A couple of years ago I read this mind-blowing article about being the “default parent.” If you haven’t read it, stop right now and read it. I kid you not, it is laughing-through-tears hysterical. If you’re too busy right now to click on a link, as I often am, then here’s a quick summary: the default parent is the one who knows every kid’s activities, homework, teachers’ names, birthday parties, vaccine schedules, etc. It’s a mind-numbing job, it often goes unrewarded, and it’s never-ending.
When I first read that post, I loved knowing I wasn’t the only one feeling a little overwhelmed and resentful of all the information I carry around in my head and all the stuff I do daily for my family which tends to go completely unacknowledged.
But what I’ve learned over the past few years- as life continues to get busier- is that it’s not good enough to merely sympathize with other default parents. It’s about time we did something about it, by taking a weekly Admin Day.
What’s an Admin day? Well, at my job I see patients all day, and barely have enough time to return phone calls, fill out paperwork, complete prior authorizations, and so on. Consequently, my boss encourages me to schedule administrative time into my day; a time specifically devoted to tackling all those tasks that have to get done but often are pushed to the back burner, piling up and making me anxious. In other careers, this is comparable to returning emails, responding to voicemails, scheduling meetings, billing and researching.
What I’ve learned is devoting time to those necessary evils makes my life easier and my job much less stressful. Furthermore, I am more present and focused on my patients and my colleagues.
So why in the world shouldn’t that be a requirement for parents, too?
If you’ve read some of my other posts, you know I struggle with mommy guilt when I have days off and still send my kids to daycare. The nagging voice in the back of my mind wonders, shouldn’t I be spending more time with them? Can’t I drag them along with me to all my super-boring errands, knowing they will melt down, scream for sweets, and throw things at each other in the store?
Perhaps, I should. And sometimes I do. But I’ve also learned that I’m a lot calmer and things run much more smoothly when I do those things alone. On my days off, I schedule doctor’s appointments, pay bills, arrange play dates, clean the house, buy birthday presents, and do endless loads of laundry, amidst many other things. And while it isn’t fun per se, I actually enjoy these tasks much more when by myself, because I can take my time and not worry about peeling the kids off each other or having myriad snacks prepared. And I’m 1000 times more efficient.
Furthermore, when I do pick up the kids, I’m so much more engaged with them because I don’t have nearly as many tasks rattling around in the back of my mind. We can truly enjoy our time together doing fun activities, rather than dragging them around from place to place, distracted and irritated.
So I’ve decided in order to alleviate my mommy guilt, I’m going to redefine these days off as my Admin Days.
Because in many ways, being a default parent is a job, and we all need dedicated time to get these tasks done so that we can be more available and present with our families.