A letter from the Default Parent to the Back-Up Parent.

November 5, 2014

** Prior to reading this post, make sure you have read this Huff Post article on the Default Parent. The post below was inspired by this because, really, can anyone replicate the duties of the default parent? And more importantly, would the lucky position of “default parent” even exist if it weren’t for the back-up parent? I tend to think not…. 

default parent

Dear Back-Up Parent,

I thought I’d write you a little note in the event of my absence. Being the Back-Up parent you are automatically next in line to assume the role of Default Parent and/or hiring an understudy so I thought I’d write down some friendly reminders.

Here goes.

The bed sheets need to be changed every week. Okay maybe every other week. They need to be changed on somewhat of a regular basis. Just do what you have to do to make it happen. Especially the baby’s sheets since he has conveniently mastered the pee-through-the-diaper party trick. Which reminds me…. at night, like just before he goes to bed, he needs a fresh nightime diaper. They have little moons on them to indicate nighttime. If you forget to put this on he will wake up soaked (and earlier than usual) so don’t forget to remember. And in the event that you need to buy these, they are called just that, “Ov-er-ni-ght diapers”. And they are insanely expensive… but just suck it up. It’s the only option.

You need to leave for the bus at approximately 8:17. Yes, the bus doesn’t come until 8:34 and it is a 2 minute walk, but if you leave later than that you will miss out on talking to the other parents at the bus stop and consequently sacrificing 11 minutes of adult conversation. This is the only 11 minutes you will get all day and in your new role as default parent, trust me, you will need it. It’s like a cocktail party, but without the cocktails and with a bunch of kids wearing backpacks standing around ready to board a big yellow thing.

Don’t ever, ever, run out of paper towels. Buy them in bulk and keep close track of inventory. Same goes for wine and coffee. Just trust me – sound advice from an experienced default parent.

Throw a load of laundry in the wash every morning. Put it in the dryer after breakfast and fold it at nap time. Match socks at least 2 times per week or else the kids will get pissed that they have no socks. And then what?

Check the red folder in backpacks every day.

Make sure you have the goddamn carpool number on your visor in carline pick up or the ladies in charge of carline will give you attitude…as if by now they don’t know what kid belongs to which parent. Sheesh.

Only allow one snack after nap time and before dinner. If the kids wake up prior to 3pm you could give two snacks but anytime after 4 is only 1 snack or they will look at the dinner you slaved over and not eat it. And yes, chocolate milk is a snack.

Put alerts in your calendar for birthday parties for at least two days prior. When you hear the alert remind yourself that you need to buy a present. If you forget, there is a stash in the upstairs closet. If you resort to this, find something age/gender appropriate. And don’t give anyone that snail toy. It’s just weird and would be embarrassing. While you’re up there, might as  just get rid of it. And by God, don’t regift a gift to the same person who gave it to us. (See the post-it the office of gifts received and who not to regift gifts to…. but don’t EVER show anyone that note.)

Run the dishwasher every night and unload it every morning.

When you go to Target with kids, just go to the toy aisle first, pretend you are making a list for Santa, and be done with it. In the event of a bratty-child freak out, the pharmacy has lollipops. Grab at least 7 and it should last you the duration of your shopping experience. Oh, and I only buy non-toxic counter spray. The kids lick the counter on more occasions than I care to wonder about. Just trying to be responsible. If you can leave spending less than $100, well, then maybe you should have been the default parent all along.

Put the dog outside at 1:43 every day so he doesn’t bark and wake the kids up from their naps when the mailman comes at approximately 1:47.

Don’t drive in the car with the baby after 11:45am. He will fall asleep and ruin his afternoon nap. If you succeed in transfering him to his crib when you arrive at home….. don’t get too cocky. He will wake up at 12:30 like a hungry little beast because, HELLO, you never fed him lunch.

Pick up the dog poop in the backyard. Or don’t ever let the kids outside. Your choice.

Put the trash out every Monday night and recycling out every Tuesday night. Technically this is a job of the back up parent, but let’s be honest…

Have a game plan for dinner by at least 1 pm daily. If you forget, there is a frozen heat and serve option in the fridge for emergencies only. Do NOT rely on this option more than once per week. Too much salt. Even the organic varietals.

Speaking of organic. Only ever buy organic milk. And apples, and strawberries. If it has a peel, you can buy non-organic. Grocery stores are least crowded on Tuesday mornings. If you are bringing the baby, I suggest you go after he poops. It’s something about the supermarket that just makes him have to go…

Don’t ever leave the house without….. 2 snacks, water, diapers, wipes, special treat for desperate situations, a bandaid, extra pants (for the kids, not you), hand sanitizer, and quarters. Parking meters around here don’t take small change anymore. It’s really annoying. There is no shame in breaking into the kids piggy bank. Just don’t let them see.

When the kids are playing with their toys, take close mental note of where they leave them around the house. When they are freaking out because they can’t find that minuscule lego piece, you should be able to report the exact location. However, before coming to the rescue, give a short lecture on responsibility and keeping track of important items and then provide clues. We want our children to be self-sufficient.

The kids go to the doctor every year around their birthday. Make sure they bathe beforehand.

The vacuum should get serviced at least once per year. Yes, that is a real thing. And the interior bag needs to be changed every few months. The extras are in the hall closet.

Kiss the kids at least 17 times each per day.

With all that being said, if you should choose to do things your way, which is not necessarily the wrong way but simply a different way…. that is fine. There is a reason I chose you as my back up parent and life partner.

I trust you.

These are just some things that you’ll need to think about when you are not working on maintaining that stream of  income which is also sort of important. After all, our kids have expensive taste.

Oh, and just one one last thing…. I promise. If nothing else, make sure the kids brush their teeth. Everyday. And yes, they all need assistance despite their best efforts to convince you otherwise.

I love you.


The Default Parent


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  • Dutchy
    November 5, 2014 at 8:15 pm

    no kids at home, married for 35 years … just told my default .. if I am gone
    he should outsource all laundry … i asked him to put clothes in dryer… and
    never realized you actually have to push the on button… 31 years ago he put the
    washing detergent in the dryer…..

    • Sisters to Sons
      November 5, 2014 at 8:48 pm

      Pretty sure my back up doesn’t know how to use the washer/dryer either!

  • Marci
    November 6, 2014 at 8:19 am

    You are so gifted at writing with humor! Thank you for the early morning laugh. I can totally relate!

  • Barb @ A Life in Balance
    November 6, 2014 at 9:47 am

    LOL I love this! I tell my dh all the time he couldn’t do my job.

  • Michelle Wolfson
    November 6, 2014 at 10:48 am

    This. All of it! Exactly!

  • Lauryn
    November 6, 2014 at 8:38 pm

    Hilarious! Love it!

  • Noelle (@singerinkitchen)
    November 7, 2014 at 7:12 am

    I enjoyed your post for its humor and reality! 🙂 Since reading the Huff post and yours, I never really thought about default parent or back up parent. I am careful to think about these things because I feel like I would start feeling sorry for myself (not saying that at all about you), but personally, it would focus too much on my role. I know my hubby does not know how to do things exactly how I do them or even want to always do them the way I do for the kids, but I just know it is a male thing. I think the needs and requirements of a mother ARE sometimes overwhelming, but if we could not handle them, why do we think we were given children?

  • kristin
    November 7, 2014 at 1:24 pm

    Seriously love this! Shared on FB 🙂

  • tara
    November 8, 2014 at 5:04 pm

    Th is is so true and very funny!! The backup parent truly doesn’t know the responsibility of what we do and why we can get overwhelmed from time to time. We don’t get the option to check out whenever we like. Your an awesome writer!! Enjoyed reading this!!

  • sarah hughes
    November 11, 2014 at 7:10 am

    Great post Lindsey! It’s amazing what we moms store in our brains. My biggest thing I tell my husband is if something happens to me please use the good leave in conditioner on Hayley’s hair and never ever cut it short. I’ve made him promise this multiple times

  • sherry
    November 12, 2014 at 3:12 pm

    Great post .. love the nap thing and the dog poop it is the back up parents thng

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