The Default Parent

Lately everything on the internet seems to be regurgitated info. I’ll read something, then I’ll see it shared out via HuffPost or some other outlet, then four friends share it, then a month later another friend shares it and so on and so forth. I find myself questioning am I nuts or is it just Facebook deja vu?!

One article I’ve seen a million times — but read each time someone new posts it — is The Default Parent.

I am grateful to have a husband who is very much a parenting partner every step of the way: from diaper-changes to story- reading to laundry-folding to dinner-prepping … we very much share our parenting responsibilities. We both work full-time, and we both co-manage our household, we both take care of our kids — nurturing them, teaching them, grooming them to be good citizens of the world. He does drop-off, I do pick-up. We have a nice system going.

But when push comes to shove, like most moms, I’m the “default parent.”

And I don’t mind it most of the time; secretly — or not so secretly–I love being needed. Truly, genuinely needed by little people who know nothing else.

Of course, right now Ben is going through a major separation anxiety phase with me — only me — and that complicates things as I cannot turn my back to him for more than a minute before he begins wailing for me and signaling “up” … but for the most part, I truly don’t mind being the default parent.

But sometimes, because I’m a working mom, being the “default parent” is extra-hard. Like the past week.

There’s one week every month where my husband is slammed at work more than usual — where we often don’t see him and if we do, it’s a bonus. Last week was that hell week for him … and Wednesday around 2 p.m., daycare called saying Ben had a 103 degree fever and wasn’t acting like himself. The unspoken message: he needed to be picked up, STAT.

Though I have a pretty flexible work environment, I have been slammed at work with several big projects coming to a head and so as soon as I could see it was daycare on the caller ID, my heart sank, realizing something was probably wrong and I’d probably have to DEAR (Drop Everything And Run).

Normally I don’t mind when they call. And often my husband is able to pitch in, since he works much closer to daycare than me — he often does doctor runs when the kids are sick, or we tag-team. But on Wednesday, he was not going to be able to pitch in, and I knew that.

So it would be me picking him up, making the doctor appointment, and bringing him — all the while trying to respond to time-sensitive emails, arrange a big meeting, and take care of a sick babe who just wanted to be in mama’s arms.

Ben looked like hell when I got to school; he barely acknowledged me and it was clear he wasn’t well. After a dose of Tylenol to bring his fever down, I brought him home and rocked him to sleep. Within minutes he was out cold on my shoulder — and napped til right before we had to leave for the doctor. At the pediatrician, we found out he has his second double-ear infection in a month. YAY. Fortunately his fever went down and he started to feel like himself as the afternoon wore on. Since his fever was brought on by the ear infection, he was allowed back at school Thursday.

But then over the course of the next few days and into the weekend, the fever didn’t stay away and, in fact, kept spiking. He was a miserable, whiny, sick little shell of himself. It was like we had a newborn all over again. He slept in our arms for hours on end, was lethargic, cried when we put him down, and was cranky as can be — waking several times in the middle of the night (which we haven’t dealt with since he was like three months old).

It was obvious either the antibiotic he was on wasn’t working … or something else was wrong. By Sunday I was at my wit’s end and called the pediatrician on call for the second time that weekend (the first time I learned about a virus going around that he suspected Ben might have caught). Given his symptoms — and the new rash all over his body — he said it sounded like textbook roseola, in which case the wild rash shows  up after the fever breaks. Awesomesauce. So now at least we had a reason why our happy, smiley tot was a hot, irritable mess …

He still had a low-grade fever as of last night and the policy at daycare is you need to be fever-free for 24 hours, so we had to figure out kid duty for today. Enter the default parent once again — since I can realistically work anywhere, anytime (given the nature of my role) we decided I would be the one to stay home with him.

So I worked last night for a couple hours and woke early to get as far ahead as I could … and just did what I could today being home with a sick, clingy baby — which meant busting my butt during his ridiculously long naps and playing catch-up tonight as well. What you can, when you can, right?

Now it’s 10 p.m. and this mama is ready to pass the hell out. Fortunately, L’s hell week is over and this weekend he was able to share the joy misery of a sick babe with me. 😉 (And also a pre-anniversary date night, which we both definitely needed after such a stressful couple of days!)

How about you? Are you the default parent? Do you find that role changes or foresee it changing as your kids get older?



2 thoughts on “The Default Parent

  1. I also read that article every time someone posts it. I, too, am the default parent, no question. My husband does some but I wouldn’t call it a lot and still doesn’t know stuff. Like if he has to pack Nate’s lunch, he has to ask what goes in it. (Meanwhile, I pack lunch while also cooking dinner, answering emails on my phone, and answering Nate’s 100 questions a minute… mom multitasking.) And if I’m home but I ask Tom to do something (give Nate a shower, put him to bed), Nate is not happy 75% of the time. He prefers me… and I’m actually pretty okay with that since I know some day he’ll tell me to get out of his face and leave him alone.

    I feel like someone HAS to be default, but the degree to which someone is default can vary and that can be worked on. It’s hard, though, when you are the innately/have to be more flexible one. I feel like this is something I didn’t think much about before being a mom.

    1. LOL–women have a million “windows” open … it’s SO true!!!

      I totally agree that I never gave it any thought before becoming a mom, either. This is the kind of stuff no one really talks about or prepares you for. And in some marriages/relationships, the dad is the default parent. Less common … but it happens!

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