Saturday 2 March 2019

The Priviledge of Being the Default Parent

mother and tween daughter under umbrellas

I remember early last year coming across the term 'default parent', it was an article in the Huff Post from 2014 that for some reason was popping up in my Facebook feed. I must admit it wasn't a term I was familiar with, but a bit of googling led me to find it is pretty well used and often in a derogatory fashion.

M Blazoned, the writer of the Huff Post article suggests "the default parent is the one responsible for the emotional, physical and logistical needs of the children", and she points out that generally it will be the mother. 

Most articles I read were from mothers who were fed up and worn out of being the one that the children always come to. Often, they were juggling a paid job, childcare and taking care of the family home, and frankly they were burnt out and wondering why it all fell to them when they had a partner who could technically take half the load.

mother and tween daughter by the cliffs

Before we moved to East Sussex, I was probably that woman - absolutely knackered, running on adrenaline and never daring to take a moment to breath just in case it all fell apart. Now, I am in a much more fortunate position as the house we live in comes with my husbands’ job and thus we don’t have such pressure to earn large salaries. We have reassessed our lifestyle and made changes which mean I can now do paid work part-time from home, and then use the rest of the time to volunteer and look after the home and our family.

I am the default parent in our family, from the start I have been the default parent and I don’t for one moment think it is my husband that made me so. This isn’t a post to bash what my husband contributes to our family, far from it. I absolutely love the fact that right now he takes on the responsibility to earn a good living and provide our home for us, allowing me time to go to the gym, meet friends and read – all things I love.

Sometimes when I’m chatting to my husband, I’ll talk about something going on in one of our kids’ lives and he won’t know what I’m on about. Then sometimes when he cooks dinner instead of me, he’ll ask me how each child likes that dish, what accompaniments should he serve for each? I genuinely would be gutted not to know all these ins and outs of their daily lives.

I love that I am the one who gets to take them to the doctors, dentists, orthodontists, opticians and hairdressers.  I get to kiss their bumps better, stick their plaster or apply their cream. I liaise with school, I discipline them, we have heart to hearts, and we laugh a lot.

teen boy with large mixed grill

When my husband and I are both in a room and an adult is needed, it’s me they’ll ask. I may not even be the best person to ask and in that case, I’ll remind them Dad is there and he’s far more qualified to answer that or take them there. But I do love that they think I am the font of all knowledge and the orchestrator or all activities. Mum can make it happen.

Sometimes I wonder how left out I’d feel if he knew all the things I know about the kids. Just the mundane stuff, like what homework they are working on, who is arguing with who at school and what we sang in the car earlier. Truly though, as someone who has always suffered with feelings of being rejected or feeling left out, this is the first time ever that everyone needs me and I’m the centre of it all. I love it. They need me and I need them.

I feel absolutely privileged to be the default parent. Yes, it can be tiring and sometimes you need to know when to defer to the other adult in the relationship, but for me it is the most rewarding job in the world.

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