Expectations Of the “Default Parent” And The Unrealistic Pressure On Moms Of Kids And Teens

“I cannot catch a break!” I said defeatedly to mom friends last week as we walked from our parked cars and houses to the school. “I hear you.” was the reply from all of them.

This is almost a daily conversation… another one of our kids was sick or it’s the appointments, kids needing to be picked up from school, a car needs to be fixed, and more and more and more.

All while juggling our careers and yet somehow trying to figure out how to have dinner on the table, exercise, eat healthy and keep our houses clean and more and more and more.

Moms… we are the default parent. And being a solo parent myself, I feel that even more. Sunday to Friday, when my kids live at my house, I am the mom and the dad. My partner Ben and I live in separate houses during the week to each parent our kids separately.

My mom friends and I are all in our mid thirties to forties and have school aged kids and teens. I think the difference now is that when my kids were really little and in diapers, less was expected of us in a way. My focus was to raise my babies and anything else was gravy.

Now don’t get me wrong, being a mom to a baby or toddler has its own exhausting and relentless hamster wheel, but somehow we weren’t expected to do and accomplish so much then.

Now that my four kids are in school and are getting older the expectations are greater, but the schedule and unpredictability of life keeps expanding. Throw in a lower capacity courtesy of the pandemic and the result is we are spread too thin.

How did we get here? I think a lot has to do with societal expectations and if you think about our generation, we had our babies at a time when the mom as the default parent wasn’t challenged like it is now, so we are kind of fighting against history.

I also think we put a lot of the expectations on ourselves. Here we are out of the baby and toddler fog and trenches… this is our time to rise, rediscover who we are, reconnect with the forgotten friendships and advance in our career.

So when we are still so held back and being pulled in so many directions it can feel frustrating.

This reality really sunk in for me over the last couple weeks and I had a lot of mixed emotions about it. Although frustrating, in the end I always try to focus on what is in my control.

What is in my control is saying NO more. No to social commitments, no to my kids (including picking them up from school when it’s not necessary), and no to hosting as much.

I think more than anything what helps is acknowledging that I am constantly trying to do the impossible and sacrificing myself over and over again. This has allowed me to create more boundaries and has given me the confidence to stop the people pleasing and allow myself to be first more often.

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