Hi, my name is Cheryl and I am a default parent.
A few days ago I read Malu’s post about unequal parenting and thought “hmm, that is interesting and their arrangement is really different from ours, but it seems to work for them. Good for them.”
This morning I read the Huffington Post’s “The Default Parent” and thought “omigod, is this woman watching me!? This is my life!”
Crazy family calendar? Check. Multi-tasking showers? Check. Mental catalogue of stuff? Check. Yup, default parent right here.
Like M. Blazoned from Huffington Post, this parenting status wasn’t planned; it snuck up on me. And I’ve literally said to hubs “It’s like I’m the default” (place as much disgusted emphasis on “default” as humanly possible). (It’s not that I don’t love parenting my sweet boy [OMG, I totally love it], but who wants to be the “default” anything. Look it up, there’s not a positive definition to be found.)
How to cope with the stress of being the default parent? Well, like with anything, there are healthy and not so healthy coping mechanisms. I’ve been known to bottle the stress up inside, have a mommy meltdown, complain to my girlfriends and a few other unbecoming activities. But in between those, I’ve found some healthy, helpful and practical ways to cope with default parent stress.
- Ask your spouse for help. As the default parent it might seem obvious that [someone has to dress the kiddo/sandwiches need to be made/insert any obvious task], but to someone who doesn’t have this in their routine, it may need to be highlighted. Yes, I’m saying this all with a bit of snark, but truly, if you need an extra hand with the kiddos, sometimes you just have to ask.
- Don’t micromanage the help. Good gosh, I learned this the hard way. I’d ask hubs to help with our son and then “casually” play 20 questions about how he did it. Let me tell you, this did not encourage him to keep helping. He finally gave me an earful about my micromanagement tendencies. I’m not sure I’m perfect yet (ok, I’m actually sure I’m not perfect) but I’d like to think I’ve come a long way. If the basic goal was met with no injuries, good enough.
- Treat yourself. Hubs and I have spending money, a small monthly budget to blow on whatever we want. Used to be that Starbucks came out of my spending money as it is a luxury. Well, that rule was vetoed by executive mom order. As the default parent on getting up in the middle of the night, I need caffeine and it is no longer a luxury. Another grande please. (But at least join your coffee shop’s frequent buyer program and get that 13th cup free.)
- Remember what he is default for. Yes, you are the default parent but odds are your spouse is the default for something else. In our family hubs is the default puppy parent, chef, landscaper, mechanic and handyman. He may not know where the kid’s toothpaste is but I have never turned on a lawnmower. Keeping this in mind helps keep your sanity intact. If your spouse isn’t default on anything, now would be a good time to award him with a few.
- Quit demanding perfection. Cut yourself some slack if you don’t parent exactly the way you always envisioned. Cut yourself and your spouse some slack if you can’t perfectly split the parenting responsibilities. This is also a good time to accept a few more dust bunnies or some added bills for hired help and let go whatever high and mighty ideals are stressing you out. For us, we just started outsourcing the deep cleaning (ie hiring a housecleaner every month or two) and I’ve succumbed to letting my son watch Curious George while I shower on nights when hubs is gone. Twenty minutes twice a week isn’t going to kill anyone.
- Get the heck outta there. Not like forever. Maybe just for 30 minutes while you go enjoy #3 or go crazy and have a girls’ weekend out of town. It’ll do you some good. But remember, you are the default parent so you’ll need to consult your crazy family calendar, conduct a formal briefing and possibly leave written instructions. (I jest…kinda.)
- Remember the default perks. Hopefully if you are the default sandwich maker, laundry folder and bedtime story reader, you are also the default for first word, first hugs and other good perks. Right now I am enjoying being the first person my son will consistently give kisses to. I love love love being the default for that.
How do you keep parenting responsibilities balanced in your family?