Is a “Mom on 11” and a “Default Parent” the Same Thing?

Dear Friends:

Yes, you, too, might be a “Mom on 11.” How do you know if you are one?

You do too d*** much.

Now, one might argue that all mothers are, by their very nature, “Moms on 11.” (Although, I’m sure we can all think of some people who do not win this excellent award/title.) But, if you are the default parent, have a Type A personality, and/or are a WAH-Pinterest Mom, then you very likely may be a Mom on 11, too.

I acquired the Mom on 11 title from my beloved husband (The Hub, who loves “Spinal Tap”). He thinks that I try to be and do too much for my kids. I have fought him for a long time on this irritating label, because, I actually like to consider myself the opposite of a Mom on 11, who has taught her kids how to pack their lunches and do their homework without prompting – by not doing it for them.

But, I suppose, if I am forced to be honest with myself, I deserve the “Mom on 11” title by virtue of what my days look like. I mean, if you’re working at your computer from 5:30 am to 6:30 pm with nary a break, you work hard. You work a lot. And when you are not working, you are usually toiling away at unpaid domestic labor. We all know the drill: laundry, dishes, dinner. Laundry, dishes, dinner. Laundry, dishes, dinner. It’s an exhausting hamster wheel of thanklessness.

A lot has been written about a woman’s (usually mothers’) mental load, or emotional labor.

I can’t say this mental load imbalance looks a lot different in our home, but I have a few points:

(1) I have two daughters. So, I cannot raise boys who will not repeat the well-worn-out cycle of male-domestic-cluelessness. Moms of boys (Econ-mom): You need to do this for the sake of my daughters. I thank you in advance for your service.

(2) Some of it is my fault. From the get-go, I was so determined to be the “best mom ever” (ergo, “Mom on 11” title) that I took on a lot of the mental load tasks myself. And I wanted to. I mean, what mom doesn’t want to have fun shopping for girls’ clothes? Also, I “leaned away” for the first five years of parenting and only worked from home on a part-time basis, so I had time to attend to all the “default parent” tasks. [Topic for another day: Why moms, and not dads, quit their jobs to be at home with their kids. Biological? Cultural? Economic? Discuss.]

(3) The Hub is an amazing hub, who does more than the average male around the house. So, I am not complaining. But I do manage many, many tasks that I don’t think ever cross his mind. But am I wrong about that? And should I just be delegating more?

I have linked a lot of articles to respond to here, Econ-mom. I look forward to hearing what you have to say.

Econ-mom’s response:

Well, there is a lot to discuss here!  First of all, on the topic of raising boys to break this cycle – I have a lot to say about raising boys in general, because this topic has been in the news a lot lately.  Just yesterday I read this article in which Michelle Obama says: “The problem is we love our boys and we raise our girls.”  I am a big fan of Michelle Obama, and I’m sure there is some truth in this statement, but I, of course, take issue with it on a personal level. However I think this is a topic for another post.  For now I will say this – IF I am lucky enough to get a job soon (I am in the process of submitting job applications now, wish me luck!) then our family will soon undergo a role reversal, and my boys will grow up in a house where their father is in charge of the morning routine, shopping, cleaning, you name it. (By the way, I am terrified at the mere idea of this change, but I do think that living this example for the boys would be one of the best ways to break that cycle.)

In our house, I – of course – became the default parent. This is largely because I’m not the one earning money, but it also had a lot to do with the very early differences in the amount of time we each spent parenting.  Interestingly, I do feel like DH (dear husband) and I started out on very equal footing.  Which is to say we were both completely clueless when it came to parenting.  I swear to you, when we brought our son home from the hospital we did not own a package of wipes.  (Trust me, I remember this accurately.  If you have ever tried to clean up meconium without wipes, you would remember too.)  We laughed and cried and tried to learn everything together, as an equal partnership.  That lasted for about 10 days, and then DH left for a work trip for over three weeks.  Needless to say by the time he returned, I was the parenting ‘expert’.  And the difference in skill level only continued to snowball from there.  Once one person is better at changing diapers, for example, it’s easier for that person to just do it, rather than force the weaker parent to catch up, so to speak.

Now, our case was a bit extreme, and it was 100% our fault, since we made the decision to try for a baby knowing what DH’s work schedule would be.  However, part of why we were foolish enough to have a baby so close to his work trip was because of the message sent to us by society.  How much paternity leave do most men take? According to this article, the median amount is ONE WEEK. Clearly this is a huge part of the problem, and MEN need to be the ones pushing for this to change. Men need to be brave and trust that if they push for flexible work policies, as their female counterparts have been doing for DECADES, they will not get fired. Okay, I can’t actually promise that they won’t get fired, but I can promise that this fight is worth fighting. Men should want this. It’s baffling to me how rarely you see men come forward and say, “Actually, we’ve never ‘had it all,’ because so many of us have worked our butts off to make it to the C-suite and sacrificed our relationships with our children, and it wasn’t worth it.”

Law-mom’s response: All great points, EM! Yes, we will have to discuss some of the finer points buried in this week’s post in the future. Thank you for tackling so much here!