When Ruth Bader Ginsburg passed away, I read a lot of her incredibly moving quotes from history. However, the one that stuck the most was one wherein she told a story about how her son was in trouble at school on a near daily basis. The school would call her almost every single day. Finally, she reminded the school, “This child has two parents. Please alternate calls. It’s his father’s turn.”
I am very far from being any version of RBG, but I truly do feel this struggle with her.
It is not lost on me that I am fortunate to have a partner on this journey we call parenthood. I am very well aware that single parents take on far more responsibility than I could ever imagine, and truly, I do not know how they do it.
However, the fact is, my children have two parents. Two parents who are fully capable of preparing a meal (cereal) or transporting to school or signing permission slips or bringing snacks for school parties. Two parents who are equally responsible for the kids’ hygiene, academics, and overall well-being. And yet, without fail, nearly 9/10 times, the notes that come home or the voicemails that are left seem to be for Mom.
When my kids complain about being sick, the school calls me. When my son has some incident at daycare, they call me. When the pediatrician is calling to follow up anything, they’re calling me. When “parents” are putting together email chains to discuss the teachers’ gifts, it’s all moms. When “parents” are signing up for class parties, it’s all moms.
My husband could be sitting next to my daughter, and she will make the effort to find me- across our apartment- on a call- to ask me to get her a snack. If she wakes up in the middle of the night, it is me she wakes up- even though her father is actually closer to the bedroom door.
This is exhausting. It requires me to repeatedly drop whatever I am doing in the moment and address the task at hand. It requires me to remember to fill in their father- which is typically a fleeting text message. If I have to go pick up one of the kids in the middle of my work day, it inevitably lengthens my work day into the evening- so I can spend the balance of the school day being a doting, caring mother (and not begrudging them for not feeling well)- and then spend the nighttime hours catching up on what I missed.
If I have to remember to bring in class supplies or address disciplining someone for something that happened at school- it’s also a fleeting moment. “Oh, I didn’t tell you? We (I) volunteered to bring in cupcakes tomorrow!” On occasion, I have found myself telling my husband that our son bit someone at daycare (for the third time) and him learning about all three times in that moment. It’s like we are trying to keep everything afloat and as soon as we actually address the incident/issue/task at hand, we move on to the next.
I’m guilty of this too. I defer to the Moms. I always defer to the Moms. If I need to know what spirit day is tomorrow or what show & tell theme is this week, I ask the Moms. If I need to address a school policy or question my parenting skills, I ask the Moms. But you know what? Dads are capable. They are capable of being in the know. They are capable of bringing the snacks or soliciting items for the auction or attending the PTA conference. They are capable of phone conversations with doctors and teachers. They shouldn’t just be second on the list of people to call- they should be alternated as the first point of contact.
I imagine the default to asking Mom for anything is a tale as old as time. It’s no wonder the “mental load” falls on moms- the world effectively presumes it should. However, it’s 2021, and I’m thinking it might be the time to start making a change. It might be time to start alternating the calls.