“My husband will handle it from here,” wrote the mom I had been emailing with discussing our respective daughters’ summer camp plans, “so no need to copy me anymore.” There were three of us in the email chain–myself, a fellow mom, and her husband–and she was ready to leave the conversation. She also included her husband’s cell phone number.
That’s when it got simpler for her and more complicated for me. Because although we’re two decades into the 21st century, and men are playing an increasing role in day-to-day childcare and managing the family schedule, I still feel like I might be doing something wrong when I casually text your husband.
This is not a problem I have in person; at the playground or child’s birthday party, we’re all just referees trying to keep our kids alive and away from that fourth cup of fruit punch. And texting guys I’ve been friends with for years obviously doesn’t feel strange. But one-on-one online communication with casual male acquaintances seems like a minefield, even when it’s as banal as arranging a carpool.
When it comes to motherhood in general, I often wonder, “Am I the only one who feels this way?” or, “Am I the only person this happens to?” I definitely wondered that about the awkwardness of dad-texting. But based on a random sampling of my mom friends, I’m not alone.
Emails and texts are so much more easily muddled by misunderstood tone, autocorrect disasters and the many possible “adult” interpretations of outwardly innocent emoji. And the act of reading a message privately and silently on your phone seems uncomfortably intimate when the guy on the other end is a married dad.
It simply feels safer to include both parents on parenting communications. When that’s not possible, a sample text from me to a dad reads something like, “Hello. I will come pick up my daughter from your residence at 5pm. Thank you. Regards.”
It shouldn’t be this way. It’s more and more common for moms to be their family’s primary earner, and even when that’s not the case, it’s no longer unusual for dads to enter realms that were traditionally “moms only,” such as playdate scheduling, volunteering at school functions or driving to and from after-school activities. The mom who asked me to take her off the email chain is a doctor who is literally saving lives every day at work, and her husband was perfectly capable of choosing between the morning and afternoon sessions of soccer camp.
The reality is that certain parenting norms are changing faster than social norms – at least the social norms of parents who aren’t digital natives (if you remember what dial-up sounds like, you are not a digital native). As often as we’re all tapping away on our phones, there are still a lot of rules to online communication that haven’t been clearly defined, or that were established early on but no longer make sense.
My kids will probably never experience this particular awkwardness; texting, after all, is like breathing for today’s tweens and teens. And I hope by the time this generation of kids becomes parents, moms and dads will naturally be dividing up parenting responsibilities more equally. Until then, I will continue to wade through these murky waters and avoid potentially sexualized emoji.
Just rest assured that if I’m texting your husband, I’m not enjoying it.
Robin, I’m a husband and I agree with you that it’s a potential minefield. If my wife or I communicate with the opposite gender, we try to include our spouse to preemptively protect our marriage and our integrity. Otherwise, it leaves too much room for potentially “murky waters.”
Just don’t sleep with them. You are seriously so insecure that you have to include someone of the opposite gender in all communications?
If you were to email a female colleague in the work place do you CC your wife on that as well?
Totally agree with you, not above reproach- always include the wife- for everyone’s protection and accountability- I’m a little uber sensitive to this subject- I also won’t accept a fb friend requests unless I am first friends with the wife, and then contact her to make sure she is comfortable with it!
“As a man, I feel uncomfortable asking a female coworker to work on a project with me. Who knows when an innocent email or text about a work project might get misconstrued. I don’t mind it if we are all gathered together for a team meeting, but a one-on-one project makes me uncomfortable. I know business norms are changing and more women are in the workforce than ever before, but social norms aren’t changing as fast. I feel much more comfortable including my coworker’s husband in all work related functions so he knows I don’t have ill intent towards his wife. Just rest assured, if I’m working on a business proposal or texting your wife information about an upcoming shared project deadline, I’m not enjoying it.” When it’s flipped, doesn’t it sound a little, I don’t know, sexist? A man would be fired for saying that. As a working mom partnered with a stay-at-home dad, the least of my worries are about my husband misinterpreting your summer camp text and jumping into bed with you. I’m sorry if you have past trauma that has led you to believe that all men, including dads in committed relationships, are only communicating with you because they want to sleep with you. But that’s just not the case. I can remember dial-up…and this is a tone-deaf, heteronormative, and sexist point-of-view that I would expect to find written in the time of those outdated modems. Let’s put them both in the trash heap and move on together, shall we?
I have a few coupled friends, in each case I was friends with the man first, then became friends with his wife later on. Also in each case, I text the wife for making plans, dinner details etc. If I include the husband on a text thread, I also include the wife. I’ve never given it much thought before, just somehow seemed most comfortable for me. Looking at it now, I’m questioning myself as to why this was the way I’ve chosen to communicate, almost instinctively. No kids involved – we’re the only ones in these groupings who have kids.
I’ve been in group chats with mainly moms and one dad. All conversations with the dad were contained within that group chat. It was completely fine and comfortable, because there were many witnesses. I can see how it could get a bit awkward with the one-on-one’s though!