“No, I want MOMMY!” This is how my day often starts (an ends). This is not because my husband is a bad parent or uninvolved. It’s because I’m the default parent.
What’s a default parent?
- The parent who is always woken in the middle of the night, no matter if it’s for a simple bathroom run or a high fever.
- The parent who gives the kiss/hug to make everything better.
- The parent responsible for all the schedules/birthday gift buying/medical information.
- The parent who knows all the names of your child(ren)’s teachers.
- The parent who makes and enforces all the rules.
- Basically the parent who knows all, does all, and is burnt out most nights when their head actually hits the pillow.
Trust me when I say – I am pretty sure I did this to myself. I am a Type A parent. I work full time out of the house as a teacher. The mommy guilt is real! From the minute I wake up, to the minute I pretend to go to sleep, I am on call. Unfortunately, I am also a first born, go-getter, who loves to be right and in the know. This propels me to jumping in as soon as something needs to be done. My kids (and husband) have picked up on this character trait and are definitely using it to their advantage.
There are so many moments in the day when I want to throw my hands up and shout, “You have another parent!” My husband does what he can, but the reality is my boys are mama’s boys. They literally fight each other to sit on my lap for a story or shove each other out of the way to get the last hug in before bed.
As a society I think it’s hard not to have mom be the default parent. In fact, I polled about a dozen friends with different family and life structures. All, with the exception of one, is the default parent. It was amazing to hear why (or how) so many of my friends feel they are the default parent.
Here’s what a few default parents had to say…
“My husband is the breadwinner, so I don’t feel like I can ask too much more, since I am a stay at home mom.”
“We use a shared calendar, which I input everything in order to try and even it all out, but most jobs are still mine, especially since the kids are young.”
“Being the default parent allows me to feel like I am doing right by my family.”
“I’m just better at it. It’s working smarter, not harder.”
Almost six years into this parenting gig, I realize that, like with most things in life, being the default parent is a small part of the life cycle. My friends with older children are constantly advising me to enjoy being the default parent because before I know it either my kids will turn on me and make my husband the superhero, or they will think everyone else’s mom is way cooler than me. No WAY I’m letting either happen!
At the end of the day, I can say that while being the default parent is beyond exhausting, it’s also the most rewarding thing I do, and in the end, I’m grateful I have a backup parent for the days when it’s all too much for me.