed around a paper for us to sign. It said “Child’s Name” and “Email address”. My husband and I were both there, and the sign up sheet came to him first. He put our child’s name on the form, and then his email address, and we passed it to the next family without thinking about it. What followed was me getting a taste of what it’s like to be the secondary parent. It was a few weeks of me feeling like I was seriously out of the loop before we realized what had happened and asked for my email address to be added too. Another time when this happened and we asked for a 2nd email address to be added, the person handled it by removing the first email address in favor the new one. Again, it took us a while to figure out what happened, and get it fixed.
Similarly, most of the school forms we filled out when we registered our son for school (why do they ask for the same information over and over?) asked for Parent 1 and Parent 2 contact information, and our default in those cases was to put my email address as Parent 1 (the fact that even we think of me as the default parent is an issue for another blog post). Sometimes the person who processed the form would use both email addresses, but sometimes they used only the first one. As a result, some (thought not all) of the communication from school would come to just me, causing confusion about why Matt knew some but not all of the things happening at school.
We had this happen to us many times before we realized that if Matt was going to be as involved a parent as me, we needed one joint email address that we used as Parent 1 on every form, and every website signup, so that we didn’t have to rely on any organization to deal with our family having 2 equally important email addresses. So now even if Parent 1 has my name, the email address for me is always our joint email address.
This tip is good even for couples that aren’t aiming to parent as equally as Matt and I do. There is no better way to ensure that your husband is out of the loop, unfamiliar with the school, and unable to step in for you when you need him to, if he only gets the subset of the emails that you forward to him. People like to tell stories about clueless dads, but that cluelessness can be hard for them to overcome when they are so naturally left out of the communication loop.
And for the dad who doesn’t want want to be inundated with so much email, or who considers school woman’s domain, pause for a second and consider one of your most important jobs as a parent – educating your child. Be a part of that process. You have so much to offer. You and your child will both be richer for it.
This seems like a relatively minor issue, and in the grand scheme of things it probably is. But it is one of many ways that dads get marked as secondary, and it’s the kind of thing we have had to work to fight against in making sure Matt is not secondary, but equal. Sometimes it’s surprising how seemingly tiny issues can chip away at our goal to parent equally.