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Delivering the Best News to you!

Charlotte Teideman, from Berkshire, is married to Alec, 33, and they have daughter Bella, four, and son Bailey, 18 months. She’s also an intensive care nurse and runs an online business. Yet despite her challenging career, it’s Charlotte who does the bulk of the parenting chores. Thankfully, for all other ‘default parents’ out there who are feeling the pressure during the summer holidays, the 30-year-old has a fail-safe strategy to avoid burnout, which she calls the three Ds…

You’ll know if, like me, you’re the default parent. You’ll feel the overwhelming pull in every direction. Your days will be filled with “in a second” or “not right now” as you work your way through the never-ending list of tasks piling up all around you.

Aside from the things to do, there will always be an endless list of things to know. The default parent knows everything – when the next immunisations are due, when to apply for schools, what clothes the kids need, what has to be packed in the bag. Just having to know everything is exhausting.

It’s an overwhelming feeling of responsibility knowing that you’re the organiser, the fixer, the booker, the cleaner, the chef and the rest. And do you know what makes it harder? There’s no let-up. It’s a constant tug in every direction. This is by no means a blame game. It’s often not the result of a partner’s laziness or an unwillingness to help. It’s simply a lack of understanding or even a lack of knowledge of the sheer number of tasks that fall to the default parent – i.e. me!

Picture this: we’re heading out for a day at the zoo. Before my eyes have even fully opened, I’m thinking about what I need to pack for the day, how I’ll ensure the baby gets a nap, what’s the optimum time to travel to ensure the kids don’t fall asleep in the car. I pack the lunches, pack the bags and get the kids ready.

At the zoo, I’m constantly checking for toilets and on the lookout for a baby changing unit. I’m monitoring the kids’ behaviour to determine if it’s nearing lunch or nap time – and I’m providing emotional support for tantrums or upsets. All of this is happening while my partner enjoys his day without a worry.

It’s not because he doesn’t care or doesn’t want to do these things, it’s just the way it has always been. You might think, “I bet she doesn’t work” or “She’s at home with the kids and should be doing all these things.” This is not the case. I work part-time as an intensive care nurse and run a successful online business as a content creator, podcaster and soon-to-be author.

All too often, working mothers end up as the default. In some relationships, there might be a “default parent” and a “default earner” and so it absolutely makes sense for the person at home to take on the majority of the parenting tasks, but it still needs to be noted that parenting in itself is a full-time job.

Is it how we’re wired? Do we prevent our partners from becoming default parents by choosing to take it all on ourselves? Perhaps. But know this, there’s a way to reduce the burden and that’s with the three Ds – decrease, divide and delegate.

1 Decrease
I’m the worst for this one. I know that going over the top and giving myself too much work is a toxic trait of mine. For my daughter’s first birthday I threw an elaborate party with a balloon arch, soft play, a fancy cake, party food, a hall – the lot. Do you think she had a clue that I’d gone to all this effort? No. All it did was give me more to do and more to stress about. This is what I mean by decrease. Try to minimise unnecessary tasks where possible and reduce the load.

2 Divide
Have you ever got really cross at your partner for not helping you with the life admin, without actually telling them there was life admin to be done? I do this too. I receive emails from my daughter’s school about things that need actioning or get sent email invoices for my son’s classes. The “forward” button is there for a reason. Rather than begrudgingly taking on this admin yourself, divide the tasks up and ask your partner to take some on. When it comes to day-to-day parent preparation, sentences like this should become your best friend, “I’m going to pack the bag, could you please get the kids dressed?” That way you’re not rushing around doing both while resenting your partner for doing neither.

3 Delegate
This isn’t about delegating more tasks to your partner – this is about delegating outside of your family. It’s tricky, as financially the ability to delegate may not always be possible. However, hiring a window cleaner and a cleaner have been a game-changer for me. Removing these tasks from the list of to-dos has enabled me to spend more quality time with my children and less time stressing.

Whatever it is that you have to do to reduce the motherload, do it and just know that you’re not alone. I see you, I feel you, I am you.

What Alec has to say on the matter
Default parenting is a term that has been bandied around a lot recently. Initially I wasn’t happy with it as it made me seem like I wasn’t pulling my weight.

However, in reality, it is a thing. It’s not an intentional thing and I do believe that I am a great dad and do my fair share of the parenting tasks but, somehow, with Charlotte having been home initially when we had the kids, she has ended up taking on the majority of the life admin.

I work full-time to provide for our family and now that Charlotte is also working, I try to do a bit more where I can, but things like classes, school stuff and parties have just always been something that she’s done and it’s stayed that way, despite her going back to work. Again, it’s not an intentional thing – and I really do plan to try to even out the workload.