A few months ago, I was really stressed. It was of those times where you’re vibrating from stress and you can’t fall asleep because of your stress, and then if/when you wake up in the middle of the night you pick up right where you left off worrying (perhaps with a few more anxiety loops thrown into the mix for extra middle-of-the-night fun). The why doesn’t terribly matter, but it was a perfect whirlwind of traveling for a work conference (stressful!) right before taxes were due (stressful!), in a really complicated tax year for us (as I realized with a sinking feeling when I sent them off to my accountant on April SEVENTH), with upcoming knee surgery (torn ACL!), and the added stress of getting enough blog content in the bank so that I could actually HAVE the surgery and recover without feeling like I was ducking tomatoes the whole time. And I was the default parent.
My husband, darling that he is, kept saying, “Hey, babe, let me know what I can do.” I did ask him to take care of a few things here and there: You pick the paint color we’ve been going back and forth on! Please take care of X purchase! Look into Y issue! But: I never asked him to be the default parent… And stuff fell through the cracks. (It wasn’t big stuff; J. turned in an empty assignment because no one helped him with it. But it still was enough to make me feel like a truly lousy mother.)
Now: Here at the blog, I feel like we talk about the concept of “the default” parent a lot. I even have the original Huffington Post article on a loop to come up every so often as a Facebook or Twitter post — that’s how good I think the article and concept is. But guess who I’d never discussed the concept with? My husband. So from the airport gate, on the way to my conference, I sent him a slew of text messages basically giving him a heads-up that I was going to send him an article and I needed him to read it, and I wanted us both to be on the same page about this. “To be clear,” I wrote, “I’m not pissed at you! You’re great! Wonderful! There’s just a bunch of hidden assumptions and sexism regarding women always being the default parent, and I need you to read and process this so that if I say something to you like, ‘I need you to be the default parent right now,’ then you totally get what I’m talking about and you can do it.”