Hurtful helping

Exhausted Mom Gives An Example Of ‘Hurtful Helping’ And Default Parenting In Viral Video

Moms and medical professionals reacted to a viral TikTok about a woman who said her husband handed her their crying baby after saying she needed a break.

A man hands off a baby to his wife in a prime example of default parent syndrome.
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No matter how progressive or communicative a cishet couple might be, there are still gender stereotypes and expectations that can seep into parenting strategies. The term “default parent” often refers to the parent in the relationship that is automatically the one to go to for a child’s needs, and, surprise! That tends to be the woman in cishet relationships.

And unfortunately, it seems all too common, at least judging by the comments in this TikTok.

One mother named Rebecca took to TikTok to talk about how she tried to set a boundary when she was feeling particularly exhausted one afternoon.

“I got overwhelmed, so I did the right thing and put my 10-month-old in his crib,” she explained while eating. She said she was going to give herself 10 whole minutes to eat and then attend to the baby.

About two minutes into her lunch of leftover curry, her husband, who works at home, came down to ask why the baby was crying. She explained that she was feeling overwhelmed and didn’t want to interrupt his working from home, so she put the baby down for 10 minutes to eat. He said he would go get the baby.

But it wasn’t so he could soothe their child. It was to hand it off to his wife, who, again, had just explained how she was feeling overwhelmed and just needed 10 minutes’ time to herself to decompress and get some food in her system.

“Not even two minutes later, he comes back down, holding the baby... trying to give him to me,” the exasperated mother explains. “I hadn’t even finished eating my one bowl of curry. You know?” she asks.

“And this is an example of something I like to call ‘hurtful helping,’” the zonked mom concluded the video.

The original video garnered thousands of comments from moms sympathizing with Rebecca’s all-too-familiar situation. “I knew it ‘tried to hand him to me’ was coming like a bullet train and still my heart broke for you,” reads one comment with over 1,600 likes. “Hurtful helping. That’s perfect. Perfect name for this phenomenon,” reads another.

Others applauded Rebecca for knowing her limits and stepping away when she needed to in the first place, with many adding that their doctors told them to step away and put the baby in a safe place if they are feeling overwhelmed.

The video caught the attention of a nurse on TikTok named Deborah, who delved into the whole default parent phenomenon, which seems to even be defended by some.

“If I say what I want to say the way I want to say it, the ‘that’s why you’re not married’ brigade will come into my comments,” she starts before getting into the meat of it. “There [are] women out there who die because of this,” she says. “The default parent syndrome.” She said the type of “help” Rebecca was offered was like the equivalent of reaching out a hand to help someone only to sting them with a needle instead.

In the comments, Deborah breaks it down for those who still felt the need to say “not all men” in regards to default parenting. “Please save the ‘But not all men- 🤓’ speech. I never said it was. Don’t think I’ll be less afraid because you know men who are decent human beings. While thousands [of] women and many more coincidentally happen to have coincidentally very similar negative experiences with coincidentally the same demographic.”

“There are women in this comment section who thought they would pass away. Please read the room. I’m glad you’re a good person and I’m even more happy to hear you found someone worthy of you and your wonderful children. We know you’re out there. But the mothers going through helplessness and exhaustion need my support more than you as a man or your husband needs praise for doing what you should be doing.”

Remember: a well-rested parent with boundaries is a good parent. And everyone deserves a break, no matter what.