The Honest Truth About Being The Default Parent

6 mins read
default parent

If you’ve found yourself here, then welcome to the club default parent sister (or brother). On the off chance that you have been sent here by a disgruntled partner or have accidentally stumbled to this page; let me give you the low down.

So what is a default parent? The default parent is the parent that makes sure the kids have eaten all their fruit and veg, the one who plans the meals in advance, the one who ensures you have a steady supply of oat milk in the house, the one who makes the doctors appointments, the one who plans extracurricular activities, the one who makes sure clothes are washed and ready, Halloween costumes are planned out, the one that is always watching the kids and normally the one that’s up with the baby all hours of the night. Essentially, it’s the parent who often just does everything.

How do I know if I’m the default parent in my family? We have a simple test. If you need to announce that you are leaving the room, or in some cases, even ask permission to go – then you’re one of us.

It is no surprise, then, that the default parent tends to be the mother. It can be easy to see how default parents often feel stressed and burnt out.

Why is it the mother who usually takes on the role of the default parent?

Moms are more likely to be default parents, there are many reasons why this might be the case. First, women have been conditioned to uphold themselves to impossible standards. Second, despite cultural progress over time, there is still a tendency for women to be the primary caregivers in most cultures. (This is particularly true when children are very young.) Third, we’re now expected to do it all: work full-time jobs while keeping up with housework and meal planning — not to mention taking care of children and pets, household chores, current and future meals, upcoming birthdays, Christmas and Halloween, sickness to name but a few.

It seems like there’s just too much pressure on us these days…and yet many people still expect us to also manage successful careers and relationships—and also by some miracle, find time for hobbies.

Most mothers become default parents because they feel obligated due simply because they are mothers. In our society, that’s exactly what being a mother means.

The mental toll of being the default parent.

The mental toll of being the default parent is very real. There’s an endless list of things to do and worry about. No matter how many times you try to get it all done in one day or week, there is always more to do. You may feel overwhelmed with all your responsibilities, or you might need help dealing with emotions that arise due to being the default parent (the dreaded mum guilt).

When you’re trying so hard to keep things together while also caring for your family members—it’s easy for other areas in your life (like your own wellbeing) to fall by the wayside!

As hard as it is, mothers often find it difficult to relinquish control.

Let’s face it. The mental load is HARD – but it wouldn’t be easy to simply hand everything over to someone else to take care of.

We are nurturing creatures and have an innate desire to care for those around us. It may also be because of society’s expectations that mothers should be self-sacrificing caregivers—a stereotype that has existed in our culture for centuries. We

In any case, if you’re a mother who struggles with feeling like she needs to keep things together on her own, know this: You are not alone. While letting go and allowing others’ help may seem scary at first, doing so will give you more opportunities for bonding and unconditional love with your children.

Default parent resentment

It is common for default parents to feel resentful towards their partners. This default parent resentment often stems from the unequal distribution of domestic responsibilities and childcare duties within the relationship.

When one partner takes on the majority of the childcare and household tasks, they may feel overwhelmed and resentful of their partner who is not pulling their weight in these areas. This feeling of resentment can be compounded by societal norms and expectations, which often place the burden of domestic work and childcare on women.

Default parents may also feel resentful towards their partners because they feel under-appreciated and undervalued for the work they do. The emotional labour of parenting, including constant planning, scheduling, and decision-making, can be exhausting. When this labour and heavy mental load of motherhood goes unrecognized and unacknowledged by a partner, it can lead to feelings of resentment.

Additionally, default parents may feel resentful towards their partners because they feel like they are sacrificing their own needs and desires in order to take care of their children and manage the household. This sacrifice can lead to feelings of bitterness and resentment towards a partner who is not making the same sacrifices.

Overall, the unequal distribution of domestic responsibilities and childcare duties, along with feelings of under-appreciation and sacrifice, can contribute to resentment in default parents towards their partners. It is important for couples to communicate openly and honestly about their domestic responsibilities and to find ways to distribute these responsibilities more equally in order to avoid resentment and maintain a healthy relationship.

What you can do to help yourself

Hand (at least some of) the reins over to someone else.

While it may be difficult to be the default parent, many of us find it just as hard to let go of control. Sometimes we resent being in charge—but still won’t cede power to anyone else. To lighten your load, you must let someone else carry some of it. This means accepting that your responsibilities may be shifted to another person and trusting him or her to handle them responsibly.

Have an honest and open conversation.

If you have a partner, have an open and honest conversation with them about how you feel as the default parent and the mental load you are carrying. Often, people have no idea how heavy the load of being a default parent is because much of its invisible labor. This doesn’t make them a bad parent and does not mean they aren’t pulling their weight. Don’t forget they too have been conditioned to take on a different role in life. See my blog post on the heavy mental load of a father.Nobody sees you worrying about that ever-so-slight change in your baby’s behaviour. They don’t see you ordering groceries at 3 a.m. while doing the night feed with your baby. They don’t see the stress and planning that goes into planning and hosting your construction site themed birthday party that you started planning months before. They don’t see everything you do, nor should they. So without blame, talk to them about everything that is on your plate. Choose a few areas where you are willing to relinquish control, and pass them off. Don’t micromanage. Perhaps it’s the laundry or the cooking, or cleaning. Make sure that you’re really ready to give up whatever it is, and then let go. Trust your partner—he or she will figure out how to handle the situation without your help.

default parenting raw truth

Put yourself first.

When you sacrifice your own needs to meet someone else’s, it usually has a knock-on effect on those around you.Consider changing the narrative.

“Do you mind if I quickly pop to the toilet? I will be right back”

This, although totally innocent, asks for permission to go. Nobody will (hopefully) say no, but this mindset reinforces to all parties that you are the one who is always watching the kids if you are in the vicinity, and unless you announce your absence, nobody will look after them. Try shifting the mindset and start rephrasing your words:

“I’m going to go to the toilet.”

If you have a partner or somebody who can watch the kids, try to carve out some time for yourself regularly—even if it’s just once every month.Whatever you do during that time, make sure it is for your own self-fulfilment rather than out of a sense of obligation. Take time to remind yourself who you are as an individual—separate from your role as a parent.

This is a real issue. Let’s start talking about it.

For many mothers, the role of default parent can feel like a trap and leaving things unaddressed can lead to resentment, relationship issues and serious mental health consequences for everyone involved. Parenting is no easy task, and the load the default parent carries is heavy. It’s often hard to appreciate the weight of our burdens until we find ourselves unable to bear them anymore.

So try sharing the mental load around, fellow default parents. Chances are those around you don’t quite know how heavy really it is and would be glad to lend a hand. There’s enough of it to go around.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.