You ask a room full of parents who would consider themselves to be the default parent and—you guessed it—most moms would raise their hands. The default parent, a term that most of us are probably already familiar with, is the one who takes on pretty much everything. From scheduling appointments to taxiing your kids to and from practice—the default parent's work is never done.
“I am in charge of carrying the mental load simply because I am home more often with them. While I’m not blaming him (my husband) I am saying it comes with a lot of challenges,” Ward begins before taking a deep dive into some examples of default parent resentment.
“I’m the one thinking about what they need for school. I’m the one thinking about what they ate that day. I’m the one managing their health. Extracurriculars. I’m the one that gets talked to nonstop and asked so many questions. I keep track of screen time. I keep track of so much stuff. My brain is on overload most of the time. And then I end up snapping more. I’m more impatient. I’m less fun.”
You probably got overwhelmed just from reading that. But finally, someone puts a name to what most default parents are feeling—and it's so relatable and validating.
In Motherly's 2022 State of Motherhood survey, data shows that 70% of moms are responsible for scheduling medical appointments for the family, even among partners who share household duties equally. Even amongst breadwinning moms, 50% surveyed that they still handle most of the household chores.
The weight that the default parent carries often leaves them feeling exhausted, overwhelmed and under-supported—not only by their partners but by society as a whole.
“I resent that when he’s around them, which is less than me, he has the brain space and the time and capacity to be the fun parent and I end up being the one that’s more uptight," Ward says about her husband.
In an Instagram post, she goes on to explain:
Related: I'm the default parent
“I love everything my husband does to provide for our home and honestly, he is such a partner at home in parenting our kids and running the house when he is home. But the fact of the matter is that he isn’t home for a lot of the time and therefore, I must remember the gymnastics and the meal planning and the appointments and emails from teachers and the vacation planning and when we cleaned last. It’s a lot of work, it’s undervalued by society and it’s frustrating that it's a major part of the reason I can’t let go and have the energy or capacity for fun.”
“It’s okay to be frustrated. The frustration is widespread and legitimate.”
Ward wraps up her post by explaining that it isn't a matter of seeing who has it worse, but communicating and bringing awareness to the endless weight that the default parents carry.
Hopefully, in doing so, default parents everywhere will at least feel validated in their challenges and (maybe) even start to get more support from their partners.
And by the looks of the comment section, many mothers seem to strongly agree.
"I've never been able to articulate this. perfection 😩"
"Or when he’s not around them and still has zero patience with them as if he’s been dealing with it all day. 😏"
"Also, the default parent is NEVER 'off work'. The working parent can leave work at work and enjoy time off. This was a big topic of tension for us."
"I, 100%, understand this. It is also frustrating to me that it is less convenient when he is home because it is almost like another child…"