Are you the default parent?

Hi,
I read this and thought it was worth sharing on my blog because many of my friends do not have Facebook. Very talented writer who nails being the default parent and why we are so dang tired all the time. Whether you are the default dad or mom enjoy.

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.

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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.

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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.


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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.

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Happenstance
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.

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Showering
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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

http://mblazoned.com/1/post/2014/09/the-default-parent.html

So in love with my girl

letterloveI had our parent-teacher conference for cherub #3 yesterday. These typically go pretty well. She is fairly focused and social for a 5th grader. During our conference the teacher shared a writing assignment from the week before. In case you can’t read it, let me summarize; Her perfect day is having sushi in Hawaii with her friends and me. The part that tickled me was the line where she references me as her live in best friend. It made me all warm and fuzzy.
On the way home I told her I saw the assignment. Her response, “Oh, I didn’t know you would see that. Well it is true. I thank God for you every day mom” At this point I got a little weepy.
So in love with her. So grateful I still have a ten-year old at home. Someone who snuggles all the time. One of the benefits of getting older and having older cherubs is that you really appreciate the younger one and all the blessings that come with it. With the older ones  I didn’t always recognize the blessings as blessings. I am going to take advantage of  it this time. Of course, I am also going to blow this up to an 24×36 poster and put it in her room as a gentle reminder of how much she loves me when she becomes a teenager.

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What do you do when your go to parenting tactic fails ?

PicMonkey CollageboysSo we have this tried and true parenting technique. We host family meeting a few times a year. These family summits come up when the bickering gets out of control and goes from just an annoyance to resentments that have built up so much that everyone is a little hurt. We set a time to sit around the table (with no electronic devices including phones.) We start off with a prayer, asking for God to open everyone’s hearts and minds. Each person gets a chance to go around the table and voice their frustrations with each family member. The rules are as follows;

You cannot interrupt and defend yourself.

You have to repeat back what you heard

You have to come up with an action step as to how you are going to work on this issue.

This usually works pretty well and gives us a few months of pseudo peace and coexistence. We had one of these family summits about 6 weeks ago but this time it just didn’t take.  The frustrations and hurt feeling continued to build.

Until two months ago my boys were so close. They share a room and one of my greatest joys was to lie in bed and listen to the murmur of their chatter with each other every night.  I had no idea what they could be talking about but I knew they were good friends.  Now all I hear is bickering and a genuine dislike. It breaks my heart. Their fuse is so short. Their words are more cutting and their anger is affecting every aspect of our household.

They both are genuinely saddened by this change in their relationship. Neither of them wants to get along like this but they can’t seem to get a hold of whatever this season in life is bringing.

As the fix it mom I just want to make it better. I want to heal them and ensure that they are always close. I even used to use that guilt line of, “Once your dad and I are gone you are all the family you have left”. This used to work great, now they just roll their eyes at me when I get the first two words out.  We have tried talking to them separately. We have tried to mediate and talk to them together. We have asked them to pray.  We have been praying. I’ve even been listening to podcast on sibling rivalry from Focus on the Family. None of my attempts to fix it have worked.

One of the things I have learned over the years is to not rely on me.  We are in new territory with these teenage boys. I don’t know how to navigate this. I understand the litany of issues that have brought us to this point; competition, struggle for independence, jealousy, hormones, etc. Although I understand the whys, I cannot figure out the how to make it better component.

I reached out to the counseling service from Focus on the Family. This is a great FREE resource for parents. They have trained family counselors who incorporate a biblical perspective.  I spoke with a lovely lady for over an hour. To summarize her advice; we cannot fix their relationships, only they can do that, with God’s help. We need to let them hash it out so they can find their place. Basically there is not one single thing we can do except lay down some house rules. During my conversation with Focus I realized (with much help from the counselor) that they have lost respect for one another.  We have let things get out of control.

So we called another family meeting, much to our cherubs’ dismay. We did not do the usual vent your frustrations. We explained that we could not make them get along or like each other but we could lay down rules while they are in our home. They express their anger but they have to do it according to these rules;

We may not call each other names

We may not cut below the belt with comments

We many not physically bully or threaten to bully

We may not yell.

That was it. The rules apply to all of us, including our part-time cherub.  If a rule gets broken then there is a handpicked consequence.

We prayed for God’s grace and discernment. Meeting adjourned.

This morning instead of bickering it was total silence. I don’t think that is necessarily better but at least I didn’t feel like I was going to have an aneurysm when that big vein in my forehead exploded.

I will let you know how it goes.

Romans 17-18 Do not repay anyone evil for evil. Be careful to do what is right in the eyes of everyone. If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone.

 

Fact of life, if I want to live a long life I have to get older….

images (2)Let me preface this by saying that I am a relatively vain person. I know this. I am not proud of it but, I recognize and accept it. I am trying to age gracefully. I am trying to accept the woman who I see in the mirror. The woman God intends me to be. I let a lot of stuff ride, I really do. The fine lines, which are getting deeper by the day, the slew of gray hairs that hang around my temples and poke out of my pa rt. I accept that fact that my metabolism has slowed down to the point that I am I no longer burn calories, they just hang out around my stomach. I ignore the creaking in my knees. I don’t mind the fact that my decolletage looks like a piece of beef jerky in the mornings and it takes 2 hours for it to flatten out(ish). I am even trying to just ride out my hot flashes. But I draw the line at the chin hair. How in the heck can a chin hair grow overnight??? I go to bed all tidy and wake up with a hair long enough to put in a hair clip. Like getting older doesn’t have enough challenges, I am now tasked with checking out my chin, on what apparently needs to be an hourly basis, to see if I am growing a Fu Manchu. To make matters worse my eyesight is getting progressively worse. I am not sure I can even see the chin hair at this point. I have assigned cherub #3 the sad task of having tweezers on hand at all times and keeping an eye out for any pop up growths. I marvel at the speed of the chain of events that happen as you age. But it does make you think….

The beginning and ending of life chapters are swift to approach. The chapter where I was the hot girl is over. I am coming close to the end of the “You look really good for your age” chapter. (BTW young friends, this is no compliment. It is basically saying you look really good in spite of your affliction)

I am getting ready to open the next chapter (to be named in a later post.) Although there are obviously plenty of things that do not thrill me about aging I have to be honest, I am excited to see what this next chapter brings.

I used to think that the women who touted the virtues of aging were just grasping at straws, trying to justify all the crummy parts. But now that I am one of those women, it turns out they were right There are some good parts. These later life chapter include the fact that I don’t take things personally like I used to. I can try new things because I am not worried about how silly I will look. I have a much deeper appreciation of what real love is with my spouse. I have been blessed with wonderful relationships with girlfriends, amazing women of faith beauty and humor. I have a deepening faith that sees me through my roughest days. Truthfully while I am sitting here listing these attributes of growing older I think, would I want to be that younger and unwrinkled person I used to be? Or would I rather be this older wrinklier graying woman who I am today? I have to be honest, I would choose this person right now. I like this person so much more than the younger me. I love the people I am surrounded by. I am much more aware of the every day blessings, that must have been there all along, but that I just didn’t recognize because I was so wrapped up being me. I love the fact that when stuff goes wrong, (which it really does… all the time) I have a certain comfort and peace knowing that God has it under control. It is such a relief to know that it isn’t all up to me to fix everything. When I was younger the slightest snafu would send me into a tail spin. Totally wreck me. Now my mantra is “Oh well.”  I read this in a devotion. It sounds silly but I swear by these two words. Just give it a try. When you wake up and look in the mirror and want to groan try just saying “Oh well.”  It is pretty liberating and something I could never have done in my youth and really mean it. Of course when I wake up and that dang chin hair is there I say “Oh Well” but it is through gritted teeth and it still just makes me cranky. A work in progress. Maybe I will kick that in this next chapter.

2 Corinthians 4:16  So we do not lose heart. Though our outer self is wasting away, our inner self is being renewed day by day.

Why super heroes make my life better.

seanpmLast night I had one of those precious moments that mom’s of teenage boys get to have on rare occasions. I am still giddy about it this morning.
The boys and I were watching our super hero shows. All three of us are big sci-fi geeks. I have always been into Battle-Star Galactica, Xmen, anything like that. Ever since I had the boys it has paid off in spades. It is our “thing”. We never watch any of our shows without each other. We have set times that we catch up on them.
Cherub #1 will be 17 in three weeks. He is a big ole man now. he shaves, has girlfriends and drives. All the normal things that prepare him to launch from our home in the next year and half. He is a great kid. He will be a good man. But he is still a teenager with a full non family oriented schedule. Our shows are some of the only times we get together.
As we are catching up on our shows he is sitting beside me. Next thing I know he lays down and puts his head on my lap. I just sat there not moving or breathing because I was afraid any sudden movement would cause him to leave. After a few minutes I started rubbing his back. He used to make me do this every night before he went to sleep when he was little. The funny thing is when he was little it got to be a pain in the butt. I would always fall asleep five minutes in and he would wake me up to resume the back rubbing. I would get cranky when he woke me up and grumble about how tired I was. Now 15 years later I am literally thanking God for this sweet moment. I would love nothing more than to have that little person asking me to rub his back so he could fall asleep.
I know it seems silly to be so giddy over 30 minutes of snuggle time with your almost man/child but there comes a time that each moment you get like this could be the last one. Now I just want to savor the moment and be grateful. .

Menu of the week

download (4)Fall is all around. Ii love Fall and I love pumpkins. Pumpkins are so versatile. They make great candle holders, decorative fun and amazing food items. Here is week your menu of the week. It ran about $150.00 this week. We used Vons Just for You coupons on line and Trader Joes.  I have to brag a bit. This pumpkin soup is the BOMB!!! If you want it to be vegetarian just use vegetable broth in place of chicken broth. I will post the recipes on Facebook. If you prefer to have them emailed just shoot me a message and I will send you the ones you want. Enjoy my friends.

(I will try and update this with a shopping list this weekend)

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Product review for swampy armpit sufferers – Deodorant Cream 2 oz by Soapwalla A+

31Ts7haL7nLI wish that I was one of those delicate creatures who does not have swampy armpits but alas, I am not. I have searched for effective deodorants over the years. I have tried every conceivable option, including prescriptions from my Dr. Nothing worked until I found this hidden gem. It is a product from Soapwalla and it is AWESOME. It keeps me mostly dry (with the exception of super hot weather or working out) and it is still better than anything I have tried. The best part is that it keeps my pits from stinking (even when it is hot and I work out.) I love the way it smells. I cannot say enough good things about this product. A+++++

http://soapwallakitchen.com/products/deodorant-cream

Epic parenting failure….deep sigh

mommy-girl-brunetteCherub #3 is my best buddy. She and I do everything together. I adore her so so so much. Based on this, you would think my epic parenting failures with her would be less frequent. Last week I had a doozy. Cherub #3 has this BFF. They love each other but they have always had a very competitive relationship. Over the summer her friend took up running. She joined this group and ran over 80 miles during the summer on her tiny 10-year-old legs. She got to the point where she could run 4 miles…the whole way…without stopping. Since I struggle through my incredibly slowwww 2 mile jaunt a few times I week I consider her accomplishment very impressive. Inspired by this, Cherub #3 decided to take up jogging. She asked if she could go with me the next morning. I was so excited. I had visions of us jogging down the road, wind blowing in our hair, looking at each other and smiling. Needless to say whenever I do the movie scenario in my head it usually doesn’t go that way.
We woke up early the next morning because it was supposed to be hot. We walked to the park, which is about 3/4 of a mile from our home. (I now only run at the park because my old knees hurt when I run on hard ground) Cherub #3 complained the entire 3/4 of a mile. Now mind you I am not in good spirits at this point. I am not a morning person and I hate to exercise. I endured the barrage of, “I am so tired” “I am hot” “I am hungry” “Can we do this tomorrow?” By the time we got to the park I was already exhausted.
We take off at my very reasonable pace of 11+ minute miles. Honestly, not more than 25 yards in she quits and says she is just too tired. At this point I turn around and say to her (in a very not nice tone) “This is why your friend is better than you at everything she does. She never gives up.” If I had hauled off and slapped her across the face it would not have hurt her more.
If you had seen her little face crumple you would have reported me to CPS. She took off running around the park. (albeit taking short cuts the entire way.)
I wish I could have stopped the words before they came out. I wish I could have handled it differently. But there was an element of truth to what I said. She does give up if she isn’t good at something right away. This has been a frustration I had been dealing with for a while. It is a character trait that I am concerned about since it has long-term implications. And I hate that she has that in her because I have that in me. It is one of my least favorite things about me. It is terrible to see your biggest flaws staring at you and mocking you in your child.

Well, I prayed all four laps around the park. I knew I had hurt her, but I also knew I needed to talk to her about this issue and help guide her to not give up so easily. I cannot encourage you enough to pray when you err. I always feel so much more confident in those moments when I have asked God to guide me.

When I finished my jog (23 minutes of sheer agony) I walked over to where she was sitting. I apologized for my unkind words. I explained that it was an issue I was struggling with and asked if we could talk about it. She spat out a venomous,”NO, I do not want to speak to you!” I decided to let it lie. I know how she is. Another less than desirable character trait she gets from is that she can’t keep her feeling bottled in for more than 3 minutes.

On the walk home she told me how rotten it made her feel. I explained that adults make mistakes all the time. That the wording was super lame but the issue was real. We talked about the issue in a much more constructive way (thanks to my chat with God.) She forgave me and I felt cruddy all day long. It was a humbling moment because I really thought I was rocking it as a mom the day before.

That night she held my face with her little cute hands and smothered me with kisses. Even though I was plagued with pangs of guilt I also felt better that we had made some progress. I don’t know why I always try to first figure things out by myself. It never works. It is only when I ask God to act on my behalf that I see results.

The verses below are just good life rules. But especially true when dealing with our loved ones. .

1 Thessalonians 5:11 Therefore encourage one another and build each other up, just as in fact you are doing.

Ephesians 4:29 Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen