Co-working parents trade “home” and “work” cell phones

Amazon: BlackBerry 8520 Unlocked Phone with 2 MP Camera, Bluetooth, Wi-Fi--International VersionYet again, a friend mentions a great tip and I respond by blurting out THAT'S A PARENT HACK! CAN I WRITE IT UP? I've confused more than one acquaintance this way because so few people in my day-to-day parenting life know about Parent Hacks. What's a parent hack? A clever parenting tip? Oh, ok, whatever, sure. Really? You think that would help someone? You have a blog?

I picked this one up at a birthday party. The parents of the birthday girl are doctors and they work different shifts so they can share the child care duties.

Each parent has a cell phone, but the phones are attached to roles, not people. There's the "home" cell phone and the "work" cell phone, and each parent grabs whichever phone fits his or her role for the day.

This way, the parent at work doesn't get calls about playdates, and the person at home doesn't get professional calls. Much logistical confusion and time waste are avoided. So smart!

This brings up the question of person-specific calls — that is, if I want to reach Alice whether she's at work or at home, which number do I call? That's what voicemail forwarding is for, right?

I'm thinking this is a great idea for some co-working, co-parenting families. Not all, of course. SOME people I know are highly attached to their personal electronic devices Rael and his iPhone, but this could simplify matters in some cases. Right? Am I missing something?

RelatedSetting up family cell phones for emergency contact


  1. says

    I used to have two phones and two numbers. I then forwarded the “personal” phone to my work phone and just carried that one around. On vacation I’d just take the personal phone. (The other way around doesn’t work as you end up giving out your personal number on caller id.) A second number on my plan is $10/month.

    I can’t imagine sharing my cell phone but I could see sharing a work phone and then having your own personal phone, especially since they have the same job type.

  2. says

    Having to keep track of 2 cellphones and 2 different numbers actually sounds like more of a hassle to me.

    Especially if you are just going to foward voicemails (and possibly calls) to the phone you are carrying anyway. Isn’t that the point of caller ID?

    Maybe it’s me who is missing something…

  3. says

    Try (was Grandcentral) to manage calls to one number but can ring on different phones based on who is calling. It has made my phone call management much much easier.

  4. Parent Hacks Editor says

    GrandCentral! Of course! I haven’t tried it myself, but given the proliferation of contact methods these days, it makes so much sense.

    Would anyone like to write a guest post about how parents can use GrandCentral to simplify their lives?

  5. says

    add me to the list who doesn’t quite get this. can’t imagine sharing a cell phone. do both parents work at the same place? i wouldn’t want to sort thru all dh’s contacts in my phone book. i use my phone for both work and home. i set different ring tones for different people. without even looking at the phone, i know who is calling. worse case, caller id tells me if i really need to answer the call. i can also see a problem with grabbing the wrong cell phone by accident. besides, i use a blackberry. my life is in there. could never share it with anyone.

  6. Nutmeg says

    As the wife of a doctor, I can see this could work for two doctors who work in specialties that require no call outside working hours, like ER, radiology, or two specialists who work in the same office. My husband couldn’t share a phone because even if I was a doctor that worked at different times, he needs to receive phone calls all day and all night long, everyday, even when he isn’t “working.” But I can see it being really great for radiologists or ER doctors or something that doesn’t have on-call duty.

    Parent hacks is nice because, even in some very select and specific circumstances, you might discover something that would be helpful to you… even if it only helps the 0.1%, those people need hacks too!

  7. says

    I don’t know enough about Grand Central to do a writeup, but I do know that you can make international calls for pennies a minute by buying credit first, then calling into your GC account and dialing out from there. This would be a great hack for deployed and traveling parents.

    I believe it can also be used to save cell phone roaming charges and long distance bills by making your GC number one of those “preferred” plan numbers. You call your GC number first, then dial out from there cheaply.


    Clearly, more research is needed!

  8. says

    I use GrandCentral, have been for quite a while. In the past when I worked in an office it helped to avoid missing certain calls at home when no one was there, without getting *every* call on ones cell. Now that I stay at home I still use it. Very flexible.

    Whenever you mention Rael, I always snicker at the fact that I know of his online work separately from finding Parent Hacks…if Dornfest wasn’t such a unique (to me) name I’d have no idea you two were related!

  9. says

    Ooh, those parents are not only smart and parent hack-able, they are ORGANIZED! I’m impressed, but mostly because they not only switch their cell phones, they actually remember to charge them up and apparently even take them off the night stand when they’re leaving the home. Oh to be them!! — Lenore “Free-Range Kids” Skenazy

  10. Parent Hacks Editor says

    Amanda: You would be amazed by how many friends Rael and I now have in common…to some, I’m “Rael’s wife,” and to others, he’s “Asha’s husband!” It’s actually fantastic…the overlap between the tech and parenting communities. A fascinating bunch.

  11. Ethel says

    We use Grand Central. The biggest benefit we get is the ability to change our phone situation as our finances change without changing our GC phone number. We were hit by the recession recently, and are now in “recovery” mode, scraping for $$. We’re considering using MagicJack for our landline, since we are techie enough that their lousy tech support shouldn’t be a big deal, and then going to the cheapest pay-as-you-go cell for our “out and about” phone that is rarely used. However, this is all invisible to our friends – our phone number stays the same.

    GC is also nice since you can use Grand Central to forward your calls to a set of phones – so all of our home calls go to both the landline and our cell. This was handy recently when I was interviewing and just couldn’t afford to miss a single call.

    I haven’t played with GC much – DH is the boss of that. There might be many features that we aren’t taking advantage of.

    Note that Grand Central is becoming Google Voice soon.

    This hack (switching cells) makes a lot of sense to me, since DH and I share phones as is. I hate getting calls about the kids when I am at work, but if I had a personal cell, people would call me because I’m the Mom even though DH is the SAHP and has been for almost 2 years. DH may start working a night shift in the next couple of months (if he can find a job), and if so, this hack might become our phone solution. Another bonus: You can specialize your phone plans based on how many calls you expect at work or home, if you expect different needs for minutes, etc.