Sharing the Parenting Workload: The Modern-day Back-up Parent is NOT a Bystander

When the term “B parent” came to me, which I later changed to “back-up parent” after a friend helped me name this blog, I felt really proud and like I had something unique on my hands. But the truth is, there have been default parents and back-up parents for as long as there have been parents.

The only difference is that in my world the back-up parent refers to me, the mom. And while I love the term (it’s easy to understand with just a hint of irreverence), there’s one thing I want to point out…

I ain’t your great grandma’s back-up parent (AKA your great grandpa).

Women have been the default parent for years and years, before there was ever even a thought that maybe they didn’t want to be. Maybe they wanted careers, too. Or hell, maybe they didn’t want kids at all.

This left men as the undefined back-up parents. They could take part in raising their children when they felt like it or had time. If explicitly asked, they probably helped with certain tasks — but there were also other tasks they believed were a woman’s job.

But I’ve got news for you. This lackadaisical approach to parenting doesn’t cut it anymore. In modern-day parenting, the back-up parent isn’t a bystander or an understudy. They are a partner. An ally. A teammate. They may not be the one the kids run to with a boo-boo that needs to be kissed, but they are putting in WORK.

Here are a few examples of how the back-up parent can support the default parent in meaningful ways, regardless of if the back-up parent is mom or dad:

  1. TASK: FEEDING THE BABY. One parent is responsible for breastfeeding, pumping or bottle feeding; the other parent is responsible for washing all of the bottle and pump parts every night. (Okay, okay, for this task I was the default parent… we didn’t really have a choice, ha!)

  2. TASK: MAKING DINNER. One parent cooks dinner; the other parent entertains the children.

  3. TASK: BATHING THE KIDS. One parent conducts the bath; the other parent cleans up the dinner dishes, puts away toys, changes sheets, etc.

I built the entire premise of this blog around touting that I’m the mom AND the back-up parent. That said, I wanted to make it clear that I’m not condoning behavior of the traditional back-up parent. The role of the back-up parent has changed and no matter who it is, it’s time to step up.


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