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Daddy’s the Default Parent Too: How We Share Despicable Parenting Duties (and Make It Work)

default parent

As working parents, it’s important to make an effort to ensure equal sharing of parenting responsibilities. If that effort isn’t made, it’s easy for “mothering” duties to fall largely on one parent by default. The “default parent” ends up handling the majority of child care, logistics, emotional support, and daily demands – often to the point of emotional and physical exhaustion. While being a parent is a full-time job, that doesn’t mean one parent should shoulder the bulk of the workload due to outdated gender stereotypes or simple neglect. Establishing balance and compromise from the start will benefit both parents’ well-being and the well-being of your family. When parenting is a team effort, everyone wins.

What is a Default Parent?

In the context of parenting, the term “default parent” refers to the parent who often ends up shouldering the majority of the child-rearing responsibilities by default, either due to societal expectations or a lack of proactive involvement from the other parent. This concept is not limited to a specific gender but can occur in any parenting dynamic. The default parent takes on various tasks related to childcare, logistics, emotional support, and daily demands without the intentional distribution of responsibilities.

The default parent often becomes the go-to person for the child’s needs, making all the decisions and managing the day-to-day aspects of parenting. They may handle tasks such as organizing schedules, arranging doctor’s appointments, coordinating extracurricular activities, preparing meals, and ensuring the child’s emotional well-being. This can result in a significant imbalance of responsibilities and can lead to emotional and physical exhaustion for the default parent.

Why does Default Parenting Occur?

The default parent phenomenon can arise due to a combination of societal expectations and personal choices. Historically, societal gender norms have placed the burden of caregiving and household management primarily on women. While significant progress has been made in challenging these stereotypes, they can still influence the division of parenting responsibilities in some households.

Additionally, the default parent role can emerge when one parent is more actively engaged and involved in parenting, while the other parent may be less inclined or motivated to participate. This can lead to a lack of proactive effort in sharing responsibilities, causing the default parent to take on more tasks by default.

The Default Parent Problem

It is important to note that the default parent dynamic can be detrimental to both the parent and the child. The default parent may experience feelings of overwhelm, stress, and burnout, as they are constantly juggling multiple roles and responsibilities without much support. This can lead to a strained relationship between the parents and an imbalance in their own personal well-being.

For the child, relying heavily on the default parent can limit their exposure to diverse caregiving styles and perspectives. It may also hinder the development of a strong bond with the other parent, as they may miss out on opportunities for quality time and shared experiences.

Need another opinion on the problem? Check out this article for more info.

How We Solve It

Here are some tips to help ensure equal parenting responsibilities:

• Communicate openly about expectations. Talk frankly about how you each view your roles as parents and what level of involvement you want from each other. Compromise where you can.

• Share responsibilities from the start. Don’t fall into traditional gender roles. From the moment your child arrives, make an effort to share tasks like feedings, diapers, bathing, etc. This helps set the precedent for equal parenting.

• Compromise and be flexible. Not every task needs to be split evenly, so do what works for your unique situation and strengths. Be willing to adapt as needed.

• Take turns with child care and chores. Alternate weekends, evenings, and time with your child. This creates balance and opportunities for alone time.

• Share decision making. Discuss important choices regarding your child together and present a united front. This includes things like discipline approaches, education, activities, medical care, and more.

• Make time for yourself. Make sure each partner gets regular alone time to recharge by taking turns watching the kids or doing an outside hobby. Parenting is hard work and self-care is important.

• Praise and encourage equal parenting. Provide positive reinforcement when you notice your partner stepping up to parent in an involved and engaged way. Expressing appreciation will motivate them to keep it up.

• Be willing to compromise when needed. While equal parenting is ideal, accept that life may at times dictate a more unequal division of responsibilities. Make up for it when you’re able to and maintain open communication.

• Seek counseling if needed. If unequal parenting has become an ongoing issue, consider relationship counseling or family counseling. A professional can help you work through barriers and improve dynamics.

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