What does it feel like to not be the default parent? No, I genuinely want to know. Like talk dirty to me, go into full-detail and don’t leave a single thing out.
What does it feel like?
To not be the one that your kids auto-pilot to when they need something? Even when you’re in a totally different room and there is another *should-be* willing and certainly able-bodied human sitting right next to them?
To not be the one waking up with the kids every day?
To not be the one to take kids to every doctor’s appointment or soccer practice? To not be the one to rearrange your schedule for every appointment or sick day?
To have weekend mornings be just that- weekend mornings. You know the ones… Where you get to lounge, take your time getting out of bed and move at a glacial pace?
What does that feel like?
You see, I’m afraid I will never know. Because in my house, I am the default parent.
Don’t get me wrong, I love that I am needed. I love that I am the one that my daughter feels comfortable expressing her every want to, regardless of what that is- yogurt, a new diaper, a change of scenery, a hug or a snuggle… I am happy that I have the ability to be the default parent because it means that I have time spent with my girl.
But that sure doesn’t mean that it wouldn’t also be nice to sit and scroll through my phone, totally oblivious to the 800th request flying at me in under 5 minutes. Or to hear the pop of the monitor come on and know that there was someone else who was going to put boots on the ground and wish our girl a good morning.
Because, wow, what a treat that would be! To be the one to get to lay in bed a little longer and not immediately jump into action at the first sign of life every day with no break until eyelids close for the night.
But you see, it’s hard for me to not be the default parent in our house. I freelance from home. My husband works out of the house. I am allowed the luxury of staying at home and being the primary caretaker for our daughter, while he puts in his 40 off-site. I wake up at 5:30 every day to put in a few hours’ worth of work before our day gets started, which means I am always awake and the first to hear the house’s stirrings for the day.
It means it just makes more sense for me to handle the home-life things. When there are “off” days and we are all home, it is just comfortable for everyone to remain in their same roles. It takes no thought at all because it’s what everyone is used to 5/7 days of the week.
And truly, I think once you become the default parent, unless there is a massive life changing event that prevents that from being a continual possibility, it is damn near impossible for everybody to not see you as just that: the default parent.
And you know what? If I’m being honest, that kind of sucks. It is a blessing to be so needed and be able to grant so many of the familial needs and wishes but…. Sometimes, just sometimes, it’s hard to be so needed all the time.
So, if you’re not the default parent in your house, will you try to start noticing the things that go unnoticed? This is going to take some work. The asks for snacks, the alerts that diapers need to be changed, the request for activities…
Will you give your partner a little break? Will you step in and provide some of the solutions to these requests?
Furthermore, perhaps offer to take the monitor for the night/morning and allow your partner the taste of a slow morning. Every once-in-a-while offer to take the kids on a sick day, if you’re able. Thank your partner for handling the things at home frequently and often without a second thought. And four the love, if we (the default parent) ask for help or voice an impending breaking point, listen. Because often we do things without thinking twice, and if we have reached a point where that is too much to juggle, we REALLY mean it.
And to my default parents: I see you. I see you working, parenting, worrying, planning and strategizing around the clock. I see you doing things without even thinking about it. I see you continuously taking care of things that go seemingly unnoticed by others. I see you bending over backwards for your kids and your family without mention from anyone else. I see you doing the easy things, the hard things and everything in between. I see you handling stuff because it just needs to be that- handled. You are seen. You are doing an amazing job, even when it might not feel like it.