I have been given the luxury of a rare free evening. My wife has taken my son to stay at her mum’s and told me on my way home from work I have the house to myself. I have already been to the gym, ordered some food on Uber Eats and have Fifa 18 primed and ready.
Sounds great right? But I also feel stressed and anxious, well, more guilty almost. I look around the house and start thinking, is there something I should be doing? In the end, I washed a load of clothes, vacuumed the house, cleaned the kitchen and then finally sat down. In the end I didn’t even play Fifa, I was knackered, so I finished Narcos.
See the thing is, because I go to work and my wife is at home doing the bulk of the parenting, I feel bad whenever I do anything for myself. Whereas before I would go to the gym and play football, now those are evenings out of the house, time away from parenting, time where she has to do all the work. The thing is, it is true as well, she is at home all day and, if you think of it as her job, then her one is 24/7 and far more important. She doesn’t really get set breaks, or have colleagues to talk to or make her cups of tea and she doesn’t have the luxury of a change of scene either.
But as much as I get that, and as much as I am willing and able to do my bit to give her time as much as I can, I realise I can’t be a martyr either. Until she goes back to work she will do the bulk of it, because that is the current situation. Also, while some compromises can be made, so I go to the gym at lunch times now for example, it is vitally important that being a parent doesn’t end your social life all together. That is, for both of you as parents.
From my experience, I think the biggest issue has been the lack of acknowledgement from each of us on how difficult it can be for the other and that we both need time. It isn’t a competition but sometimes I find it can be that way. ‘I am tired’ becomes ‘well I am more tired’, ‘I did this today’ becomes ‘but I did a lot more’. It is hard to always have a fixed routine as that is the nature of parenting, but having more open and honest conversations is always the key, cliché right, communication being the key.
Going forward it is important a bit of bartering is needed. I like to sometimes think of it as shift work, I will swap my Thursday evening for your Friday, or if I cover the whole weekend then I am busy midweek. But also, there is nothing wrong with saying I am really run down help me out, as opposed to, it is not my turn or I did this so you do it. Parenting can be a lot of fun, but when he doesn’t want to sleep or you have had a tough day then waking up early to deal with stuff is hard, and it is hard for both.
I don’t feel as guilty now because I try to offer something for what I am taking or try to offer her some more time for herself. But also, I have realised, I can’t have it both ways as well. I cant have ‘me time’ and try to appease her and do my bit. So if I am going to take over parenting so she can have her time, then it has to be 100% her time, and if I am going to do my thing, it is healthy that I am honest about it and switch off.
That said, next time I get the house free I will still probably end up doing all the cleaning before I can chill out.
Written by JJ Jabbal