When in doubt ask mom. If you are lucky enough to have a mother in your life, she is most likely the person you ask for when shit hits the fan. She kisses boo-boos away, gives money away, calls the principal to explain your latest shenanigans and to rip someone’s ass when you have been wronged. She makes sure you have dinner, clean socks, signed permission slips, and your favorite color of chewable vitamins. Moms are the one. Good or bad, but the one who you get to answer to and who answers for you. The default parent available on-call for all levels of emergencies or for random questions and glasses of water at bedtime.
Where I come from in the Commonwealth of Kentucky, the family court system also views mothers as the default. Family court cases are listed by the name of the biological mother, whether she is alive, deceased, present, involved, incarcerated or not. If a child has been found to be abused or neglected, the court case is listed under the name of the child’s mother. The default parent again.
Granted, I wear my motherhood as a badge of honor, as my Queen of Chaos crown sits crooked on my messy unwashed hair. I am proud of how much ass I kick as a mom. I enjoy sharing war stories and battle scars from the frontlines of parenting while keeping these little people alive and decent human beings. I love the snuggles and laughter that go along with being the one they come to first. What comes along with being the mom.
You know what else I enjoy? Time by myself! I would love to go to the bathroom without hearing one of my many names called or being joined by my entire family including the dog. I would love if I didn’t have to set reminders for snack day, crazy hair day, picture day and write-a-check-for-something-else-day. It would be amazing if for one day I wasn’t the first call for “room mom” volunteers or to pick-up a puking kid. And my all-time favorite text to receive, “what’s the plan for dinner?”
WHO THE HELL KNOWS WHATS FOR DINNER I DIDN’T EVEN EAT LUNCH!
I am the go-to. The first line of defense. The cook. The nursemaid. The scheduler. The knower of all things. The default parent. And I am partially to blame.
At some point early on in my journey of motherhood, I got in the way of my husband being a parent. “I got this” was easier then letting him do things his way, instead of mine. When school days began, I listed my name first. When it was time to volunteer for activities, I raised my hand without asking if he wanted to raise his. I slowly kept hopping on the default button until our roles were dug in and defined.
Funny thing is, when I finally figured out how to get out of his way, he didn’t kill the kids. He sure didn’t do it my way, but his way wasn’t life-altering. He is quite capable of picking up children from school and delivering them to scheduled locations. He can figure out how to get them fed and can even run a sleepover in emergency situations. However, he isn’t able to do this with me in the way directing all the traffic.
We are constantly shown images of a “family” with women, mothers as the first point of contact. Commercials are directed at us for everything from laundry detergent to quick and easy meals to feed the whole family. Reinforcing the idea that feeding and clothing the family is solely our responsibility. For some families that is the truth. I had the privilege of being raised by a single mother for part of my childhood. She was the default parent by no fault of her own.
There are plenty of families with no woman present at all. Maybe it’s dad, grandfather or uncle carrying the load and require no help from mom. If this is your circumstance, this is not a statement toward you. You are the exception to the rule and you are amazing. I wonder though, if your child is lost or alone the first question inevitably asked, “where’s your mom?” Even if she doesn’t exist, they default to mom.
We play a role in defaulting to mom. You may not raise your hand in agreement, but I bet you passively co-sign to the belief. For the most part, mothers just do. Someone is hungry. We feed them. Someone is sick. Take them to the doctor. Someone needs their butt wiped. Bend over. I am unaware of Daddy’s-Day-Out Programs. It’s Mother’s-Day-Out because that is who needs a few minutes of peace to gather their sanity. Mothers take care of business twenty-four hours a day. We don’t wait for someone else to step up. We are elbow deep in shit before the back-up arrives.
I have a great partner. Not a perfect one (he still asks me the plan for dinner), but a pretty amazing one and it’s still not 50/50. It will never be and that’s okay. I am learning to get out of his way. I am learning to find peace with my default status and to defer to the other responsible adult (aka: Dad) when I need to.
My red flag alert system signals me when I feel like Bitter Betty and thoughts of me carrying the weight of the world on my shoulders are on repeat in my head. I’m working on the trigger to kick in and get me to step back far enough to let someone else step up. I’m working on removing the Crown of Chaos and passing it off.
The expectations we hold ourselves to are unrealistic. If we keep measuring against them, we plant a garden for resentments to flourish. It’s one thing if dad refuses to step in and partner up (that’s an entirely different post). It’s quite another if I refuses to let him because I want it my way. The good news is I am the default parent – I am the one they go to first. The good news also is, I have a choice to defer and for that I am grateful.
Photo Credit: Photography by Angela Gross