April 9, 2024

On Awkwardness and Values and WhatsApp and School

In our home, Andy is the school parent.  He does school emails, he does school parties.  He does the calendar. 

A few weeks ago Isaac missed a birthday party.  Or rather, the party missed him - it had been moved last minute to a new location due to a punctured bouncy castle.

Andy had corresponded with the party parent (after showing up at the original location) and they were super apologetic.  She had told the WhatsApp group and the parents at pick up, but apparently we weren't at pick up on that day, and neither Andy or I have WhatsApp.

At pick up, I heard someone asking for Isaac.  It was the party parent.  She had brought sweets as an apology. I assured her there was no problem and told her we're not on Whatsapp.  "Oh - WhatsApp is easy and can be good for getting information like school dress day" she said.

"Yes, but Andy doesn't have it, and I don't want it because I'll become default parent with lots of messages" I said, before realising that was akin to saying "I don't want to hear from you".  Embarrassed, but apparently unable to stop digging, I then doubled down and said "And I don't really do school stuff, that's really Andy. I don't even usually do pick up, I'm just here to get a break from my 5 month old twins"

So there was a pause, and she was super nice, and we chatted a bit more, but I still feel like a rather big A**hole.

To alleviate my feelings I played a gender reverse game.  What if a Dad was there and said "Oh we don't use WhatsApp, and all this school stuff is really my wife's thing.  I'm not even into doing this pickup, just here to help out you know??" 

Yes, he would sound like a bit of a useless dude, but it wouldn't be a shocking reveal.

I felt bad about my comments in the evening and thought about texting the parent to say thanks for the sweets... but then I decided that there had been enough texting.  She seemed really nice. I don't do school stuff.  I don't want to do school stuff.  I don't like doing long form texting without having a specific social or real life meet-up in mind.  So I left it and told Isaac to thank the child for the sweets.

Perhaps as a parent it seems odd to not be on WhatsApp - perhaps my kid is missing out on lots of birthday parties and perhaps he wouldn't have accidentally worn a uniform on non-uniform days if we were on the platform.  

But I would also have more messages, more parent things, more social things, more birthdays.  I would know people I don't need to.  I would have more reasons to touch my phone.

I thought about a Jehovas Witness who was in school with me.  He didn't celebrate birthdays or halloween.  We all thought "how sad he doesn't get these holidays!".  But I doubt he experienced life that way.  Perhaps the parents on WhatsApp think it's sad Isaac misses things.  I don't currently have a need for more things.  Our weekends are full. Our weeks are full.  We put reminders in the calendar for uniform days... or we miss them.  

If we someday decide we need more things, more reminders, we can join Whatsapp.  For now, more is not better. More is more. Right now, we have enough.


  1. My kids’ dad is also the school parent. He does pick ups, etc. For some people that’s weird, but it works for us. I think you have lots on your plate and how you organize your family life to work best for all of you is your business.

    What’s app is good for organizing parties and sharing photos of. It’s just easier for the organizer and participants to have a group and inform/arrange pickups etc and have all the info in the same place; akin to a group email, just the information will be seen quicker I suppose. Your kids are still young, but as they grow older and become more involved in activities, it will probably become essential for organizing events etc. Our coach uses the vote/survey function to see who’ll be available for a match - much easier than having to track 20+ messages/emails.

    Sorry if it seems I’m contradicting what I said at the start - there are good and bad points to it, but I find it to be helpful for organization purposes. Why not just have Andy join? Participation in groups is optional. Would people be more likely to contact him by what’s app than by other phone means?

    1. Awesome to hear you have the same arrangement. There are lots of dads at pick up here which is nice too but I don't think many families so clearly divide responsibility like ours.

      Andy doesn't use a smart phone, and he's not keen to start. I know lots of people find whatapp useful and if I get to a point where I think the downsides of not using it are greater than the benefits then I'm sure we'll have to reconsider.

    2. It's so interesting to hear other perspectives - thanks for your comment!

    3. Ah ok, if Andy doesn’t have a smartphone then that’s why all would default to you if you want to use what’s app. I missed that part. I’m sure Andy and the other parents will find a way to figure things out for future events now that they are more aware of your setup.

    4. It’s a very interesting post though because it highlights the differences in the way men and women communicate.

  2. Good job not having to think about uniform vs non uniform days or bday party logistics or any of that rigamarole. Fingers crossed you can keep that off your plate. :) Women are the default social glue, so of course it can feel a-hole-ish to be going against that default. But at the same time you and Andy are calling that gendered default into question by his taking on that work. So good on you for sticking to it! -rachel

    1. We currently split between paid childcare and school - so right now Andy does the school logistics and I do all the nursery & other childcare logistics. Since we have 5 more years of paid childcare I think we'll keep this agreement until I have nothing on my plate and then we can fight over secondary school vs. primary school at that time haha.

  3. I love that you divide it up this way. It makes sense. We just have the one daughter, and I cared more about knowing what was going on, so it was me. Which was fine. But if we had more kids, at different schools and so on, I think we would have had to figure something else out.

    I hope the other mom didn't think you were an A-hole. If it were me, I would not have. I would have gone home and told my husband about the woman I met who didn't take every single thing on her plate. (I mean, assuming she has more than one kid).

  4. I can't imagine the other person thought you were at all out of line. As hosts, they were sort of rude to not make sure all the invitees were aware of changes to plans, honestly. At least that's my perspective on it! Hosts gotta host thoughtfully!

  5. This is Daria. I don’t see anything wrong with not wanting yet another app. I think it’s liberating to say no like that. You have plenty to do.

  6. I would never assume that all the parents in a classroom were in a Whatsapp group. The parents in my 7 year old's class have a Slack channel (is that what it's called? I hadn't used Slack before this.), and we use it to ask questions of each other or a a resource to ask about plans for summer camps and days off and such. I was very reluctant to join, but I've turned the notifications off and just check it once a week or so. I do miss things once in a while, but I always figure if it's an important school issue then the teacher or room parent will communicate via email.
    I think your point about avoiding communication in order to maintain not being the default parent in this realm is so on point. I feel like the communication apps can be managed, but once one person actually has the information via the app, the expectations (one's own and other people's) of acting on that information are more difficult to manage.

  7. I hear you, girl. First of all, it's awesome that Andy is the school parent and I hope the other mother got the message that you were trying to give her: it's ok to not have every app and be responsible for everything.

    I also think she should have made sure that ALL invitees were informed about the last minute changes. It's not cool to assume that everyone has Whatsapp.