As the default parent, do you ever feel like you’re the only one participating in your child’s life? From playdates and homework help to music concerts and bedtime stories, it can be easy to feel like you’re doing it all. Here are some tips for reducing your load and finding more me-time at home.

What is the”default parent” in a relationship? 

The “default parent” in a relationship is the one who takes on the majority of the childcare, housework, and emotional labour. This person typically spends more time supporting their family and faces an unequal burden when it comes to maintaining a healthy work-life balance.

For many people, being the “default parent” can lead to a sense of isolation and resentment towards their partner. It’s essential that couples recognise this issue and make equitable roles part of their everyday habits so their partner can become more involved in parenting and caregiving roles, allowing for a healthier home life for everyone.

What are the implications?

The weight of the main caregiver role can lead to a feeling of resentment in the default parent, most often women. This can result in feelings of exhaustion, frustration and even anger can set in if this situation is not addressed sooner rather than later. When under chronic stress or pressure, the default parent can also experience parental burnout. An experience characterised by energy depletion, a loss of achievement and enjoyment in parenting, and feeling emotionally disconnected from your child(ren). In later stages, parental burnout can lead to chronic physical health problems, sleep difficulties, increased alcohol consumption, suicidal thoughts, marital conflicts, and even child abuse and neglect.

Tips for reducing resentment

When the burden of parenting falls mainly on one partner, such as when one parent is the ‘default’ caregiver, it can cause resentment and tension in a couple’s relationship. To combat this and reduce the stress of being a primary caregiver, there are several simple steps both parents can take.

  1. Communicate, communicate, communicate. Talk openly and honestly with your partner about sharing responsibilities and expectations. You can’t assume they know the burden you are carrying or how you’re feeling. 
  2. Negotiate ways to distribute household tasks. Make a list of responsibilities and talk through who could take on the different tasks. Making the invisible visible can help everyone become clear on the tasks that need doing. 
  3. Allow your partner to help. For some people it can be really tough to release control, particularly if you anticipate that tasks won’t be done as well.  Be willing to practice letting go so your partner can learn.
  4. Try to schedule some time for yourself. Make a plan or agreement with your partner to get some alone time. And yes, it’s okay to opt out of a family activity to have some time to yourself. If you’re an early riser, take advantage of the mornings to sneak in some solo time. And make sure that when you finally get time some alone, drop your to-do lists and do something restorative instead.
  5. Finally, reaching out to other parents in similar situations and creating connections can give you much needed support and well-deserved encouragement.

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