You know you’re the default parent when your child is crying in the middle of the night and your spouse doesn’t even flinch. Instead, he rolls over with an annoyed sigh and settles back to sleep. He doesn’t consider getting up. That is your responsibility.
The hardest pill for me to swallow when I became a new mom was the realization that I am the default parent. That my husband could do whatever he wanted but I could not. It was my responsibility to deal with the baby.
He got to go to work everyday. True, I was ready to temporarily part ways with my job and wanted to stay home with our baby but sometimes I envied the break he got. He spent his days in a familiar environment feeling competent at his job. I muddled through my days with no clue what I was doing, feeling like I was failing when I was on the brink of tears, and having absolutely no control over my schedule.
He would work late and I would hate him for it. Didn’t he know I needed a break?
When he got home I found myself handing over Hailey as soon as he walked in the door. I needed my space from her. But then I was the one who was stuck making dinner, putting out the garbage, and cleaning up. That wasn’t fair either!! That wasn’t what I wanted to be doing. I was mad at him either way.
He got to sleep during the night. He would sometimes offer to settle Hailey down in the middle of the night but I felt guilty. He had to go to work in a few hours and I didn’t. I felt alone in those early morning hours. It was my responsibility to be up with her. I wanted desperately to be asleep.
My husband continued to play soccer after Hailey was born. He played 2 nights a week on top of working all day. I didn’t get any nights out. I was home all day and all night with Hailey. I didn’t get a break on the nights he went out. I resented him for it. It wasn’t fair. He didn’t have to give up as much as I did. I missed my freedom.
In those early months, when I contemplated venturing out without Hailey I would ask myself whether it was worth having to pump. Often I would elect to stay home. It wasn’t worth the hassle. Pumping wasn’t easy for me. If I could go back, I would advise myself to pump and go out. I don’t feel like I missed out on anything by staying home but going out would have helped my sanity.
After 10 months and a freezer full of breast milk (that may be a slight exaggeration) I feel like I have some freedom back. My husband can feed her. She goes to bed and sleeps much better. My husband can put her to bed. Pumping no longer bothers me. I have regained a lot of my freedom.
I was extremely resistant to taking over the household chores, grocery shopping, meal planning, etc. I didn’t want to be responsible for everything. I don’t enjoy cleaning. Why should I have to be the one to do it? I resisted this in a big way. If I took this on now would it continue to be my responsibility once I returned to work? My husband and I fought about this a lot. He didn’t necessarily expect me to take on these tasks but he didn’t notice the dust on the floors or that there was nothing for dinner. That’s his personality. But I noticed. And it bothered me.
I am the default parent. I get up with her in the night (occasionally he helps but only when I ask). I’m the one to remember to bring diapers with us when we go out. I plan all of our meals. I grocery shop. I clean and tidy up because let’s face it, once a week doesn’t cut it when it looks like a tornado hits our house every day and our child is always playing on the floor.
I register Hailey for her programs, even the ones she takes with my husband. I arrange grandparent visits, plan babysitters for nights out, remember to bring food for Hailey when we’re going out, and pack extra clothes in case of a disaster. I buy all of Hailey’s clothes and remember that they need to be washed regularly. I understand that even when we’re not hungry Hailey still needs to eat.
My husband and I used to be partners. Having a baby tipped the scales in a big way and our roles are no longer equally balanced. I now carry the brunt of the load.
I am the default parent but it doesn’t bother me as much as it did in the beginning. I swallowed that nasty pill a while ago and it didn’t end up tasting so bad after some time. I am a different person than I was when Hailey was first born. I like my role as a mother. I’m not as miserable as I was in the beginning. I’m no longer having an identity crisis. My husband and I have worked through most of our issues and our relationship is better for it.
I’m guessing that when I go back to work I will still be the one responsible for making all of her appointments, meal planning, arranging child care, buying clothes, taking care of her when she’s sick, calming her when she’s upset, and generally organizing and planning all things Hailey-related.
I’m sure there will be another nasty pill or two for me to swallow when I go back to work or have another baby.
I am the default parent. And for now, I’ve made peace with it.
But really, would it kill my husband to pretend to consider getting up with her during the night?