The Default Parent™

Are you the default parent? If you have to think about it, you’re not. You’d know. Trust me. The default parent is the one responsible for the emotional, physical and logistical needs of the children. Spoiler Alert: It’s typically the one with the uterus.

The first time I knew I was the default parent was when our first child was napping and Dan and I were painting the guest room. When she cried, he didn’t, even for a second, pause what he was doing and consider getting her. At this point, we both worked in the corporate world and we were engaged in the same home project. It was a level playing field, well, if you didn’t count the fact I carried and fed her for nine months in my body, which would make me slightly ahead in the not being the one to default to her arena. I thought, well this is bullshit.


What is the Default Parent?
Fourteen years later, I’m still the default parent. Now I work part-time from home with my own consulting business, so it makes a little more sense, but it’s still kinda bullshit. Mum, mum, mum, mommy, mom, mom, mama, mommy, mom. All. Day. Long. I handle the needs of all three of our kids from: activity sign-ups, transportation logistics, doctor & dentist appointments, friend and boy issues, hurt feelings, school fundraisers, gift buying, haircuts, clothes shopping, and thank you note writing, which, incidentally, is the work of the devil. I also manage the organization of drawers between seasons to see what fits. This is a crap job that only the default parent even knows exists.

Default parents know the names of their kids’ teachers, all of them. They fill out endless forms, including the 20 page legal document necessary to play a sport at school, requiring a blood oath to not sue them when your kids gets a concussion, because they are going to get a concussion. They listen to long, boring, intricate stories about gym games that make no sense. They spell words, constantly. They know how much wrapping paper there is in the house. The default parent doesn’t have her own calendar but one with everyone’s events on it that makes her head hurt when she looks at it. They know a notary. They buy poster board in 10 packs. They’ve worked tirelessly to form a bond with the school receptionists. They know their kids’ sizes, including shoes, goddammit.

Shout out to the Back-up Parent
And by the way, this blog is in no way a competition between husband and wife for who has it worse. My husband is the default earner, the default lawn mower and the default spider killer, which all come with equal stress and dissatisfaction that he is welcome to blog about. He’s also incredibly helpful and an awesome husband and parent. But, in my defense, the lawn and spiders don’t say “mommy” a hundred times a day, and his boss doesn’t come on vacation with him. Just sayin’. And he’d be the first to admit that I got the short end of the stick. His face hurts when I rattle off only the few things I manage. So, he helps a lot. But, in terms of logistics and administrative duties, he’s the back-up parent.

There is a bit of difference between the default parent and the back-up parent. Lily has jazz on Monday nights. I know she will get there and get home, despite Gracie having tennis at the exact same time. The logistics are on me. No problem. I got this. Sometimes, I get a call from Dan eager to help. These calls typically start out with, “What time does Lily get out of jazz?” I already want to punch him in the face. It’s the same time EVERY week! And while he’s chatting with me lackadaisically about how he can “help,” I’m simultaneously showing a crying George how to borrow in math, a concept a 2nd grader can’t understand at all, making dinner (okay, fine, boiling pasta), and trying to return one last work email. So, yes, on occasion, it works out that Dan’s work schedule, and running schedule, make it so he is literally driving right past Lily’s dance studio at the exact moment in time she needs to be picked up. Helpful? Yes. Default parent? No. Default parents don’t operate on happenstance.


Being the default parent, at least in my case, is not about the husband being an asshole, it’s that kids don’t contemplate proximity or sensibility in looking for help. They look for the default parent. Me. I’ve been in the shower and put my daughter’s necklace on. She walked right through my room, past her dad and went to me. True story. Even my husband was like, “Hello. I’m right here.” I’ve taken exactly five showers in my house without being bothered by a child and their immediate need. I’ve blown up balloons in the shower, unknotted shoes, put on band-aids, signed report cards, and braided hair. I know…lock the door. I’m a dumbass. But they’d tunnel in. I’m sure of it.

Information Overload
Forget the information super highway, default parents are the real deal in data storage and retrieval. Unknowingly, we walk around our houses taking mental pictures of where everything is. We see a headband on the bathroom floor and our subconscious knows that information will come in handy to avoid a complete tweenage melt down. I was once in California for work and got a call asking me where George’s sneakers were. And here’s the worst part…I knew. The stuff that the default parent is storing in their brain is in direct correlation to the amount of wine she is drinking. Too much.


Quarantine Tent
What’s troubling is there seems to be no meaningful escape for the default parent. They don’t get a break unless they physically remove themselves completely from their families…and throw their phones in a lake. Even when they do get a weekend away, they leave a detailed spreadsheet of daily activities organized by event time with notes. They arrange carpools, playdates and leave a wrapped present for the birthday party. The non-default parent? They just leave. Incredibly, they just kiss us goodbye, and leave. Mother f——. Okay, deep breath. Serenity now. The only dream left for the default parent is to contract a highly contagious, non-life threatening virus. But, even then, we know the children will find us in our quarantine tent to ask us to open a jar.

Survival of the Species
Look, parenting is tough all around and both parents are contributing in meaningful ways. I get it. Good to keep in mind that I’m not an expert on parenting. I’m sitting in my kitchen, wearing fuzzy socks, writing about the mythical idea in my head called, the default parent because it took me a long time to figure out why I was so damned worn out. I honestly think the default parent is a good idea and probably necessary for the survival of the species. Otherwise, kids would be left places, doing blow, and the whole operation would fall apart. But it doesn’t change the fact that the scope and volume of managing this many lives and details comes with a surprisingly huge emotional and mental exhaustion that is unique to the default parent. It deserves to be understood…and named! Otherwise, we are going to be the ones that start doing blow.

No surprise, this fabulous little gem of a piece was written by a woman, and I’m guessing a mother. Thanks, Alex Borstein. It’s a winner…every time.

NOTES: Yes, Defaulters can be men! If you are upset that I’ve undervalued your role as a parent, please remember we are not in a relationship. My husband is thrilled he never has to think about wrapping paper. 


  1. Lesley on September 13, 2018 at 1:49 pm

    How is it possible I am only seeing this now, related to September is the Worst (in 2018)? Fun fact at our house I am the Default Parent AND the Default income earner…. how on earth did I let that happen. I will say my Back-Up Parent executes on the shopping lists I put together for grocery, clothes buying, birthday/thank you note/apology cards, but not without 4 calls home each and every time.
    I think people who look at or enter into a reverse traditional relationship (wife works, husband stays home with offspring) think that whoever the stay at home parent is becomes the Default Parent. Not so, at least in our case. Could they? Sure, but I don’t think men’s and women’s brains process tasks anywhere near the same; my husband doesn’t think the niceties of life are important, sending invitations/cards/notes, switching seasonal wardrobes, noticing if our kids clothes fit. He has said himself if the house is standing and everyone is fed (pasta with sauce every single night is okay) and alive, it’s all good.
    It is my own need to provide more to our and our children’s life that adds the other tasks, so it falls to me regardless of my other job.

    • M. on September 13, 2018 at 5:04 pm

      Welcome to the party! Lots of other fun blogs on marriage and kids. Grab a glass of wine or a sparkling water, put your feet up and enjoy! Thanks for the nice note!!! Glad you found me.

  2. Paula Ward on September 21, 2017 at 3:26 pm

    Ha so identify with hubby asking every week what is happening on that day!! Seriously the same thing that has happened the last 51 Monday’s of the year!! Great blog!

  3. Annie on September 17, 2016 at 2:16 am

    I love this a million times! From the first sentence all I could think was “it’s me ?” I’m SO happy every time a mom speaks some truth about parenting. Don’t get me wrong, I love my 2 wild boys, but sheesh I’m about 3 “why” questions away from jumping out a window!

    Again, I love all the words you’ve written so far!
    Thank you for creating a place where I feel like I can relate!

  4. Marybeth on September 9, 2016 at 11:47 pm

    You don’t realize how good you have it, even as the default parent, as long as you have a backup patent. As the only parent, you would have been painting that room by yourself, tending to your daughter and doing everything else around the house. Every. Single. Thing. Mowing lawns. Killing spiders. Everything. I was a “default parent” when it came to many things, but when my husband died, I finally understood how much the “backup parent” really does.

    • M. on September 15, 2016 at 2:11 pm

      Of course you are right and have a completely valid perspective on this…and I’m so very sorry about your husband. I can’t imagine doing it alone either as a single mother or a widow, or widower…I know a dear sweet man who lost his wife, but did find the humor in his being the true Default Parent without a backup. If it makes you feel any better, I do know how good I have it. I have an incredibly engaged husband who is a wonderful dad and really awesome human being and I really tried to make that clear in the blog. Understandably, for your situation, reading any blog joking about the challenges of parenting will have a very different tone. I get it. That said, I’ll always look for the funny and laugh at life and things and I don’t think that makes me ungrateful at all. All good vibes to you as you super mom it over there. I’m rooting for you!!! And may anyone reading this take a moment to really appreciate the back-up parents in their lives and how fortunate we are to have such issues. xo

  5. yinka on August 1, 2015 at 7:58 pm

    I don’t have my own kids yet, but I have helped raised my younger ones. The last one now sixteen still calls me mommy sometimes.

  6. Emma on July 15, 2015 at 7:48 am

    Love this. I read this a month or so ago when it was published through Huffington Post. Recently my husband and I switched roles – I returned to full time work and he is taking some time off, though our 3yo still attends day care more times a week than he did when I worked part time and ran the house!

    I googled “default parent” as I was hoping to get some tips as to how one switches the role from one parent to the other, but alas instead found a number of articles referring back to yours! Congratulations on your success and I hope it leads to bigger things as you are well worth reading.

    Coming home from a very stressful professional role then having to argue with a 3yo about eating, bathing and going to bed, I’m now being told by the same 3yo that he wants a new mummy as I’m grumpy! I’m not at all ungrateful about my hubby’s contribution – he cleans, keeps up with the washing, cooks, takes care of sticky situations (so glad I was able to pass the baton on all those things!) – I would just like to think there was a way to switch the default parent role so I could spend less time juggling appointments in my head, taking note of the location of all items when I walk into a room to save an issue arising later, check the pantry and fridge for items we are running low on, think about what clothes I need to pack away and what clothes I need to replace in my growing boy’s wardrobe and generally be less grumpy and my little boy will love me again like he used to when I wasn’t working full time. I’m going to email your blog to my hubby and talk with him about it. We have an awesome relationship so he will get it. Thank you so much! xo

  7. Sue Quirk on April 25, 2015 at 8:38 pm

    My daughter sent this article last night, saying that now she knows what her title is! I told her I totally related with it and felt that I was the”Default Grandparent”! I posted it on facebbook and a friend of mine (a Great-Grandmother) said she could also relate to it. A wonderful article!

    • M. on April 26, 2015 at 1:10 pm

      Thanks! So happy to see it’s making another round on Facebook and love the multi-generational appeal. Tell your daughter it gets easier as they get older…or different anyway! xo

  8. Lynette on April 23, 2015 at 5:24 pm

    M. Blazoned

    This was so real and hit the nail on the head. I think I’ve caused a disturbance laughing so loud at my desk. I really appreciated your wit and the honesty in giving people like us a name! While I know we all appreciate and love our families to death… sometimes “default parents” have no escape or relief; because, we are also managing the life of the back-up parent. It’s so nice to not feel alone with thoughts like these 🙂

    Please don’t stop writing blogs, this was a pleasant release and I totally relate. Now let me get back to calendars, work emails, and returning phone calls of my own hectic life before something falls apart.

    Serenity Now!

    • M. on April 23, 2015 at 9:04 pm

      You must be in tune with the universe because your comment was just what I needed today! I love that you just found The Default Parent now, after all the hub-bub and reminded me it’s a pretty cool blog! I’m blogging…so stay tuned and I hope I can nail it again! xox

  9. Linda Metselaar on March 19, 2015 at 7:53 pm

    God I laughed so hard after reading this. Especially about the drawer thing, which must be the single crappiest job in default parenting – and the back-up parent really has no clue, or better still, denies it is really a task at all. I swear I am taking a full bottle of wine, no glass, just the bottle to my kids bedroom next time I’m doing that particular job.

    What a fantastic blog post, I’ve read it aloud to all my friends!

    • M. on April 10, 2015 at 10:26 am

      Thanks, Linda! It’s fun when it reaches new people…and they totally get it. The drawer thing is THE worst! I think the wine is a good idea. Stick around…more blogs coming your way!

  10. Paulina on October 25, 2014 at 12:55 pm

    I literally have tears rolling down my cheeks and I don’t know if it’s because the truth hurts, this is MY life, but with FIVE kids AND a granddaughter or your sheer humor. LOVE THIS!!! Thanks so much for saying how we all feel!!!!👍👍👍👍

  11. Joan on October 24, 2014 at 8:09 pm

    I read this the day after I was commenting on this very phenomenon to my husband (unnamed, of course) when our dog even by-passed him to find me and let me know she wasn’t well. With our two kids, a dog and a husband’s activities to schedule on top of my own, my alone time is found when I need to go to the hospital for a mammogram.

  12. kori on October 16, 2014 at 11:02 pm

    My favorite is being read to and doing math homework while I am in the bath… All while the back up is watching some must see sporting event!

  13. elly on October 15, 2014 at 10:03 am

    My siste,r sister in law, and I ask have young kids, were having this exact conversation/rant/tirade while sitting around at my moms house. that was when I stopped and looked up and realized my mom was making us all dinner and fixing drinks while our kids ran rampet and I thought “dear god it’s never going to end”

  14. VP on October 13, 2014 at 3:28 am

    loving this article. truly a miracle that you managed the brain power to write this and nicely. you should see my fb rants when i’m at the edge and over… actually no, you shouldn’t. no one should see that. but this, sure, there are a few censored curse words… but in the mind of the default parent, which i know is a maelstrom, they are necessary! we are MAD NOW dangit!
    hecate, the default-parent goddess. and she’s pissed, too. the gods hated and were scared of her. any idea why? SURE we love the kids! we obviously love them more than our SOs, but can you PLEASE WATCH THEM CONSISTENTLY BECAUSE YOU ACTUALLY NOTICE I DO EVERYTHING AND NOT BECAUSE I HAD ROUTINE MELTDOWN. make ME some spaghettio’s, man! i’m STARVING and YOU still have all your calcium! they call it fair bc “they deal with the crazy woman.” and we know we’re crazy so we call it fair too! it’s actually not fair.
    a long time ago, the village ratio was 12 adults watching one child. that was necessary. it still is however what is going on is more like 12 children to one adult, AND children “protective” services are thriving. i do everything you do in a day except gain income. they say i don’t work. i prove all of this daily in triplicate and then take drug tests weekly to make sure i’m not having a libation. this is not cool. therefore, i declare that the default parent should not continue. she should get a reprive and several of those friends who say “oh man, i am SO never having kids–you have enough for me!” will actually come over and do something good for humanity…. instead of it being all you.
    i have some default parent friends too. i feel for them. so much. i want to rant at their husbands. but all i can really do, is relate. what if we could revolutionize this bs?

  15. Cecilia on October 12, 2014 at 2:59 pm

    I really loved this entry and read it twice. I am totally the default parent. I loved the part about going away for a weekend and just….leaving. How does he do it? Now I love my husband and he is a great dad but there was one thing overlooked here. It’s an unsaid thing, he kind of expects me to be the default parent, that’s my role. When my children were very young and I found it a huge win just being able to get the shopping and cleaning done, there was still this little devil sitting on his shoulders also expecting me to cook up a fabulous dinner all the time. When I could manage it of course but there are those days when the dinner is pretty simple. Those times where the little 50’s devil said things like; “It’s your job to cook while I have been at work all day”. “What do you think I have been doing? Eating bon bons and sunbathing?”. There was a little part of him who believes that I was. He still thinks from time to time that I have the better end of the stick, so I find it kind of ironic and interesting that even though I gripe about being the default parent from time to time, I wouldn’t change a thing.

  16. Lou on October 12, 2014 at 2:33 am

    So right on. Only caveat is that the drying their tears over friend dramas and knowing the ins and outs of their lives is something I cherish. I *love* being the default for those things. What a privilege. As far as changing 97% of the diapers and having 97% of all showers interrupted…I’d be happy to outsource that part!

  17. Paula on October 11, 2014 at 3:43 pm

    I love this! For years I was the default parent, for the majority of that time also the default breadwinner, and coincidentally, also the default parent to the backup parent and all my co-workers. I can still function on only 3-4 hours of sleep most nights, even though I have now become the default grandparent, too. Right now, I’m sitting at my computer at one end of the house and my granddaughter just yelled from the other end of the house asking me to change the program on the TV. Her grandfather is sitting right next to her with the remote:)

    • Ian on October 11, 2014 at 11:50 pm

      As someone on year eight of default parenthood, you just scared the bejeesus out of me!

  18. LomaKath on October 11, 2014 at 1:52 pm

    I’m a little past the place you’re at… but you are hilariously and painfully on the mark! Thanks for naming what needs to be named. I didn’t do it half so well as you do, but I was expected to know all those things!
    The mom, mom, mom thing… about junior high my son started calling me Katherine because I guess I quit responding to “mom.”

  19. Anja on October 11, 2014 at 1:06 am

    lol u r living my life! Even that darn shower… Sometimes I think about locking it… But what if there in a desperate going to die with out my help or my soothing words of comfort or if they just need to p (house of 4 girls and one amazing man and one bathroom *enter crying here*)

  20. Ji on October 10, 2014 at 7:49 pm

    Brilliant. So brilliant.

  21. AJ on October 10, 2014 at 7:08 pm

    I think this is a great article! a small note I currently do not have any children BUT I am the oldest of 6 kids and while my parents both worked full time (while I was in high school and college) I absolutely feel like I stepped in as a semi-default parent, I ran my siblings to probably 85% of their events and babysat for my parents to go out as well as helping with laundry and meals and clean up. I think at this point I am well prepared to have kids and not over think it as it has already been a part of my life to know multiple family member schedules and keep them organized (maybe not everything you did but my little sister did call me mom once when she was really super young – yikes! ha). in general i think it is a great article and very well written. 🙂

  22. Keri on October 10, 2014 at 5:05 pm

    This is classic!!! Default parent by default…I love and resent it at the same time, but wouldn’t trade being a mom for anything!!!
    Thanks for writing this!!!

  23. Lori Teeter on October 10, 2014 at 3:34 pm

    Brilliant blog-spot on from a fellow-defaulter! The only thing I would add is-why is it that defaulters always have to “ask” backup to “babysit” their OWN children?! “I have book club Thursday night-are you free to watch kids?” F-ing BS!

  24. Shelley on October 10, 2014 at 3:06 pm

    I feel like you just wrote about my daily life! this made me laugh and made my day!!!! Wonderfully written, thanks for sharing!!

  25. Christine on October 10, 2014 at 2:14 pm

    Was nodding my head through the entire post and then actually snorted out loud when I got to the paragraph about going out of town! I just finished wrapping the gift for the birthday party my son is going to while I’m out of town (with my daughter) this weekend. And I’ve already begun the spreadsheet for when I go on my girl’s weekend in two weeks!!!

  26. shole on October 10, 2014 at 2:02 pm

    When I read the part about 5 showers interruption free I was jealous because I’m fairly sure I have yet to reach that number. At least in not alone in the complete lack of privacy, which incidentally includes 2 dogs also hanging out in the bathroom – the smallest room in the house they have no physical reason to enter.

  27. EJ on October 10, 2014 at 1:53 pm

    Hey M,
    Sorry if this is a repeat comment (I didn’t read them all), but I’m constantly baffled by the situation so many of my straight friends and co-workers find themselves in, sharing their lives with men who are not sharing duties. Both partners work full time and yet the wife also does the shopping, meal preparation, cleaning, laundry, bath time and bed time. It makes no sense to me. Don’t you all deserve a partner? One of the very few *advantages* to being gay and out and legally married isthat there are no societal expectations to stick to. We find ourselves dividing labor into “I hate this less than you do I’ll do it.” Junior comes to each of us for different needs but knows we are are team and both capable of providing for her. Anyway, I really enjoyed the blog… Thanks!

  28. oyoygal on October 10, 2014 at 1:46 pm

    This is why I got divorced. Not only was I the default parent, I was the default breadwinner, housekeeper, cook, bottle washer … you name it. I did have a mantra that helped get them to do dishes etc: Mommy is not the maid… so come up with your own catch phrase and get them to think about you differently. And… I’m much happier now!

  29. Sarah on October 10, 2014 at 3:04 am

    Where can I find the application to become the back-up parent? It sounds like a great job!!

  30. Sarah on October 9, 2014 at 8:23 pm

    Love this. You could totally throw in the vacation episodes. Doing laundry in preparation for having key pieces for packing, making lists of packing, packing, double checking the packing. This includes household toiletries, three sets of clothes, infant needs, first aid, extras, all while he lays out clothes only for himself. Then has the gall to ask (4 hours into drive) if we packed such-n-such. Haha. I also have a great copilot but I thinks he believes vacation readies itself by some miracle.

    • Ian on October 10, 2014 at 8:58 am

      And then, in my case at least, gets mad when I’ve forgotten the such-n-such!

  31. Cindy on October 9, 2014 at 1:46 pm

    Spot on!! Only difference in this and my life is I have 6 little life-suckers…and wouldn’t have it any other way! Instead of ‘default’, I’ve always referred to myself as ‘cruise director’. Hubs and I both work full time and it still defaults to me. Upside, they oldest couple (16&17) have started to tell me that they would be nothing without me. Super-great affirmation!

  32. Laurie on October 9, 2014 at 1:03 pm

    I actually got a 2-day break to drive 400 miles to my class reunion. My husband sent our daughter to stay with his sister for the weekend.

  33. Audrey on October 9, 2014 at 12:45 pm

    It’s the exact same for me. I don’t work though. My husband usually works 4 12 hr days a week and gets 3 days off. He get’s so frustrated when he’s home and the kids always want mommy to do this or that for them. My son will say mommy get me out when we go places. I feel bad for my hubby but at the same time, it’s just like you said, my daughter will be in the bathroom and say mommy I pooped or sometimes she will say daddy but either he doesn’t hear her or pretends he doesn’t. The bathroom thing happens all the time and to be fair I can’t lock the door because twins are only 3 and have just been potty trained and can’t hold it for too long still. but my husband does work hard for us, he even goes in on his days off for overtime and when he’s off he will let me go hide in our room or take the kids out for me.

  34. Barb Swan on October 9, 2014 at 11:57 am

    I had tears in my eyes laughing. This is spot on! And it doesn’t get improve when they leave for university. My son just texted me to please mail his dress pants, shirt and tie that he had left here inadvertently when he came home for a funeral three weeks ago. His Dad and brother had driven six hours the next weekend on a planned weekend visit and brought him a car load of other things he requested at home. At no point until four days before he needed them did he remember that he had left them here. And who does he call? Not ghostbusters! I also still get texts asking me little questions like – can you re-use the cap on the cough medicine the next time you need to take it?
    Recommendation? Girl’s weekend.

  35. Lillian Connelly on October 9, 2014 at 11:12 am

    Thank you for naming my experience. Sometimes it is so maddening. I laughed about the shower…I once peeled an orange for my daughter while I was in the shower. When my husband offers to help I am so happy, but so often it just causes me more work. For example, he saw me having a “wits end” moment and offered to put clean sheets on the bed. A few minutes later he was asking where we kept the sheets. We have lived here for four years and he does not know where the clean sheets are? I was stunned.

  36. Alisa on October 9, 2014 at 9:34 am

    It’s nice to know that there are so many other people out there who have the same thoughts/feelings that I have daily! Thank you for this post. It is funny and totally relatable!

  37. Mary Beth on October 9, 2014 at 9:01 am

    A friend sent this to me. I started reading it at 6:54 a.m. and got to the end at 8:47 a.m. Having a drink with you in my head right now.

  38. Liz on October 8, 2014 at 9:04 pm

    You are so spot on! I can honestly say my kids will scream upstairs for me when my husband is sitting right beside them at the breakfast table happily enjoying breakfast and reading articles on his iPad.

  39. Jessica on October 8, 2014 at 8:55 pm

    Literally just talked about this same concept -wish I had thought of the term default parent! Thank you, this is so dead on!

  40. rebecca on October 8, 2014 at 7:51 pm

    Nailed it! This is true( and sou.ds like my life)

  41. Kelsey on October 8, 2014 at 6:18 pm

    This has me howling. I can relate to so many of your stories. I have resorted to exercising at 5:30 am and showering at the gym to have a shower by myself. I also benefit by making my children clean the showers at home since I can claim that I don’t use them:) One small victory!

  42. Barb on October 8, 2014 at 5:51 pm

    The moment that I most realize that I am the default parent is when we are on vacation in a place I have never been and the kids still expect me to know where everything is!!!

  43. T on October 8, 2014 at 4:43 pm

    you’ve got franti on the front page of your blog, so i will accept anything that you say as gospel #fanboy

  44. Todd on October 8, 2014 at 4:23 pm

    But as the man of the house I get to be the heavy! “Wait until your dad gets home”, “Aw, please, don’t tell Dad”, “I won’t tell Daddy if you do your homework now”. I am the swinging hammer of the default parent and I am proud.

  45. M on October 8, 2014 at 3:58 pm

    Love this. Definitely spot on. My husband is a teacher and off in the summers. He says he is my “TA” during that time, especially when I am at work.

  46. Kirsten on October 8, 2014 at 12:47 pm

    I can’t say we have exactly the same pattern and I for sure do not know the names of all of my kids teachers. However I am craving for validation and language around how much work I do in both logistics and strategy around my kids that my husband hasn’t a clue about. Why can’t I clean the house, work three jobs and do all of it with transportation (etc preaching to the choir I’m sure) he will never understand.

  47. M on October 8, 2014 at 5:45 am

    Don’t forget the default parent is also the parent to the other parent. Making sure his suit makes it to the dry cleaners in time for his friend’s wedding. Packing his lunch. Making his dentist appointments, reminding him, and forcing him to go.

    • Ian on October 8, 2014 at 11:53 am

      ^^^ Yes. This.

    • M. on October 8, 2014 at 12:21 pm

      I totally want to be married to you! Please…come marry us!!!!

      • Ian on October 8, 2014 at 3:28 pm

        Ha ha. Please call my wife and remind her!

    • Kathleen on July 25, 2015 at 6:00 am

      I’ve lamented for years how I wish I had a ‘wife’. Oh, I’m married to a wonderful man, but I want what he has too, a wife to take care of all the administrative/errand shxt.

      • M. on July 25, 2015 at 9:11 pm

        My husband and I always say we want a 1950s wife. Have a blog in the wings about it! We are all experiencing the same stuff! Thanks for reading and commenting!

  48. Colleen on October 7, 2014 at 10:14 pm

    Superb! I wish my spouse was on fb because I would triple tag him!!

    • M. on October 8, 2014 at 12:20 pm

      Ha! Not all men thought it was so funny. Thankfully the only one that matter for me is my husband and he loved it! He’s even trying to take on some defaulting!

  49. GB on October 7, 2014 at 3:00 pm

    It is not always the one with the uterus. I call myself the primary care parent.

    • Ian on October 8, 2014 at 11:52 am

      I’m an at-home dad, and I had the same bristling initial reaction to that sentence. But, she did say it’s “typically the one with the uterus.” I think that’s true and a fair way to phrase. We proud primary parents with testicles are still very much in the minority. Moms, I think, are totally within their rights to complain about having to do most of the work of raising children. I would push back if she had said something like “always”. But, “typically” is spot on.

      • M. on October 8, 2014 at 12:12 pm

        Thanks, Ian. I actually used The DeFault Parent to get away from saying “The Wife” or the antiquated notion of gender roles surrounding families. I always think about trying to explain myself better there on the blog, but hope that people get it’s just being funny. Honestly, I love the term Default Parent because so many of my friends are in same sex marriages and they now don’t have to endure describing their roles in terms of gender! Like, “I’m the wife.” So thanks for getting it guys!

    • M.blazoned on October 8, 2014 at 12:10 pm

      So true. That’s the one part of the blog that I always question…but was just trying to be funny. Definitely not always the woman. I used the term Default Parent to de-gender what we call the one heading up the operation! I also love Primary Care Parent too! Good one!

  50. Denise Langley on October 4, 2014 at 7:53 pm

    Great blog M.
    I can see you going from writing blogs to books. Awesome story dreamcatcher!

    • M. on October 8, 2014 at 12:23 pm

      You are too sweet. You have no idea how that short note will help inspire me to carry on with this wacky world of writing. Thanks!

  51. William Choate on October 4, 2014 at 12:21 pm

    When my wife sends me a link I never know what to expect. She is without question the best default parent in the world. I work from 5-10am so I am available more than most dads but found your blog to be spot on and quite funny.

  52. Kristin on October 2, 2014 at 4:42 pm

    This was great! Funny and true! Thanks for sharing and making me laugh!

  53. Jennifer Ruyack on October 2, 2014 at 4:38 pm

    Have you thought about sending this around to places like Huffington Post (make the Parenting section?) or a good mom blog like ScaryMommy? Sorry….I can’t help myself! Also I bet #defaultparent could pick up steam fast. Then maybe you will get on The Today Show and presto….book deal! :O)

  54. Ian on October 1, 2014 at 7:57 pm

    This is great! I’ve been struggling with words for the past six years. People call me an “at home parent”. But, I don’t feel like it’s all that different from when I worked. When we were both working, I was the one who had to drop everything when the little… um, our darling son who is always wonderful… got a little sniffle and was suddenly excommunicated from daycare. Now I’ve permanently left work early, and am on 24-hour call for sniffle based emergencies. But, I still feel a great kinship to anyone who’s the Default Parent, whether you go to an office or stay home to do laundry. Great phrase you’ve coined!

  55. An on October 1, 2014 at 12:45 pm

    it gets even better when you’re a single parent. I’ve often found myself daydreaming about a sensory deprivation tank :sigh:

  56. Traci on September 30, 2014 at 3:51 pm

    I call the default parent (me) one of two name: Boss Lady of the Universe, and/or Life Manager!

  57. AndreaM on September 25, 2014 at 11:49 pm

    Absolutely spot on. When I mentioned this to my (very helpful and normally understanding) husband, he said “don’t you think that’s because you’re home with her all day?” But it was also the case when I was working full time. I, like another poster above, also left a tenure-track professor position to stay home for now, a choice made at least in part because of this reality.

  58. Meg on September 25, 2014 at 10:26 pm

    Ummm… I’m so relieved to be the backup parent! 😉

    • M. on October 8, 2014 at 12:22 pm

      Sweet! It’s my only goal 😉

  59. Johnny Hayes on September 22, 2014 at 6:53 pm

    Super-funny! I was career military, then separated from my wife within a year after retiring, and the boys stayed with me…so I did the “backup” role (long distance, underwater backup) till they were 12-13, then became the default by…well, default. It worked out – great boys, both of ’em – but it was definitely pretty tiring to work a full day, then catch up to what was going on with them, cook, clean, etc. We ate a lot of sushi, because it was close, and it didn’t generate dishes. 😀 I homeschooled for a year because the school where we were was awful…so, yeah, exhausted, yes indeedy. I hear ya. 🙂

    • M.blazoned on October 8, 2014 at 12:22 pm

      Yay! I love when men get it. It’s not always the one with the uterus, for sure. Carry on!

  60. Craig David Rosen on September 21, 2014 at 9:45 pm

    I have known the woman who wrote this article for 10 years and am so proud of her right now. The quality of the writing of this blog is not a surprise to me. We met doing theater so I know there is talent running through those veins. She always made me laugh so the humor she exhibits here is just, well, her!! Her vulnerability along with her humor make this blog such an honor to read. It is that right combination of reality and humor. Have I mentioned the word humor enough? Sensing a pattern? Anyway, every one of us, spouses included, all realize which one is the default parent in our relationships. I will just add that the default parent, although usually the mom, is not always. We are a family of two dads and believe you me the role of Default Parent was just naturally mine. I am not knocking my husband in any way. He is an amazing person and dad and my children adore him and he lives for them!. But I am the take charge kind of guy, not in a bad way…lol. But all of you Default Parents know what I mean. I have to say Meredith that I love the term “Default Parent”. It absolutely captures the role perfectly! I am so looking forward to seeing more blogging from you. Again, I am very proud of you!!! Love to that beautiful family of yours.

    • Dan on September 23, 2014 at 3:00 pm

      LOL. Before you wrote this response there was some debate about who was the default parent and I thought it was Rob! Tell him to give me a call so we can swap back-up parent stories.

  61. Nicki on September 19, 2014 at 6:53 pm

    You had me from the first word, but this nailed it for me:
    “The non-default parent? They just leave. Incredibly, they just kiss us goodbye, and leave. Mother f——.”
    The Default Parent. Brilliant! 🙂

    • M. on October 8, 2014 at 12:19 pm

      Awww, thanks! So true, right? I went away for work last weekend and my husband was determined to have me do nothing. It was sweet, but I still did stuff 😉

  62. C powell on September 19, 2014 at 1:43 pm

    Oh thank you!!! Thank you for venting for me, for at least partially banging on the nail of, ugh… Why and how did I become the default parent???!!!

    • M. on October 8, 2014 at 12:18 pm

      Ha! I know, right? Thanks for the nice note!

  63. Michele on September 19, 2014 at 12:27 pm

    I just came across your blog, and this post, via FB. Very glad I did. This post is *so* incredibly spot-on, I felt like I was reading my own thoughts, though in funnier and more eloquent form. Thanks for naming and describing this reality that is shared by so many!! I almost want to rewind time so that I can read it for the first time again. 🙂

    • M. on October 8, 2014 at 12:17 pm

      What an incredibly nice comment. Thanks for taking the time. I’m so glad I’m not alone!!!

  64. B.Joy on September 19, 2014 at 12:01 pm

    This was one of the best articles I have read in a long time! You are a great writer: witty, light yet seriously honest.
    This article also explains something that I have had a hard time explaining to my friends that are NOT the default parent. It is also the reason why I left my tenure-track PhD professor job. When I was working full time PLUS being the default parent to two very energetic Irish-twin boys I was beyond exhausted (and also felt like I may murder my husbands face). But now that I am a stay-at-home-Mom with a part-time home-business I LOVE life. I can say OK, this default parent job is my job. My husband has his equally stressful job and I have this job. I now laugh when my son asks me where Woody’s hat is and I reply “In the living room, under the part of the couch by the window.” And when my husband doesn’t even pay attention to the dentist date note that comes in the mail I don’t mind. I haven’t seen it in writing before this article so THANK YOU for putting it in writing, The Default Parent, it is spot on.

    • M. on October 8, 2014 at 12:16 pm

      What a nice comment. Thanks so much! I honestly think the main difference between the default and the back-up parent is that there is NOTHING the default parent doesn’t know. I’m envious of the bliss of not knowing some of the details!!
      Your comments made my day! Thanks for taking the time!

  65. Suanne on September 19, 2014 at 8:12 am

    True story #1: I am in the downstairs of our house in my office. Working. My husband is upstairs in the kitchen. Making dinner because I’m working late and he’s awesome.
    My 10-year-old son comes to the top of the stairs and calls down, “Mom I can’t get the new thing of juice open, can you help me?”
    I call back, “See that man in the kitchen? He’s your father. Introduce yourself and ask him to open the juice for you.”
    True story #2: we go to the Jersey shore every summer for a week. This year, at the start of the week, I made an announcement: “For the next seven days, I know where NOTHING is. Nothing. I am not keeping an eye on anything or tracking anything. Do not come and ask me where something is. I will have no idea.”
    It worked out well 🙂

    • M. on September 19, 2014 at 8:21 am

      Hilarious! Thank goodness you get it! I’ve just been replying to those that don’t get it. I also have a husband who grocery shops and cooks, so I totally get what you are saying. It’s just hilarious that they default to us…I love my job as default parent, but seriously have to laugh at how ridiculous it can be at times!
      You cracked me up and made my day. Thanks so much for taking the time to write something so funny and supportive.
      Carry on! And maybe blog…you are funny!

  66. Teresa on September 19, 2014 at 6:53 am

    Now I know why I am so stressed out all of the time! I am the default parent AND the default earner! Business trips are terrible….the preparing and ensuring that my husband has pre-prepared meals that he knows how to finish and also knows where the kids need to be and when is exhausting. Then, while away, I get constant calls asking where is this or that….what time is this or that (please check the list I left!!)…and of course the “Dad’s not fair” calls. UGH! Upon return it takes me a week (or more) to catch up and find out about all of the needs that my husband was notified of while I was gone, but did not write down and forgot to tell me. And my work wants me to travel MORE….it is a constant complaint that I need to be on the road more. After reading this blog, I totally get why I am always so tightly wound AND stressed out.

    • M. on October 8, 2014 at 12:15 pm

      Teresa! You are cracking me up! When we both worked full-time I was the default then too. I’m actually kind of good at it. Sounds like you are too! I just wish he’d just once think about how much wrapping paper we have left!! Tough to juggle it all. Hang in there!

  67. Anne Rookey on September 18, 2014 at 1:34 pm

    I love this SO much. Thank you!

    • M. on September 19, 2014 at 8:37 am

      Thanks for the note! Short and sweet and you get this funny concept! Love it!!!
      Carry on being awesome.

  68. Amanda Cordano on September 17, 2014 at 7:33 pm

    Love this – perfectly written. Just today I sent my husband (who is a fantastic co-pilot in this childraising gig, but still, the back up parent) saying “I feel like the ‘Administrator’ and I’ve forgotten the password.” All systems seem to be in overload! Loved this piece. Will share. Will certainly get some people to breathe a little deeper knowing they are not alone.

    • M. on September 19, 2014 at 8:37 am

      Yay! Amanda!
      Thanks for getting it! I have a husband who is a fantastic co-pilot too, but you are so right, default parenting is totally about handling the the administrative operation! We surely get help from our awesome husbands, but sometimes all systems fail and we need to go offline!
      Really appreciate your note!

  69. Stephanie on September 17, 2014 at 7:26 pm

    When my older two were 3 and not quite 1 year old I joined my husband in Europe at the tail end of a business trip. One of his coworkers described a moment when he was on vacation with his family and he was standing in the kitchen right next to his daughter. She yelled for her mother who was in another room to get her a glass that was right above where he was standing. I thought this was so sad. I made a mental note not to let that happen. I cannot say that I was completely successful, but I do believe that we have achieved a co-default status. I started out making/asking my husband to do things for the kids, like hold them, or feed them, when we were visiting his family. He could not say no or default to me because he wanted to appear the good dad. (They must have thought I was a lazy ass). I continued in this manner, always giving him the ‘gift’ of interaction with his children. When he was out of work he was able to step in. That time was also a gift. I can honestly say he was a great stay at home dad, granted he didn’t have diapers and night feedings, but he coached, took care of the Dr. appointments, the school nurse check ins, got the boys eye glasses and hair cuts, took them clothes shopping and cooked most every night. AND my favorite thing of all was HE made the lunches! This all took a conscious effort though, but I think we are all better for it. : )

    • M. on September 19, 2014 at 8:34 am

      You are my hero! Wow. That’s inspiring. I must say that I am a very similar parent as you are…and my husband and I have a very balanced parenting gig going. Especially when I worked in NYC and he had to do the daycare drop off and pick up. He even did hair…although never learned braids.
      I totally believe in the “gift of interaction” and honestly, I think most men who work wish they could be the default parent, or not have the kids walk by them looking for mom! My husband would be way better at it than me!
      I do think, as my career has become smaller and my kids have gotten older, they do default much more to me than they used to. Part of it is because I secretly love it….even if it does exhaust me and make me want to make jokes about it!
      Did you also decide to raise your first child as your third? That was always our goal too…to not freak out when the first ate dog hair!
      Anyway…loved your story. It’s so amazing when men get to stay home with the kids. Love that!

      • Stephanie on October 2, 2014 at 5:47 pm

        I was always a chill parent. At least on the surface. I once gave my first precious child, at 18 months, a plum to eat in the car on the ride home from daycare. My mother happened to be with us visiting and she said, “You can’t give him that! He’ll swallow the pit!” I replied, ” No he won’t. He’s not stupid.” Well, of course he had to prove me wrong and eat the pit!” And of course my mother had to dig through his diapers until she found it.

  70. Mary on September 17, 2014 at 3:21 pm

    Amen. To every sentence. Every word. Every puctuation mark. And while it’s quite possible that your three rugrats require more default parenting than my nearly grown one, I’ve been doing it longer…which means we’re probably experiencing the same level of exhaustion.

    • M. on September 19, 2014 at 8:28 am

      Ha! Good point.
      Thanks so much for the kind words. I especially appreciate the punctuation comment. I fear the grammar police!

  71. Michele on September 16, 2014 at 9:32 pm

    It’s like you’re in my head! Other than the shower stuff (I’m a door locker!!) it is my life written by you!! Wonderful blog, I’ll whisk you away to a tropical paradise and we can default together xx

    • M. on September 19, 2014 at 8:27 am

      I need to lock the door!!! Thanks for your support on the blog and just as an all around awesome friend!

  72. Dan on September 16, 2014 at 9:17 pm

    I friggin love that Family Guy clip. It is so spot on.
    Another great blog! Thanks for sharing your wit and sense of humor!

    • M. on September 19, 2014 at 8:26 am

      Hey there Dan,
      You seem like a super awesome man who doesn’t need a ton of validation for your contributions and has a kick-ass sense of humor.
      Will you marry me?

      • Dan on September 19, 2014 at 12:40 pm

        I’m already taken!

  73. Ashley on September 16, 2014 at 8:52 pm

    I wonder what is feels like to be the back-up parent? Great blog!

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