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My wife and I have been married ten years. We have a son who is about to turn four next month, and another one on the way (due five months from now).

For all the time we've been married, I've had virtually no friends outside of work - I'm just not a very social person.

But in the last year or so, I've made a (male) friend that I enjoy spending time with. I typically join him for some kind of outdoor activity once or twice a month for a few hours.

The issue exploded recently when I planned an all-day outing with my friend. We'll leave early one morning, and get back late that night. My wife is so upset about it that it's starting to overflow into how she talks to our son about me (Daddy's not going to be here tomorrow, he'd rather spend time somewhere else...).

This is a major source of conflict between my wife and I. I want to be fair to her, and to our son. They are my priority. The amount of time I am spending alone, away from them, seems reasonable to me. But I don't trust myself - obviously I am biased. Can anyone share guidelines that you use to decide how much time with family is "enough"?

I know this seems a bit off-topic, and maybe it is. I have several concerns, but my main one is how this may affect our son.

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Children need happy parents. For you to be happy, you need a social life (which is normal). For her to be happy...well...maybe it's time to get some family therapy. –  DA01 May 24 '12 at 21:25

5 Answers 5

Bravo to you for incorporating friends into you life! Now, make sure your wife does the same! I've worked out a deal with my husband that one time per week my husband has the freedom to do whatever he wants for the day, hook up with his friend, workout for hours, whatever he wants!

I noticed I started to get resentful...I'm with the kids all the time (after work that is)! I realized that I was resentful because I didn't have a friend to do something with once per week on a regular basis. My husband is super supportive when I do finally manage to get together with a friend, it's so healthy for both of us to have time away from the family and be ourselves with our friends, and it's a great example to the kids showing them that nurturing relationships outside the family is important...it helps balance out our lives!

I think the key is SUPPORT. Make sure you tell her to go, leave, take off, with or without a friend, to do her own thing and have some time to herself. Then, you take the kids and show her you can have a special time with them alone too! We all need to regenerate once in a while!

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There aren't enough details to give an accurate assessment. A general rule of thumb is to give as much as you take. If you have a full day away your wife should get the same. I often have to push my partner out of the door. Once she is out she really enjoys her self.

This balance stops any build up of resentment. Kids are lovely.. they are.. but you don't want to feel like you are alays lumbered with them while your partner is out haing fun.

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I agree with both Beofett and Morah, but I will add this:

Is your wife a Stay-At-Home Mother? I currently am (not necessarily by choice) and when my husband travels for work it drives me up the walls. Typically, he's gone for an entire week--not just a few hours during the day. Things are better now that our kids are in daycare a few days a week, but before there was a huge amount of resentment on my part. Not only did he get to go to work all day and interact with other adults (trust me, he doesn't see it this way, but I did), but sometimes he got to leave the state for a whole week and do things like sleep through the night for an entire week! In the four years since we had our first child, I have spent 1 night away from my family alone.

Your situation is a little different, but if she's all ready at home with your son everyday, then she might feel like she never gets a break from him, but you do because you get to leave the house everyday all ready and now you've gone and planned to spend another day away from her and your son. I don't think there's anything wrong with what you're doing as clearly going to work does not equal fun, and all parents need a break sometimes, but she clearly thinks something is wrong. Did you discuss this with her before you scheduled it? I'm not saying you need her permission, but if she had something else in mind for that weekend, you've just trampled on it.

Either way, I think it's pretty clear that your wife needs some time, too. Or perhaps the two of you need some husband/wife time together (as opposed to mommy/daddy time) sans children.

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Thanks for your thoughts. I really appreciate this insight. She is a stay-at-home mom, and she's mentioned the 'adult time at work' issue that you mentioned. I did discuss it with her, and in fact this was something that she and my son could have come along with me. My first thought was that we could do it together. –  anonymous_05242012 May 24 '12 at 17:01
    
I love this viewpoint and it's not something I would ever have considered (being a dumm man and what not). It's uncalled for and unfair that she'd be taking the resentment out like that ("Daddy would rather be elsewhere"), but the reality is something has to be at the root of it. If this isn't the root if it, and it sounds damn plausible to me, then something else has to be. –  WernerCD May 24 '12 at 20:04

Encourage your wife to do the same. My husband and I do plan friend activities as well as we have meetings for volunteer work. We keep the same calendar (Google) so we can see each others activities, we know what is coming, and we don't conflict. Try to have couple friends that you both like, or at least can tolerate. Remember, to be a good parent you have to be happy first, with your wife/husband and with your life. She may feel guilty about going out and therefore chooses not to which is what is causing her resentment towards you.

Sit down and discuss it when you are both calm (or see a therapist briefly to help keep you calm). This does not have to be a long term thing, one or two sessions may be enough.

The key is to talk, have equal footing in terms of going out, and be sure to make it special for yourself as it won't happen that often.

Send her to get her nails done, get a bit of pampering as a treat for her, showing her that you care about her going out as well.

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That's a tough situation.

To address the parenting portion of your question, I see absolutely no problem with spending a day, or even possibly more, away from your family without negatively impacting your son, provided that it is not a regular occurrence.

Many people are required to travel on occasion, whether for work or family emergencies. Its a fact of life, and I don't see it having any long-term effect on children if it is purely a "once-in-a-while" thing.

On the other hand, a parent who travels regularly away from the family would have to work extra hard to maintain a strong relationship, and counter the absence. I don't think it is impossible to accomplish frequent travel without impairing the relationship, but I do believe it will require extra work.

For your particular situation, the issue is much more about how your wife feels. Clearly she has a problem with you leaving. You need to find out why.

Perhaps she feels it isn't fair that you "get away" but she doesn't, in which case maybe a good compromise would be to plan with her her own "get away" day. Perhaps she feels that coping by herself is too much, and the thought of not having your direct support makes her uncomfortable.

Given that she is 4 months pregnant, my money is on the second one. If that is the case, perhaps you can talk to her about whether having other family members (her parents, yours, siblings, etc.... whoever you have that she will feel comfortable with) might help. If not, I would seriously consider asking your friend if you could either reschedule (although this will be even more problematic once you have an infant back in the house), or find another activity you can do with your friend that won't take up the entire day.

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Or find an activity you can drag your 4 year old out on as well. –  Nat Jun 15 '12 at 1:39

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