The Default Parent (an opinion piece)

by | Jun 11, 2024

the default parent

I want to start out by saying that I’m blessed to have an incredible partner in my husband. Honestly, there are many times when I sit back and compare myself to him and feel completely inadequate in my role as a wife and mother.

He does it all- literally.

He is an amazing dad. He cooks, he cleans, he does homework, he can pretty much build/do anything when it comes to projects, he’s a provider, and he doesn’t ever ask for time alone/away from our family.

God knew I needed him.

I would not be the person, nurse, or mom that I am today if it wasn’t for him. We’ve been married for over 15 years and together for almost 19. I could not handle this Motherload if it wasn’t for him.

That being said, I’m still the default parent.

Now, I will say, I’m slightly triggered by even using the phrase “default” parent as I feel like it has immediate negative implications for our partners, and many of them do not deserve that (my husband included). It’s kind of like the word “empowered” these days… It rubs me the wrong way. But for lack of a better word, let’s run with it.

Let’s start with defining what it means to be the “default parent”. There is definitely room for interpretation here. I think the best place to start is by looking at some of the tasks of the default parent..

Coordinating and scheduling childcare

I am the one who finds childcare (whether that is a daycare, school, nanny, or family member) and I make the decision as to whether or not it’s a safe option. I am the one who ensures we have coverage (childcare) for our working hours and/or if we are doing things away from the kids. I’m the primary point of contact for communication with our childcare. I ensure our childcare gets paid (if applicable). I complete any documents needed (school forms, immunization records, signed consents) for childcare. I feel like I have to ask my husband to watch our kids whenever we don’t have childcare (or it’s assumed I’ll be the childcare).

Life related to the Health & Wellbeing of our Children

I am the one who schedules (and attends) any appointments our children have (dentist, haircut, well-child). I’m the one who manages their wardrobe. I make sure they have clothes to wear that actually fit them and I cycle out old clothes according to the season. I find, buy, and recycle any toys. I’m the main point of contact for coordinating and scheduling playdates with their friends. I’m also the one who takes them and picks them up (unless I ask my husband to do it). I make the grocery list, order them (or go to the store), and make a meal plan. I’m the one who comes up with what we are having for dinner (most nights). I’m the one who initiates the bedtime routine (and enforces bedtime) every night.

I’m always “on”, on the Weekends

I’m the one the toddler calls for in the morning. I’m the one who is assumed to get up with the kids on the weekend. I do most of the diaper changes. It’s assumed I’ll do lunch on the weekends. I initiate naptime. I get them up from naptime. I feel like I have to ask my husband to “watch the kids” if I want to go on a walk or do something by myself on the weekend.

Being the “Default” Parent means you’re always ON.

Now, don’t get me wrong. I’m not complaining. At all. Like I said, my husband is as involved in our children’s lives as I am. In a lot of ways, he’s more engaged in their life than I am because of the mental load I carry in motherhood (that’s a topic for another day!). I’m beyond blessed to be a mom of four, and I would not have it any other way. I am well aware that even though the day to day feels like organized chaos (and all work and no play), I will look back on these days as some of the best days of my entire life. But it doesn’t mean that this season is easy. Because it’s not.

    I have so many mental tabs open.

    I think the best way to describe the difference between me and my husband is this: He can be sitting quietly on the couch and when asked, “What are you thinking about” he’ll respond, “nothing”. And he means it. He is able to think about nothing. I can not remember the last time I thought about nothing. Well, when I’m sleeping I think about nothing! Maybe that’s why I value nighttime sleep so much! But in all seriousness, motherhood means you’re always “on”.

    Accepting that fact and finding ways to limit the level of “on” you are ( low vs. high!) is really the only way we’ll be able to thrive in this crazy, overwhelming season that is early-momming.

    So, as a working mom of four, let me leave you with some tips and tools that I use in my daily life that help me be able to continue in my role as the “default parent” and the CEO of Baby Settler.

    Here are my Top Tips:

    1. No work email on my phone.
    2. I use “inbox when ready” on my emails so I don’t get distracted when I’m sending emails or filling out forms via my inbox.
      Example: When I see an email I feel like I have to respond right then..and it steals a lot of my mental energy to ignore it.
    3. Google Calendar – I live by this. I color code different things.
      For example, live meetings are in red. My clinical patient-care days are in yellow. My nanny is gray. This way, I’m able to quickly see what I have going on and know if I can take on more or not.
    4. Asana – It’s a project management tool and I live by it in my work-life.
    5. I don’t Micromanage my husband or my team. We already talked about my relationship with my husband so let’s look at my team. I have built a team that loves what they do and we try to work in our zones of genius. I have intentionally brought people on board who are better than me at the things they do, and they love what they do.
    6. Clear Communication is key with your partner (and really any relationship). We truly function as a team. I could not do it without him. We don’t get this right all the time, but it’s always top of mind.
    7. Nervous system regulation; this is a new area for me. For the last year, I’ve really been digging into the research and I’ve made some intentional changes in my life and it’s crazy how much it really helps.

    So ladies, the takeaway is this:

    We are the Default Parent. It’s not a negative thing, it’s just the reality.

    But it can feel extremely overwhelming to be the default parent if you’re “on” level is on high, all the time. What does this look like? It looks like you have the responsibility of being the default parent but you’re not getting uninterrupted sleep at night and your day has no rhyme or rhythm to it.

    Think about it like this: Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs says you can’t pour into your relationships with your partner, your children, or your friends, or really feel accomplished if you’re not getting your basic needs met (sleep). Because it’s true what “they” say, this season can suck you dry (literally and figuratively). But it doesn’t have to. Your baby can thrive. You can sleep. Your relationships can evolve. You just need truth at your fingertips.

    If you’re looking for some extra support (even just a listening ear!) during this season, I’m here to help!

    I’m showing up for a few, in a way I wish I could show up for everyone!

    Becoming a Baby Settler VIP is your fast track to end the overwhelm and get uninterrupted nighttime sleep, in as little as 3 days.

    So you can start moving up Maslow’s Hierarchy of needs!

    You get Exclusive one-on-one Access to me (Hillary) 24/7 (well, almost! I do have to sleep!) in real-time via text, voice memos, and video calls (with the option to “add on” 3-5-7 day in-person support).

    I’m currently at capacity, but I’ll be working with a few new moms soon!

    Join the waitlist today!

    In Your Corner, Always!

    Hillary- The Baby Settler

    hillary sadler founder baby settler
    Meet Hillary

    Hi! I’m Hillary, the Mama behind Baby Settler. These days you can find me with my four children and husband… probably outside, and helping Mama’s and families. I also have a lot of letters behind my name which translate, I’m also a Labor & Delivery nurse and Lactation Consultant.

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