A day in the life of a default parent

default parent | noun : the person who children come to for everything

A while ago I read a post on default parenting. It was like someone smacked me upside the head. Why didn’t I put that together before?! The default parent is the one who the children come to. Even if it means walking right past another parent on the way to seek out the default parent. Even when the default parent is in the shower and can’t realistically help find something or help put something on. Children see no obstacles when it comes to finding the default parent to ensure all of their wants and needs are met. Immediately.

Labeling the default parent helped me understand why most days I fall into bed physically and emotionally exhausted. In our house, we share a lot of responsibilities when it comes to parenting. Or we try. Three times in one week, Quinten came into our bedroom at 1 am. He doesn’t say much, but he makes a lot of noise on his way in. He usually throws open the door and loudly makes his way up on my side of the bed. He takes over my pillow and falls asleep in 10 seconds. Each time, I wake Bryan up to carry our very solid preschooler back to his bed. {That’s what a default parent calls delegating.}

Being the default parent translates into being the default housekeeper, food maker, food shopper, and school schedule keeper. No wonder I want to faceplant into my bed most days at 6pm. It’s mentally exhausting to keep so many balls in the air all the time. Children don’t care how much sleep the default parent got. They don’t care if you have a headache or the flu, they have needs to be met on their timeline. To all you default parents, word. 

Nights out are extra special for a default parent. When you get together with other default parents, everyone is responsible and no one needs parented. It’s simply amazing!

  1. You don’t get interrupted
  2. You willingly go with others to the bathroom because it means there’s something to be talked about in private
  3. Getting someone a drink isn’t a chore
  4. No words are off limits!
  5. We naturally take care of each other without noticing

This fall, we took a girls trip to Kansas City. We were basically gone for two days, but I still spent Friday doing all the things so my family was taken care of while I was gone. It’s exhausting being the default parent, even when you’re gone!

Here’s a glimpse into the going-out-of-town-default-parent life.

Responsibilities, Yo.
Wash, dry, and fold. BAM!
Here’s your meal plan family: chili and pizza.
Beer for lunch! Because it’s already a long day.
Always have a friend who knows the life of a default parent.

 

A day in the life of a default parent

Struggles with being and doing it all

On the eve of Maximus’ 6th birthday I’m left feeling a little deflated. My feet feel like dead weight kind of deflated. I spent the day vacuuming, sorting toys, organizing toys, and putting all things kid away. In between that I stopped to have a beer and buy party supplies. {The beer was extra delicious!} I haven’t planned a single thing for this party, but that’s the season of life I’m in right now. Maximus changed his mind twice on his cake, from Lego to Batman. And that means I’m not baking a cake this year. I’m too exhausted with life to feel bad about it. I’m looking at it as one less thing I have to do. 

I’m not sure if it’s good or bad timing that today I feel like I finally have the words to describe my struggles this summer. It’s a mix between being tired of doing It All and wanting some kind of recognition for doing It All. I know I’m not alone in any of this and having small kids only makes it all seem more crazy. But half the time I want recognition that I do a crap ton of stuff. That not everyone can do as much as me. {As I’m writing this I’m realizing that I need to tell my friends they are awesome. I can think of a lot of people who fit this description and I need to build them up.} Most days it feels like no one in my house can pick anything up. It’s utterly exhausting to just look around at all the things I pick up day-after-day. I’m trying really hard to raise boys who clean up after themselves but most days it seems like I’m talking to myself. {Please, no suggestions on how to have kids help around the house…} We make one good step forward and then someone {Quinten} is spreading tooth paste all over the bathroom like an animal. 

Clothes, toys, papers from daycare, and shoes. Every where. Every room I go into has something that belongs to a little person. All surfaces are constantly covered in things that belong plus random clutter. It’s like constant visual noise and it hurts my brain some days. I used to escape by watching shows at night. This summer I’ve found my escape to be my bed. For the most part, it’s a kid-free zone. 

It feels like the weight of all my responsibilities is finally getting to me. I’ve had plenty of pity parties over the past six years. Most of them have been about missing my freedom. Missing the carefree lifestyle and missing my individual identity. This feels different. It’s like I want a break from all of them. It’s a lot of hard work being a mom, wife, employee, boss, and volunteer. It’s really hard to be on from the moment you wake up until the second your mind finally shuts down at night. 

The things I can beat myself up about the most seem to be the ones that I want to escape from the most. Parenting and all the wife duties of taking care of our home. I should do more and be more. Yet, I find myself wanting to do nothing. I want to escape. On our girls trip, I so creatively coined the term “not adulting.” It’s been overused all spring and summer. It’s code for, I need a break from all of this so can we please go out for a drink {or 4}. 

I feel like I’m in Groundhog’s Day. Except it’s pleading with small children about the same things, picking up the same toys, washing the same clothes, making the same foods, putting the same dishes away EVERY.SINGLE.DAY, and doing the same bedtime routine every night. Even our weekly activities are the same – softball nights or band practice night. It’s so routine that I never know what day of the week it is. They all look the same. 

I’ve never felt like I needed spontaneity in my life but this routine and constant responsibilities seem to be doing me in right now. It’s a season, I know it is. That doesn’t make it any easier. I’m not even finding comfort in my friends who send out cries of non-adulting pleas. No solidarity pledge from me. Unless we’re escaping for a night, it’s not doing either of us good to know we both need out. It can be a suffocating feeling. And when I feel suffocated, I disengage with life. I solely exist in bodily form but can’t be expected to engage in meaningful conversation or do much but be there. 

I know I’m not more special than the next struggling mom. I’m not writing this to say I am. I’m writing this because I’m sure there are many who can relate to this feeling. I don’t know how to solve it. While the snaps from friends that say this sucks don’t help, I think our conversations do. There is comfort in talking with someone about the struggles. When people connect about struggling with all the parent responsibilities, it makes us feel less like we’re failing. Makes us feel more normal and ok with this phase. As long as we know everyone finds this hard, then we’ll make it through. Plus, find yourself a tribe who can not adult with you. Preferrably one who can help you have the best time of your life on those days or nights that you can escape! And added bonus if you can pretend to not adult while the kids run around and you drink an adult beverage. 

Struggles with being and doing it all

Boys will be boys

I don’t usually like stereotypes when it comes to genders. However, sometimes my life feels like it’s what boy stereotypes are written by. We don’t play with a lot of “gentle” toys but each boy has their favorite sleeping stuffed animal. They play brothers all the time and that feels like a version of house. Except it’s always the episode where someone is racing or someone is a monster or bad guy. Close enough. 

I won’t say that they take advantage of me. Instead I’ll say I give them a little more freedom. I’m anxiously awaiting the independence phase so I tend to let them roam free a little more. That gets me in trouble sometimes though. Like last weekend when I told Bryan he was on nap duty once he got home from golfing. I gave strict instructions to be nice to each other and I sat outside in the sun. Bryan came home and asked me why they were coloring the house and each other. I was literally on the other side of the glass door. Those sneaky little boys! Needless to say, they had afternoon showers where Bryan managed to scrub Quinten’s name off his back…{I know! Where’s the picture!}


The next time I was home alone with them I sent them outside to play. It was a nice evening and they didn’t need to be inside. Five minutes later they came inside to put on swimming trunks. Whatever. Stay outside. I plopped in a Body Pump DVD and enjoyed 45 minutes of silence. Until I realized that they weren’t just playing in the rain water from last night. THEY WERE PAINTING THEMSELVES IN MUD. Whatever. Stay outside. I finished my workout and went out again to deal with it. And that’s when I found Quinten without any clothes on. Because that’s what boys do. They constantly take off their clothes. 

Boys will be boys

Learning from my children

People always say having kids teaches you a lot about yourself and gives you a different perspective on life. I recently read an article about how mom’s shouldn’t be afraid to talk about kids in the workplace. How they should add parenting to their resumes. That makes sense to me. I am a big believer that having kids has taught me how to handle unpleasant situations and at times even handle employee situations better than I would have six years ago. I look at a tantrum at home and laugh to myself because my 5-year-old is facing the worst situation of his day, while I just dealt with some real stuff at work. While my brain doesn’t want to listen to a tantrum at home after a long day, it puts things into perspective. I see how important it is for me to help him learn how to deal with his problems. I see people throw tantrums in the workplace. Like, a tantrum that rivals my small child but includes lots of swearing while my child only screamed and stomped his feet. Most of the time this happens with someone who doesn’t have children. They only have themselves to take care of. They don’t see the bigger picture in life. They still get to be selfish and act like a small child who isn’t getting what they want.

My kids aren’t just showing me commonalities between the workplace and home, they are also teaching me about myself. It’s not easy for me to open myself up and show my weaknesses. Somewhere along my lifetime I got the mindset that I need to handle whatever is thrown my way. I don’t need to ask for help, I just need to get it done. I don’t feel like I’m stubborn. I don’t know that it makes a difference why I’m stubborn. But I don’t realize I do it. I’ve taken on a lot of stress in my work life and the outsider perspective is that it’s because of my stubbornness. I can kind of see it, but I still struggle with it. How is doing my job because it’s what is asked of me being stubborn? Shouldn’t that just make me a good worker? Is it because I sacrifice myself to do the job? Meaning, I’ll take the world on my shoulders and not burden anyone else.

Trying to discipline my 3-year-old has taught me a lot about myself. And it’s not all things that I wanted to learn. I have a short fuse when it comes to not listening. I’m trying to figure out how to deal with that because I spend a good portion of my day asking why no one in this house will listen to me. Seriously? Why can’t anyone do what I say?! Example…the other night I watched the boys walk towards the stairs and Quinten had a glass full of water. I knew what was about to happen. I yelled from across the kitchen, “DO NOT DUMP THAT GLASS OF WATER DOWN THE STAIRS!” At this point, I can’t remember if he even looked at me. It doesn’t matter. He looks at me all the time and does exactly what I told him not to do. He dumped a glass of water down the stairs. Who does that?! Obviously the next thing he did was go down the stairs like a slip ‘n slide. OBVIOUSLY. He was at the bottom of the stairs by the time I made it across the kitchen. {Ask Amanda, she was just as stunned. Welcome to my life.} Then I had to make the choice of putting him in timeout and cleaning up the mess myself or sacrificing an entire roll of paper towels so they could clean it up themselves. I picked the roll of paper towels and went back to my glass of wine. {That’s probably when I gave myself a refill.}

Twenty minutes later Maximus came running into the kitchen yelling about the huge mess that was in the bathroom. A sink full of toilet paper, water on full force, bubbles everywhere, and water all over the place. Why can’t I enjoy a couple of glasses of wine with my friend?!  After I cleaned that mess up and put them to bed, she asked how I wasn’t drinking bottles of wine every night. I don’t know. I really don’t know. More girl nights will help me survive these two!

It is so frustrating to discipline a child who gets worked up even more when you get mad. I don’t know how to not get mad that he’s not listening to me and be calm when I tell him he’s not acting very nice. This is when I realize that we are a lot alike. Both of us extremely angry and both wanting to be the alpha. So I take the wins as they come, sometimes it’s winning a day and other times it’s one disagreement out of many. 

Learning from my children

Finding me again

There’s been a lot of talk on social media about finding your tribe. I absolutely love it!

I went on a girls trip a couple months ago and felt that girl tribe bond. I joked that I couldn’t wait for the trip because I was going to unadult. To adult: to work a desk job, care for a family, take care of a house, and be involved and/or lead multiple community projects. I didn’t realize how much I needed a break from all my jobs! I was ready to do whatever Kyley wanted and not worry about taking care of anyone else. {Because on a girls trip you all watch out for each other, but you don’t have to care for anyone else.} It was the best! I found myself again. Me. Not the employee, mommy, wife, or volunteer. Just ME.

Whatever all this tribe talk is, I’ve realized that taking care of me isn’t about 5 am workouts, clean eating, or setting aside time to read and write. That’s taking care of my physical and mental health. While that’s important, I tricked myself into thinking I was focusing on myself. I hear so many parents of young kids talk about how hard it is to be an individual anymore. I get it. I get it hard. But working on your health is different than working on your soul. All this tribe talk has made me realize I need to work on my soul.

Spring is a rejuvenating time for me. I come out from winter hiding and am ready for sun, fun, and friends. I’m looking at this season with a different perspective this year. I’m going to focus on me and cultivate my relationships. Girls nights, trips, family nights with friends, and anything else that fills my bucket {preschool reference: bucket fillers make your heart happy}.

I miss Kyley. The girl who got me to this point in my life. The individual without all the titles. The one who built friendships, a career, and a family. Somewhere along the past six years I got caught up in the workload and keeping babies alive part. I lost sight of keeping the friendships alive and doing things that make me who I am. I thought one night a week sports and random celebrations where filling my individual needs.

Since having kids, I’ve slowly learned to lean on people. With one kid, I thought I had to figure it out on my own. Then came a kid who challenges me in ways I didn’t even know possible. I checked my humility at the door and found an even deeper relationship with my friends because of it. I don’t think I’m any more special than the next person but I have a very hard time asking for help. {Some people in my house would say the ornery blonde got his stubbornness from me. He might be right.} I’m learning that it doesn’t make me weak to ask for advice or even whine a little about my life. My friends are having the same daily struggles. It’s not a bad thing to reach out from the darkness and ask someone to pull you out.

All this tribe talk is making me love and appreciate my friends even more. It’s reminding me to make them a priority and connect with them more often. To make sure they are doing ok or just tell them how much they mean to me. And to spend a little more time focusing on me, even if that means skipping out on a night at home to just be Kyley out with friends.

Find your tribe

Finding me again

Surviving the last 24 hours of solo parenting

Do you believe in karma? I suppose I do because I have been known to say it a time or two. In early January, I was traveling for work and Bryan ended up only working one day out of an entire week. I can’t remember who got sick first, but at one point they were both home. We had a pretty complicated schedule that Friday as he was leaving town before I was getting back. It would have normally been no big deal – school and daycare. Except they were both home so a grandpa came in to cover for us.

Fast forward a couple of months.

I’m ending a two-week solo gig. Our first week was SUPER.BUSY. We were only home two nights out of six. By the end of the week everyone was worn down and tired. That made for some fun mornings. As we entered week two, our schedule looked good. We were going to be home every night and I had my lunch hours planned to get all my errands done. {Because no one wants to run errands after work with two kids in tow.}

Then Tuesday happened.

One whining child was so tired he couldn’t get his pajamas off to go to the bathroom. {Hashtag: the struggle is real.} The other complaining of his tummy and leg hurting. Off to the kitchen he went to eat his cereal. Pro tip: if your slowest eater is dressed, take advantage and try to get that food in him quicker. Also, he eats about three breakfasts a day but loses his mind if he has to skip the one at home. Back to “help” a 5-year-old figure out how to get off the hallway floor when he’s soooooo.tired. Crying from the kitchen. Sprint through the house because I’m thinking the worst just happened and it was probably throw-up. Nope. Hurt leg really hurts and cereal looks untouched. I pick him up and don’t like the sounds in this throat. Luckily, I have years of experience at this stuff. No thinking required, just action. I stand with my back to the sink as I’m holding him against my chest. Arch my back so his face is over the sink. Or at least I hope it is because I can’t see back there. Shush him as he throws up over my shoulder and calmly talk to Maximus as he buttons his pants and tells Quinten it’s ok. {Yay! He’s able to get dressed again!} When I’m sure he’s done, I look to see that he didn’t have anything in his stomach so it was just a lot of saliva. However, dress goes into the laundry and yoga pants and t-shirt on.

So karma does come back around. The throw up was an isolated incident and in came a small fever. Little did I know, there would be no work and daycare on Wednesday. Maximus woke up around 11:30 that night and was pretty hot. He stayed up until almost 2:30! I eventually let him come into my bed. Quinten stormed into my room around 2:15 terrified of a loud sound and pretty hot as well. It was most definitely a monster or a siren or a mouse or a loud boom or a beeping sound in his room or thunder. He’s just sure of it. I did what any solo parent does at 2am – got everyone’s pillows and blankets and favorite stuff animal and turned on random bathroom and closet lights so everyone could see. And told them to stop talking and use quiet voices and JUST PLEASE GO TO SLEEP. Then I slept on the smallest sliver of my bed, crowded out by Quinten and Wrigley.

Luckily, I had shared a bottle of wine with a friend that evening so whatever I can deal. Because otherwise a person would go crazy after that kind of night. {Yes, I bought the same wine today when we were at the store. Because, yes.}

Wednesday got us two kids staying home! Slight fevers and emotional messes because no one got enough sleep due to our middle-of-the-night party. I was bored out of my mind and tired of watching Curious George, but we survived. And at the end of the day, I drove all around town getting them fast food because it was that kind of day. I high-fived myself when I got them both to sleep in their own beds even though it was raining, windy, and thundering.

AND THEN 2 AM HIT AGAIN!

I sat up in bed as I watched them both come into my room talking away. “Mommy, I’m thirsty. Mommy, I want to sleep in your bed because I’m scared. Mommy, my tummy hurts so I want to sleep in here.” AHHHH! Fifteen minutes later I had all the necessities again and we were settled in. Somehow they slept until close to 8:30, but ruined my early morning workout plans again.

It’s 30 outside, windy, and gloomy. We’re fever-free, it’s spring break, and we’re bored. I took them to Dunkin Donuts for breakfast and the grocery store so I could get a Starbucks. {Let’s talk about how I calmly waited out a stubborn 3-year-old who wanted to push his own little cart. GET IN THE OBNOXIOUS FIRE TRUCK. PLEASE AND THANK YOU! I won.} I made them a super awesome lunch of pigs in a blanket and promptly put them all in the fridge because no.one.ate.them.

One more day until Bryan comes home…and a bottle of wine that’s calling my name. When can I open it???

Surviving the last 24 hours of solo parenting

Saying goodbye to naptimes

Life is always changing, especially with small children in the house. I still remember the realization {and sadness} that one of my children was dropping his nap. It was a rough transition for me. That was MY time and then he was invading it, loudly. In an effort to make sure the little one slept, we let Maximus stay in the living room. {One too many ruined naps because he couldn’t be quiet.} 

MY time used to be anything I wanted it to be…naps, catching up on shows, eating junk food…ok those were about the only things I used to do. But it was glorious! Now that time looks a lot different. We recently implemented iPad WITH HEADPHONES. It’s a lifesaver for me. Maximus can watch Axel and Family Fun as much as he wants and I can have quiet time. It’s a big improvement over annoying cartoons. 

By the time naptime comes around I am ready for a break. My heels usually hurt from spending the morning going and standing in my kitchen. {I know, poor weak office worker. It’s really a thing.}  

BRB. Quinten just woke up. A two-hour nap is pretty amazing lately. He is a SIGHT. Blonde hair going EVERY direction. And now the iPad volume is back. But I didn’t even have to remind him to let his brother watch, which is a miracle in itself. We’re struggling with sharing and including our brother in things. Huh. Peppa Pig Santa. Ok then. 

While we seem to have figured out Maximus’ naptime, I haven’t quite figured it out for me. I could clean, workout, do laundry, read, write, or go grocery shopping. I’m not good at getting up early on weekends so I almost always need to get my workout in. Almost everything feels like a job or responsibility and when naptime comes around I just don’t wanna. Grocery shopping is the least ideal one because then I get zero rest all day. {Whoops, sounding like I can’t function without resting.} And cleaning sounds like the most adulting thing to do. Honestly, I usually am already doing laundry. I sit down on the couch to let it finish, the couch swallows me up, and I listen in annoyance as the dryer continuously fluffs as if it’s taunting me to get the clothes before they wrinkle. 

I make a lot of poor choices during naptime, but sometimes I have enough energy left to do a Body Pump workout. Mostly, I social media for an hour or so. {It’s 2016, it’s a verb now.} When I decide to close my eyes, an alarm must sound in Quinten’s room because he comes stumbling out shortly after. And then I’m annoyed again and feeling all sorts of helpless and poor me-like. 

What are you doing during quiet or nap time? 

While on Christmas break, naptimes have been between 1-3 hours. Once we get back into a routine, I expect him to drop down to an hour. It’s like these kids like to constantly make me adjust and change with them! Why can’t they realize that naps are awesome and that we should all do them for 2-4 hours every day?! So now I really need to use my time wisely. I think I’ll focus on writing and reading. Things I can do while being lazy and drinking lattes on the couch. I think that will be my creative focus for 2016. More reading and writing. Less adulting? Just kidding, more efficient adulting so I can enjoy my quiet time without being a lazy couch monster. 

  

Saying goodbye to naptimes