Thursday, October 30, 2014

The Default Parent

Motherhood is my choice.

I try not to compare apples with oranges, or my life with others, but every now and then I read articles that I try to relate to, often about parenting. And let me be plain about this, the majority of literature about parenting assumes there are dual heads in the household. This article is one of many that imply just such.

I was reading the article and found this segment which I could relate to:

'Mum, mum, mum, mommy, mom, mom, mama, mommy, mom. All. Day. Long. I handle the needs of all three of our kids: 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 not to sue when your kids gets concussions, because they are going to get concussions. 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, dammit.'

But.....then this happened:
'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.'

My thoughts? Being a single parent means you are the default parent on everything. I dont delve in to my personal life much here but will say that my son and I function without the presence of the other half. There are no visits, no Christmas cards, no child support....he's gone. He's not dead, he is intentionally absent in our lives of his own volition. It's hard sometimes because not only am I the default parent but I'm the default earner and default mower of the lawn.

I hear so many dual household people complain though, to my married friends who have similar views as to this mother, I would ask why you dont require your other half to participate more equally to share what you feel is such a burden? If I'm ever lucky enough to meet someone again in my life I know communication will be the key. Things in my first marriage which didn't work could have been avoided if only we were better communicators. Sadly we never got to the point of wedded bliss with play dates, multiple children, and cookouts in the backyard and walks in the park. No, the things I envisioned my life to be are drastically different from what I imagined they would be when I said 'I do', and drastically different from when my now ex husband and I decided to have a child together. For a single parent who is truly single and on their own being the default everything seems unfair at times, but what would be more unfair is for me to launch that state of burden on my child.

So where does that leave a defaulted defaulter such as myself? In the grown up chair. I wont back out of my son's life, I wont participate less, and I wont stop working my job or doing things I like. I see parents who are no longer together and one usually defaults while the other forgets they have a family. Coming from a home that suffered divorce I can say now as an adult that children remember who was there and what you did with them, they also understand when one parent is not around as much as they could be, when the other parent doesnt know the details of their goings on, and when the parent even more so as a back up, if even that, doesnt seem to care about what's going on with their own child's life.

I wish I could reach out to all the 'back up' parents and tell them not to remain in the back up position because their children will see it in time. Similarly if you're the default parent and resent it instead of bask in it for the years when your children need you the most, your children may sense your resentment, tiredness, and dismay at being a parent.

My hope is that when my son grows up he will know that Mommy did a lot for him and with him and tried to make things as seamless as possible because I wanted him to have the best most complete life and childhood as possible. That I wanted to enrich him as a human being with things I found important and I could only do that by being in his life and knowing what was going on. I would never call myself a 'default' I am a parent because I choose to be. Being a parent is an option, and for all those who complain about it....I would have to ask what you think that says about you?

No comments:

Post a Comment