I, like many uterus owners, am the default parent we've all heard so much about recently. Guilty as charged. I make doctor's appointments and organize playdates. I plan the vacations, take the pictures and create the albums of our cherished memories (well, I try to anyway; many of them still live as projects in progress on my Mac or Shutterfly). I pay the bills, buy the groceries and make sure our five children have boots in the winter and bathing suits in the summer -- that fit!
My husband, it should be noted, is a very good guy and very good dad. But the default parent is the role I play. A role I accept wholeheartedly and gripe about occasionally. I've found there are two key triggers to my gripes: PMS (which is relatively frequent) and business travel (which thankfully, is not). This week, the two collided. Watch out world, this default parent nearly lost her mind. With feverish fervor (or were those hot flashes? Lord help me, not yet!), I mapped out every detail of our weekly logistics in a Word document AND an Excel spreadsheet to ensure that no kid -- or project -- was left behind while I was away. Since I spent my week at a marketing conference, it seems fitting to share some of the key "content buckets" for my remote (and default) parenting:
1. Cash: For some reason, my husband and I NEVER have cash. So, when the kids need money for the class breakfast or teacher gifts, one of us is typically runs to the ATM while the other is running the kids to the bus. Except for that this week, one of us wasn't there: Me. That's why moments before I left for the airport, I found myself at the local bank withdrawing wads of five and ten-dollar bills... and then going home, popping them into envelopes for the week and labeling them: Ciara: book fair. Kevin: book fair. Liam: post-practice pizza money. You get the idea. And I became broke. Which I guess is why I travel for business anyway; a paycheck is a great way to refill the coffers!
2. Food: My spreadsh*t -- oops -- spreadsheet (I left that typo in because it displays my true feelings about spreadsheets) included dinner plans for each night of the week. Monday: pasta and meat sauce with a side of spinach. Tuesday: Breakfast for dinner. And so on. Was it gourmet? No. Did it get the job done? Yes. And, did I grocery shop before leaving, plan a grocery delivery for the day I got home AND reload the kids' lunch cards just in case we ran out of food? Yes, yes and yes. Honestly, it kind of makes me lose my appetite just thinking about it. But, the kids never lose theirs, so at least I could sleep easy knowing they wouldn't be going to bed on an empty stomach.
3. Social: This is a big category. It encompasses basketball practices, birthday parties, playdates and carpools. It's a doozie. It requires seamless coordination with other uterus-blessed default parents and the hope (oh, how I hope!) that my husband will read my spreadsh*t. And Word document. And his calendar. On his PHONE. (Why is this such a challenge for him? And other people with penises? I know he's not alone here!) It should be easy enough. I've covered all the bases. I briefed the babysitter. I bought and wrapped the birthday presents. I signed the waiver that said I wouldn't kill the people at the bouncy place where my oldest might break his arm amidst the birthday revelry. I even put out long underwear for the soccer tournament that promised frigid temperatures -- with a reminder to bring a hat, gloves and water bottle. I think I thought of everything -- except for that the water bottle itself might freeze, which I really don't have a solution for.
Last but not least, I left each kid (and my husband!) a heartfelt, handwritten note sharing what I would miss most about them and reminding them all of how much I love them. I wanted them to have these notes for posterity in case the plane crashed. Because, after all, those photo albums full of cherished memories are a work in progress. And then I cried. (See above: PMS!)
The thing is, as much as I might b*tch about the role I play, how exhausting it is, how overwhelmed I am, blah blah blah, I love it. And them. And I'm happy to be home. After all, a new week will soon begin and there's a new spreadsh*t just waiting to be made -- and little gems like this to welcome me home...