Until recently, I had no idea what a lead parent was. I knew there were families where mom was the primary point of contact and others where it was the dad. In some, it was either. I also knew that American culture assumes that mom is the one who really knows what’s going on with the kids.

The first time I heard the phrase I was listening to WNYC’s Note to Self podcast which featured an interview with Andrew Moravcsik. Andrew shared his perspective on serving as the lead parent while his wife, Anne-Marie Slaughter, who at the time was a senior member of Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s staff. I really respect Andrew’s choices and the path that he has taken as a parent, but I don’t view the role of lead parent as something that has to happen in a family. It seems to rest on the assumption that parenting can’t be a fully shared experience or that specializations within the parenting relationship can’t happen.

Each parenting relationship is a partnership and its inner workings are unique to itself. While Andrew and Anne-Marie had to make one decision, their decision isn’t yours. What does have to happen are open and ongoing conversations between parents about who is doing what and how it is going.

To help do this, I would encourage you to create space for parent meetings (similar to family meetings, but without the kids). Use the agenda to help you get going.5 topics parents really need to talk about

This doesn’t need to be as formal as a board meeting, but you need to make sure that you are talking about each of these areas. Without regular communication, one of you will fall into the lead parent trap and it can be difficult to climb out of it.

Stay tuned for part two where I share some tools to make sharing the parenting responsibilities just a little bit easier.