Are You the Primary Parent?


People often say that parenting is a50/50 thing … a shared task … an equal responsibility. However, I think that’s complete malarky. And, as a matter of fact, I think it complicates parenting even more if it isn’t clear which parent is in charge. 50/50 parenting is a myth. There is always a primary parent … or at least there should be.

A friend and her husband recently became instant parents through the foster care system, and she asked me for my greatest piece of parenting advice. “Decide who is going to be the primary parent,” I told her. “It makes things so much easier.” In most families, this happens naturally … but it doesn’t hurt to clarify who is the boss.

mom walk to school

Here’s why. Think of all the discussions you WON’T have to have. Who is going to get the children’s schoolbags ready? Who is responsible for maintaining the patient portals with their pediatrician? Who signs the field trip forms? Who registers them for summer camps? Who makes sure they get all their vaccinations and well-child exams? Who fills up their social calendar? Who buys them clothes for the upcoming season? Who gives them medicine before bed? Who decides when it’s time for potty training? I could go on for days, but you get the point.

I’m not saying that both parents can’t be involved in some of these decisions. But who is the default? Which parent always checks with the other first because they are the final decision-maker when it comes to the kids? Somebody has to have the final say.

In our house, we casually refer to this phenomenon as “departments.” My husband would never commit the kids to something, or schedule a doctor’s appointment, or discuss something with our kids’ teachers without talking to me first because that’s my department. Just like I would never switch our Internet provider, or schedule someone to clean our pool, or change the oil in our cars—those things are his department.

mom (the primary parent) and son

For us, it takes a lot of stress out of everyday situations. I’m the primary parent. We all know that—even the kids. And it helps keep our household harmonious.

And for all of you out there thinking that this is not you—that you and your partner have the perfect little 50/50 parenting situation—I still say that’s bologna. Even if you discuss literally everything that comes up…and you make the decision together (awe, that’s sweet), I venture to say it’s still a 51/49 situation.

So, I’m just curious to see how many of you will admit it? Are you the primary parent or not?

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Cara is a freelance journalist and strategic communications consultant living in Germantown. Born in Illinois, she moved to Memphis at a young age; and, having moved away a few times for college, graduate school, and other adventures, she likes to joke that she’s moved TO Memphis more times than anyone she knows. Mom to the cutest little boys, Everett (March 2017) and Gavin (October 2018), and wife to Rob, who works as a financial planner, Cara is adjusting to her new gig as a stay-at-home mom after almost 20 years as a magazine editor and corporate communications practitioner. When not “momming” or consulting, Cara spends her time volunteering with the Junior League of Memphis, where she served on the Board of Directors for several years. Admittedly, Cara has an unreal obsession with escape rooms, an unhealthy addiction to Frappuccinos, and an uncontrollable desire to correct every grammar and punctuation mistake she sees. Learn more about Cara at


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