The mental load of motherhood always piles up on Sunday

As the default parent, I am the keeper of the pantry, the schedule and all sports accessories.

The mental load of motherhood always piles up on Sunday

Much has been made lately of the mental load carried by the “default parent.” But how do you know you’re the default parent? If you’re not sure, then it’s probably not you—but here’s an illustration from our household nonetheless.

My husband Jon travels frequently for work—he’s gone some portion of three out of four weeks of the month. He left this morning in fact, for a brief, one-night trip. He packed last night at 9 p.m., and emailed me exactly one document before he left—his travel itinerary.

Meanwhile, I’m getting ready to head out of town for five days beginning on Friday. It’s a solo trip, purely for pleasure, and it will be the longest I’ve been away since our second child was born (she’s now three and a half).


I talked to my mom six months ago about helping with the kids while I’m gone. Before I leave, I will email my husband at least three documents: my travel itinerary, a detailed breakdown of our kids’ schedules (who needs to be picked up from which school when, what security tag/car sign is needed for each pickup, who has which extracurricular activity on which day, what needs to be packed for lunches, what forms needs to be signed each night, etc.), and a list of emergency numbers (pediatrician, babysitter, my travel companion in case I can’t be reached). The day before I leave, I will clean the house, do the laundry and go to the grocery.

Obviously, I am the default parent. This does not mean that I don’t miss my husband while he’s gone (I do) or that his absence isn’t noticed (it is). It just means that, when he’s gone, our household still runs in much the same way it does when he’s here.

Even when there’s no travel looming, the same routine plays out on a smaller scale.

Sundays are often my most stressful day of the week.

It starts in the morning with the grocery list. I comb through the refrigerator and pantry and make note of the staples we’re missing, then I flip through cookbooks, recipe cards, and Pinterest to figure out what we’re having for dinner every night.

I compile everything and make a list of what we need (organized by aisle in the grocery store, of course). Jon is responsible for adding exactly two things to the list—whatever he wants for breakfast and what he’d like to take for lunch each day. Then I hand him the list (and, ideally, at least one child) and he goes to the store.

While he’s gone, I check my phone’s Google calendar against the dry-erase one on the refrigerator door—is Jon traveling this week? Do I have any meetings? Do we have any childcare needs to cover? I make a note to ask Jon if he can be home early on Thursday; I have a board meeting that night.

As the default parent, I am the keeper of the pantry, the schedule and all sports accessories. But the funny thing is, I don’t ever remember a conversation when my husband and I sat down and decided that I was in charge of all those things.

Our marriage started out on 50/50 footing—I washed the clothes; Jon folded them and put them away. I loaded the dishwasher; he unloaded it. I made the grocery lists and gathered our tax documents; he took care of dealing with the cable company and taking out the trash every week.

Like many other default parents, my role has developed out of necessity and common sense. Three years ago, I switched to working from home. My hours are flexible and part-time; my husband’s schedule is far more demanding and rigid. Someone has to do all the things, and gradually that someone became me.

The truth is, I do not begrudge my Sunday burden. Logically, I understand why it needs to fall to me, and it’s become such a part of my routine now that I almost forget how much work it is.

Until I head out of town of course, and I have to write it down in list form. I won’t deny that I took a small amount of pleasure from the way my husband’s eyes boggled when he saw what will need to be done in my absence.

“Wow. Um, when do you get back again?” he stammered.

“Wednesday. Don’t worry; you’ll be fine.”

And he will be.

And so will the kids.

And so will I.

I'm taking a break from default parenting because I deserve it. It'll be good for me. And I think, in a way, it'll be really good for my husband, too.

14 outdoor toys your kids will want to play with beyond summer

They transition seamlessly for indoor play.

With Labor day weekend in the rearview and back-to-school in full swing, most parents are fresh out of boxes to check on their "Fun Concierge" hit list. It's also the point of diminishing returns on investing in summer-only toys. So with that in mind, we've rounded up some of our favorite toys that are not only built to last but will easily make the transition from outdoor to indoor play. Even better, they're Montessori-friendly and largely open-ended so your kids can get a ton of use out of them.

From sunny backyard afternoons to rainy mornings stuck inside, these toys are sure to keep little ones engaged and entertained.

Meadow ring toss game

Plan Toys meadow ring toss game

Besides offering a fantastic opportunity to hone focus, coordination, determination and taking turns, lawn games are just plain fun. Set them up close together for the littles and spread them out when Mom and Dad get in on the action. With their low profile and rope rings, they're great for indoors as well.


Balance board

Plan Toys balance board

Balance boards are a fabulous way to get the wiggles out. This one comes with a rope attachment, making it suitable for even the youngest wigglers. From practicing their balance and building core strength to working on skills that translate to skateboarding and snowboarding, it's a year-round physical activity that's easy to bring inside and use between Zoom classes, too!


Detective set

Plan Toys detective setDetective Set

This set has everything your little detective needs to solve whatever mystery they might encounter: an eye glasses, walkie-talkie, camera, a red lens, a periscope and a bag. Neighborhood watch? Watch out.


Wooden doll stroller

Janod wooden doll strollerWooden Doll Stroller

Take their charges on a stroll around the block with this classic doll stroller. With the same versatility they're used to in their own ride, this heirloom quality carriage allows their doll or stuffy to face them or face the world.


Sand play set

Plan Toys sand set

Whether you're hitting the beach or the backyard sandbox, this adorable wooden sand set is ready for action. Each scoop has an embossed pattern that's perfect for sand stamping. They're also totally suitable for water play in the wild or the bathtub.


Water play set

Plan Toys water play set

Filled with sand or water, this tabletop sized activity set keeps little ones busy, quiet and happy. (A mama's ideal trifecta 😉). It's big enough to satisfy their play needs but not so big it's going to flood your floors if you bring the fun inside on a rainy day.


Mini golf set

Plan Toys mini golf set

Fore! This mini golf set is lawn and living room ready. Set up a backyard competition or incorporate into homeschooling brain breaks that shift focus and build concentration.


Vintage scooter balance bike

Janod retro scooter balance bike

Pedals are so 2010. Balance bikes are the way to go for learning to ride a bike while skipping the training wheels stage altogether. This impossibly cool retro scooter-style is built to cruise the neighborhood or open indoor space as they're learning.


Wooden rocking pegasus

plan toys wooden rocking pegasus

Your little will be ready to take flight on this fun pegasus. It gently rocks back and forth, but doesn't skimp on safety—its winged saddle, footrests and backrest ensure kids won't fall off whether they're rocking inside or outside.


Croquet set

Plan Toys croquet set

The cutest croquet set we've ever seen! With adorable animal face wooden balls and a canvas bag for easy clean up, it's also crafted to stick around awhile. Round after round, it's great for teaching kiddos math and problem-solving skills as well.


Wooden digital camera

fathers factory wooden digital camera

Kids get the chance to assemble the camera on their own then can adventure anywhere to capture the best moments. With two detachable magnetic lenses, four built-in filters and video recorder, your little photographer can tap into their creativity from summertime to the holidays.


Wooden bulldozer toy

plan toys wooden bulldozer toy

Whether they're digging up sand in the backyad or picking up toys inside, kids can get as creative as they want picking up and moving things around. Even better? Its wooden structure means it's not an eye sore to look at wherever your digger drops it.


Pull-along hippo

janod toys pull along hippo toy

There's just something so fun about a classic pull-along toy and we love that they seamlessly transition between indoor and outdoor play. Crafted from solid cherry and beechwood, it's tough enough to endure outdoor spaces your toddler takes it on.


Baby forest fox ride-on

janod toys baby fox ride on

Toddlers will love zooming around on this fox ride-on, and it's a great transition toy into traditional balance bikes. If you take it for a driveway adventure, simply use a damp cloth to wipe down the wheels before bringing back inside.


We independently select and share the products we love—and may receive a commission if you choose to buy. You've got this.


There is rightfully a lot of emphasis on preparing for the arrival of a new baby. The clothes! The nursery furniture! The gear! But, the thing about a baby registry is, well, your kids will keep on growing. Before you know it, they'll have new needs—and you'll probably have to foot the bill for the products yourself.

Thankfully, you don't have to break the bank when shopping for toddler products. Here are our favorite high-quality, budget-friendly finds to help with everything from meal time to bath time for the toddler set.

Comforts Fruit Crisps Variety Pack

Comforts fruit snacks

If there is one thing to know about toddlers, it is this: They love snacks. Keeping a variety on hand is easy when the pack already comes that way! Plus, we sure do appreciate that freeze-dried fruit is a healthier alternative to fruit snacks.

Comforts Electrolyte Drink

Comforts electrolyte drink

Between running (or toddling!) around all day and potentially developing a pickier palate, many toddlers can use a bit of extra help with replenishing their electrolytes—especially after they've experienced a tummy bug. We suggest keeping an electrolyte drink on hand.

Comforts Training Pants

Comforts training pants

When the time comes to start potty training, it sure helps to have some training pants on hand. If they didn't make it to the potty in time, these can help them learn their body's cues.

Comforts Nite Pants

comforts nite pants

Even when your toddler gets the hang of using the toilet during the day, nighttime training typically takes several months longer than day-time training. In the meantime, nite pants will still help them feel like the growing, big kid they are.

Comforts Baby Lotion

comforts baby lotion

Running, jumping, playing in sand, splashing in water—the daily life of a toddler can definitely irritate their skin! Help put a protective barrier between their delicate skin and the things they come into contact with every day with nourishing lotion.

Another great tip? Shopping the Comforts line on to find premium baby products for a fraction of competitors' prices—and follow along on social media to see product releases and news at @comfortsforbaby.

This article was sponsored by The Kroger Co. Thank you for supporting the brands that support Motherly and mamas.

Our Partners

It's science: Why your baby stops crying when you stand up

A fascinating study explains why.

When your baby is crying, it feels nearly instinctual to stand up to rock, sway and soothe them. That's because standing up to calm babies is instinctual—driven by centuries of positive feedback from calmed babies, researchers have found.

"Infants under 6 months of age carried by a walking mother immediately stopped voluntary movement and crying and exhibited a rapid heart rate decrease, compared with holding by a sitting mother," say authors of a 2013 study published in Current Biology.

Even more striking: This coordinated set of actions—the mother standing and the baby calming—is observed in other mammal species, too. Using pharmacologic and genetic interventions with mice, the authors say, "We identified strikingly similar responses in mouse pups as defined by immobility and diminished ultrasonic vocalizations and heart rate."

Keep reading Show less