A couple of weeks ago, my husband and I got into an argument. We were lying in the bed one morning, discussing our weekend plans, and he made a joke about being “buzzed” by noon. I quipped that it must be nice to just do whatever he wants on the weekends. He responded by telling me I could, too. I gave him a look that could kill. “Oh yeah, then who would watch the baby? I can’t get drunk, I’m the default parent.”
He really took offense to that statement and it made me realize that he really truly does think that the amount of parenting we do is equal. He doesn’t understand that he never has to ask me to watch our son while he runs out to the store, hangs out with his friends, or even just disappears to the garage for a few hours. He doesn’t understand that not being the default parent means that he has never once made a doctor’s appointment, and he’s never prepared bottles for the day. He’s only bought diapers twice, on my instruction; he’s never bought baby food; he couldn’t even tell you how many packs of wipes are left (it’s one, by the way, the shipment arrives on the 14th); and he doesn’t even know what to pack in the diaper bag.
Being the default parent means that even when the other parent is around, you are the one in charge. They are free to come and go as they please and not have to worry about somebody being responsible for the child, because they just know you’ve got it. With the exception of a couple of quick trips to the store and going to work each day, I have been out alone, without my son, one time to get my hair cut.
It’s not all my husband’s fault though, about leaving without him. I prefer to spend time with my son, most of the time. Occasionally though, occasionally, I would love to just sit in silence in my own bed without being touched. I would like to have the time to actually go through all my clothes that are piled in laundry baskets next to the bed and put them away, or throw them away, whichever they need. I would like to have the time to organize my bathroom or clean out my car or the myriad of other things that I can’t do while holding/entertaining/feeding O.
I don’t want to diminish my husband’s role, though. He’s great with O. He probably cares for him more often than many dads because of his work schedule. He’s home alone with him, as the primary caregiver, for 10-12 days a month. He does most of the bath duty and he changes his fair share of diapers, but at the end of the day, O is ultimately my responsibility. I’m the default parent.
I would suspect that this role mostly falls on the mother in most hetero-relationships.
How about you? Are YOU the default parent? How do you get your significant other to step up and offer help? Are we forever doomed to have to ask them for what we need (like taking out the trash)?