Menu

True life: I’m the default parent

My number is the one called by the preschool, my name is the one known by nurses at the doctor's office, and when there is a snow day, there is no question about who will rearrange work.

default parent

I am in the midst of the days I always dreamed of—raising wonderful, precocious children with an abundance of support from my partner. I know it's good, I really do. And if you ask me to take a step back and think about the sentiment that comes to mind when I think of this amazing gift, my honest response is that I'm so grateful.

But if I'm also being honest, there is more pressure on me at any given moment of time (even at 3 am when I'm in a dead slumber) than anything I experienced before having kids. At least when it comes to that measure, that isn't a weight evenly shared with my partner.

FEATURED VIDEO


Being the "default parent" really means I'm the "expect the unexpected parent," who must structure my days, weeks, life as I know it, around being able to change course at a moment's notice. It's as if there was a workplace surprise and the boss has to go into crisis mode and try to remember what they are supposed to do and how they can keep everyone else calm—except, with two young kids, that's happening on a nearly weekly basis.

This is my role and I'm still navigating how to play it.

Being the default parent means my number is the one called by the preschool.

Being the default parent means my name is the one known by nurses at the doctor's office.

Being the default parent means when there is a snow day, there is no question about who will rearrange work.

Then there are the ways in which nature predetermined me to be the default parent, as it recently occurred to me when I realized I've been pregnant and/or nursing for four years with the exception of just three weeks. Those simply weren't responsibilities up for discussion to share with my partner.

Sometimes these responsibilities—small as they may seem when taken individually—feel really heavy when I consider the sum. My time is stretched thin, my organizational abilities are tested and my body doesn't even feel like it's entirely my own.

And while my husband has been my go-to confidant for years, this is something he doesn't or can't really get. Just like I can't really get the weight of responsibility he carries in providing for our family as the default provider. For us and our dynamics, this is how "working like a team" looks—only it can be hard when it feels like we're standing on two opposite ends of the field playing either offense or defense single-handedly.

Then, at the end of the day, we come together to recount our battles and celebrate our victories and strategize about how we can keep improving, keep helping each other better. Still, while I honestly couldn't ask for more, we seem to operate best when we're working as specialists.

But being the default parent is not a case of taking the good with the bad; the stage of early motherhood has challenged me to find the good in the bad. Rather than thinking about all of these things as obligations, it always serves me well to remember what opportunities they really are.

I am the one who gets to observe my son listening to his teachers, playing with friends and being so kind when I arrive a few minutes early to school pick-up.

I am the one who my kids turn to for snuggles and comfort when they are sick.

I am the one who gets to create spontaneous snow day memories with them from hastily assembled crafts or sledding expeditions.

I am the one who gets to feel baby kicks, experience the miracle of childbirth and nourish these babies—all and only with my own body.

Rather than thinking of myself as the default parent, it's so much more empowering to frame myself as what I really am at this moment of time in my relationship: the day-to-day parenting specialist. I'm the one with boots on the ground and while they may get a bit muddy on occasion, there is no beating the love I receive as payment.

In This Article

    The one thing your family needs to practice gratitude

    And a tradition you'll want to keep for years.

    Gracious Gobbler

    I think I can speak for well, basically everyone on planet earth when I say things have been a bit stressful lately. Juggling virtual school, work and the weight of worry about all the things, it's increasingly difficult to take even a moment to be grateful and positive these days. It's far easier to fall into a grump cycle, nagging my kids for all the things they didn't do (after being asked nine times), snapping at their bickering and never really acknowledging the good stuff.

    But the truth is, gratitude and appreciation is the kind of medicine we need now more than ever—and not just because the season is upon us. For one thing, practicing gratitude is a scientifically proven way to boost our happiness, health and relationships. More importantly, we need to ensure we're cultivating it in our children even when things are challenging. Especially when things are challenging.

    I'm ready to crank the thankfulness up a few dozen notches and reboot our family's gratitude game so we can usher out 2020 on a fresh note. So, I've called in some reinforcements.

    Enter: the Gracious Gobbler.

    Keep reading Show less
    Shop

    Here are the self-care items you desperately need right now

    Self care is not enough, but with the news, the ongoing pandemic and just life, it can't hurt to self-pamper to make the world feel less heavy.

    @stefiakti/Twenty20

    This week has felt like a month. Between the debate, Chrissy Teigen's heartbreaking news and now with President Trump tweeting that he and Melania have tested positive for COVID-19 it's hard to not feel overwhelmed. On top of that, we are still in a never ending historical pandemic, people are still losing their jobs and moms, well, we are at the end of our rope.

    Yes, motherhood is political, and no, self care is not enough to fix burn out, but if all you need right now is to turn off your phone and cozy up to a soft blanket because you've had enough, I hear you. Hard same. So we picked some stuff for you to buy and pamper yourself. No regrets, we all deserve some self-love right now.

    Here are things that will make you feel hugged:

    Keep reading Show less
    Shop

    Every week, we stock the Motherly Shop with innovative and fresh products from brands we feel good about. We want to be certain you don't miss anything, so to keep you in the loop, we're providing a cheat sheet.

    So, what's new this week?

    Happiest Baby: Baby sleep solutions designed by the experts

    Created by renowned pediatrician, baby sleep expert and (as some might say) lifesaver Dr. Harvey Karp, Happiest Baby has been helping new parents understand and nurture their infants for close to two decades. Building on the success of his celebrated books and video The Happiest Baby on the Block and The Happiest Toddler on the Block he's developed groundbreaking, science-based product solutions that conquer a new parent's top stressor—exhaustion.

    WSEL Bags: Dad-designed diaper bags that think of everything

    WSEL stands for work smart, enjoy life—an ethos we couldn't agree with more. Founded by a stay at home dad who struggled to find a diaper bag that he not only wanted to use, but one that would last far beyond the baby years, these premium, adventure-ready backpacks are ideal for everything from errands to week-long getaways.

    Codex Beauty: Exceptionally effective sustainable skin care

    Codex Beauty's line of sustainable plant-based skin care blends the science of plant biology with biotech innovations, to create clinically proven, state-of-the-art products for all skin types. They're all vegan, EWG and Leaping Bunny verified and created in collaboration with Herbal Scientist Tracy Ryan who uses concepts dating back to the 8th century leveraging plants like sea buckthorn and calendula flower. Not only are we totally crushing on the innovative formulas that are in the packaging but we're in love with the sustainable sugarcane-derived tubes as well.

    Not sure where to start? Here's what we're adding to our cart:

    Keep reading Show less
    Shop