Below is a limited list I’ve compiled with the help of my due date group (A group of women I met on Facebook- Initially, we had our due dates in common, but it has now grown into a group of roughly 300 women that have a lot more in common) to bring to light what it means to be the non-default parent.
The non-default parent is loosely defined as the parent who is in charge ONLY when overtly stated. The non-default parent isn’t required to announce when they leave the room, because the default parent is always on duty. The non-default parent takes bathroom breaks in peace, and will likely never be prepared with any childcare essentials when leaving the home. Although not all statements listed below are true for every family, its important we use these as a starting point when determining our parental status.
**These conveniences do NOT necessarily reflect the actions of my own husband (or myself) and instead are gathered to provide a well rounded view into households across the country.**
1. When the non-default parent has been deemed “primary caretaker” for a period of time, they assume the default parent wants to be checked on while they are not directly in charge of the child at that given moment but still within the home.
Scenario: “Hey, can you watch the baby? I need to get ready before dinner. Your parents will be here any minute.” I walk into my bedroom, head for the closet to grab an outfit, I rummage through my three t-shirt’s, and ten pairs of leggings hoping that I have a pair of jeans. I find what I’m looking for, praying to the universe that they are stretchier than I remember, and the take-out meals haven’t caught up to me. I put one leg in followed by the other, jump and shimmy into the heartless denim, when I hear, faintly, from the living room, “should we go check on mom?” Loud stomps like thunder to the bedroom foreshadow the storm to come. I’m uncomfortable, I haven’t worn jeans in months and they are not sympathetic like the Lululemons that came before them. I’m sweating because the physical act of finding the jeans and putting them on has me out of breath, I look in the doorway and see a runny nosed toddler and my husband about to say “we came to ch—-. Without a single thought, I exclaim, “could you EVER just give me FIVE minutes?”
2. The non-default parent needs help changing diapers, as if the struggles are different for the non-default parent.
Scenario: The default parent requests the non-default parent change a diaper, understanding entirely the one sided WWE Smackdown that is about to take place. The non-default parent walks into the ring with the toddler, the brawl begins. It starts out slow, the non-default parent clearly taking the lead. The toddler is on her back and things are going well for the non-default parent. The toddler starts with her signature move and flips to her stomach and is quickly in a standing position. The non-default parent isn’t alarmed and flips the toddler on her back. The non-default parent hands the toddler a baby wipe. With the toddler distracted, the non-default parents continues with the diaper change. All of a sudden in a blink of an eye the toddler has flipped over and is standing again, this time without pants on. The non-default parent continues the same move over and over, as the toddler refuses to do anything but get back up. The non-default parent, although, confused and frustrated has a trick up their sleeve. The default parent hears a scream from the bedroom door, “Honey, can you come hold her down? She won’t stop flipping over.” The default parent reluctantly decides to help. The default parent enters the ring, holds down the toddler, and the diaper is changed. Two hours later, the default parent changes a diaper without any assistance.
3. The non-default parent golfs…unbothered by the default parent.
Scenario: “Hey babe, do you mind if I golf with my buddies this weekend? It’s Jack’s college roommate’s brother’s birthday and they need a fourth.” “Who? What?” “Alright, will you be home for bedtime?” (Haha, personally, I would never be this cool.. only three questions for a golf outing? Let’s be honest, I’d negotiate my next escape or a large purchase in this deal. However, this is my blog, and I can write the default parent as chill as I want.) The following weekend, the default parent has plans. Thirty minutes into the outing the default parent’s phone dings. Three new messages.
“Where are her pants?”
“What should we eat for lunch?”
“I can’t find a bottle?”
The default parent responds, “bottom left drawer, chicken nuggets, cabinet to the right of the sink. The non-default parent responds, “thanks, we just wanted to check on you… ”