Announcing when you’re going to go pee… and other things related to being the “default parent”

Default Parent:

The one that feels like they need to announce when they’re going to be leaving the room so the other parent knows they won’t be watching the child/children.

A couple weeks ago I had a conversation with my husband about how I felt like the “default parent”. I was feeling irritated and I had started to pay attention to what exactly was making me feel this way on weekends. Now, of course quarantine life has really amplified any kind of feelings I have with regard to “mom life”. Prior to quarantine life, Milo was in daycare and I was finishing up my PhD and actually getting out of the house regularly. So, keep that in mind. If coronavirus never existed, I might have never experienced this “default parent” feeling. The first time I brought it up, I couldn’t really explain what was making me feel irritated. I said something like “I feel like I’m the one that is always watching over Milo and interacting with him constantly while you do stuff around the house, etc.” I was clear that it wasn’t anyones FAULT. It was just how I felt our family dynamic had become.

I don’t want to do the dishes at 9am on a Saturday morning. AND, I also don’t want my husband doing the dishes at 9am on a Saturday morning.

On weekends, before I could finish my coffee, my husband would be up washing dishes, starting laundry, and bee-bopping around the house. Which, on paper looks great! Don’t get me wrong, I love that my husband does these things. But, I want to bee-bop around the house. I’ve been hovering over Milo all week. Making animal sounds 900 times a day. Sitting on the floor. Watching his every move so he doesn’t jump off the couch head first. Quarantine life has made doing solo chores a luxury. And no, I don’t want to do the dishes at 9am on a Saturday morning. AND, I also don’t want my husband doing the dishes at 9am on a Saturday morning. Because that means I can’t just relax and have my coffee on Saturday morning. The dishes can wait.

Being the default parent also means that you feel a nagging guilt anytime you’re doing something alone while the other parent is entertaining/watching the child/children. I have this issue! Unless I am out of the house running errands, gone for a walk, vacuuming, etc. (doing something productive and/or distracting), I feel like I have to be doing whatever Milo and my husband are doing. Why?? Why can’t I just sit inside and read or do nothing while they play outside? It is such an annoying feeling because it prevents me from enjoying alone time.

Trying to explain this feeling of being the “default parent” to your partner can be difficult. My husband looked at me confused… “you don’t want me to do the dishes or take out the garbage?” No, I don’t. Not right now, anyways. For the next three hours I want you to sit on the floor with Milo, make animals sounds and point at the TV saying “look hunny, it’s Elmo, or Peppa, or The Wiggles, etc.” in a really high pitched voice. It sounds crazy. I know. I think this is why it took me 90 days of quarantine to figure out that I am the “default parent” and what that even means. Like, “why am I annoyed that my husband is doing the dishes right now?” I am annoyed because he is busy doing productive things and I feel like I’m stuck doing the SAME things I’ve been doing all week (i.e., “moooo”). And, because he is busy doing stuff (whatever that may be) means that I can’t be doing stuff that I want to do.

Who wants to accomplish what? What are some activities you want to do alone and as a family?

If you feel like being the default parent on weekends is causing frustration, I highly recommend talking to your partner about it. Discuss how you both want the weekends to play out. Who wants to accomplish what? What are some activities you want to do alone and as a family? If you don’t talk about it, the other person has no idea what your expectations are of the weekend and vice versa. Obviously my husband had good intentions by doing chores on a Saturday morning… and, meanwhile I’m annoyed watching him wash dishes. I know since we have had these conversations my husband has been making an effort to help me rid the status of “default parent”. I notice when he gets on the floor to play with Milo instead of getting up to do the dishes or make breakfast. And, while these are small changes to a Saturday morning, it makes a huge impact on me and my mood for the rest of the day. Now I have to work on my nagging mom guilt and not shout from the rooftops every time I just want to leave the room and go for a pee.

XOXO Renee Reina

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  • Rubia
    June 16, 2020

    This is absolutely right! I didn’t know how to describe it but this is exactly how I feel!

  • Colleen
    June 18, 2020

    I just discovered your Instagram and blog, and I haven’t felt so seen in my 2 years of parenting. Seriously, my therapist is telling me these things, but you are making them real. Thank you!!

  • Ashley
    June 21, 2020

    Every weekend and after work… Even today on Father’s Day I’m frustrated he’s sleeping in because I never got that on Mother’s Day (even though we tried—cue tantruming toddler and hungry baby). Being quarantined alone with the kids really exaggerated the default parent feeling. Thank you for these words. I feel heard!

  • Kristen Lintz
    July 6, 2020

    Thank you for eloquently explaining exactly how I have been feeling for the past 11 months.

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