Back-to-School Puts “Default Parent” Pressure on Moms, Survey Shows

A new survey shows only 11 percent of moms split back-to-school tasks evenly with their partners—revealing how heavily they are constantly relied on as the default parent.
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By Wyndi Kappes, Assistant Editor
Published August 31, 2022
rear view of mother holding daughter's hand while walking into school

In the spirit of back to school, why don’t we do a little theoretical classroom experiment?

Raise your hand if you’re in charge of getting all your child’s back-to-school outfits and supplies. Raise your hand if your kid’s school has you as the primary contact. Raise your hand if others assume you’ll be volunteering for school events. Raise your hand if you feel like you have to do it all.

The list of duties and expectations for parents could go on and on, but the commonality in all this is that mothers make up the majority of hands held high in the air. The idea that moms are automatically assumed to be the person responsible for all their children’s needs is commonly referred to as the “default parent” concept. Often the only one relied on to get things done, being the default parent can be incredibly taxing, especially during back-to-school season.

A new survey conducted by YouGov and task-management platform Evernote surveyed 1,083 adults who identify as moms about back-to-school tasks and the stressors they face. The results reveal how heavily moms are relied on during this season.

  • Moms handle the majority of back-to-school tasks. Thirty-four percent said they handle these tasks all the time, 21 percent handle them most of the time and only 11 percent split duties evenly with their partner.
  • Mothers wear all of the hats. 58 percent of moms plan and prepare meals almost every day, 39 percent help with homework, 37 percent organize drop-off/pick-up schedules, 26 percent manage extracurricular activities, 25 percent handle school-related paperwork and 22 percent arrange childcare.
  • Moms’ top stressors are around budget and safety When asked about their worries when it comes to back-to-school, 58 percent said they worried about budget, 57 percent reported concerns around health and safety, around 53 percent stressed over organizing logistics and 35 percent were concerned about childcare.

With all these responsibilities and stressors, life as the default parent affords little time for self-care. Twenty-five percent of moms surveyed said that amidst everything, they weren’t able to find any time for themselves.

While using an app like Evernote might help moms manage this mountain of tasks easier and fit in time for themselves, at the end of the day, attitudes around assuming mothers to be the default parent have to change. Society as a whole needs to make an effort to involve both parents more often, and on an individual level, couples need to work together to split the big job of parenting more evenly. Before you welcome baby into the family, consider talking with your partner about your postpartum plan. Set clear expectations on how parenting tasks will be divvied up and keep an open dialogue as baby ages. Together you can work out a system that ensures no one ever feels like the default parent.

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