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My problem is I have almost zero free time. I have two young kids 3 and 2 when they where young my wife didn't want to let them fall asleep by themselves so now I take the 2 year old and my wife takes the 3 year old and we spend 1-2 hours per night putting them to sleep. Then after they are asleep my wife wants me to spend time with her watching mindless reality TV. Most of the time she passes out on the couch.

I'm asking when should have have some time not to watch TV but to take care of the things that are important to me. I need some time when I'm not exhausted to work on things around the house or doing some strategic planing for the group that I manage at work. We both work and I'm expected to take care of the dishes and do 90% of the meal planning (shopping,cooking,cleanup) To top it off my wife is a very picky eater and will only pick something to eat that day. I can't do any advanced planning. I also bring in 3 times the income she does and I'm required to be at work for 1.5 hours more per day than she is.

I don't know what a normal evening with young kids would be like ? After the kids are sleeping my wife is exhausted and her ideal evening is me rubbing her to sleep on the couch. Then I have to rub her to sleep again when we go up to bed. I really thing this is not balanced. I need some amount of time to just decompress. Also, each weekend I wake up with the kids and she sleeps in I'm just tired at this point.

I'm curious what the average evening is like ?

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Being constantly stressed and without free time seems pretty 'normal' for dual-working parents of two small children. :/ –  DA01 Jan 18 '13 at 18:38
    
My answer is off-topic so putting it in a comment. The lethargy and need for rubbing indicate health issues to me. Please consider a modern diet designed for optimal health, like perfecthealthdiet.com/the-diet . It's not all that hard to follow and it should show results within weeks. Personally I gained a lot of energy and health from it, I'm eating that way for two years now and still loving it. My kids still wreck my sleep but I can cope with it. –  w00t Jan 21 '13 at 19:59
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While 'health problems' may very well be legitimate, saying a particular diet is a cure is silly. Suggesting they go see a doctor and consider diet changes would be a more appropriate suggestion. –  DA01 Jan 24 '13 at 16:33
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8 Answers 8

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This is definitely primarily about you and your wife communicating, and (hopefully) compromising.

However, since you asked about what a "normal" evening is like, I'll speak to that first.

I'll start by saying I don't think there is a "normal". Evening routing depends on so many factors, I can't imagine that you could single out any one and say that it is more common than the rest.

I know some families where the parent who stays with the kid(s) during the day turns over all parental responsibilities once the spouse gets home from work, until the children are in bed.

I know others where the opposite is true: the parent who cares for the children during the day also watches the children at night, to let the "working" spouse ("work" in quotes because I won't even attempt to pretend that staying at home with a child all day is anything less than work) get some quiet time.

Families where the children are in daycare, school, or stay with a caregiver other than either of the parents (i.e. grandparents, etc.) will likely have a very different routine.

In my case, my wife and I both go to "office jobs" during the day, and my 2 year old goes to daycare. I pick him up on the way home, and take care of him until dinner time (unless I'm cooking dinner, in which case my wife helps keep an eye on him while I cook).

After dinner, one of three things happens, depending on the day. Either all three of us spend time together as a family, I get my "daddy evening", or my wife gets her "mommy evening".

"Mommy evening" and "daddy evening" simply means that one night, one of us takes full responsibility until our son is in bed, and the other can do what he/she likes. My wife reads, plays piano, or goes out with friends on those nights. I play video games, or go to my "man cave" to work on my hobby. However it works out, we try to make sure that we each get at least one night where we don't have to entertain our son all night.

After my son goes to bed, we usually have about an hour or so to watch TV or read before we go to bed.

Maybe an arrangement like this might work for you and your wife, but you have to talk first.

Perhaps one of the best pieces of advice I've gotten about having discussions like this is to avoid phrasing things around "you". Instead, focus on "I". For example, instead of saying "All you want to do is sit on the couch, watch TV, and fall asleep", saying "I don't want to spend all my free time sitting on the couch, and watching TV until we fall asleep." It comes across as far less confrontational that way.

Communicate what you want, but be sure to make clear that you also want to know what your wife wants. The reality is that neither of you are very likely to get exactly what you want, but a good compromise will leave you both feeling like you're at least getting what you need.

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+1 This is almost exactly what I was going to write, including the mommy/daddy night thing, which I didn't know anyone else did. –  Karl Bielefeldt Jan 18 '13 at 20:58
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+1 for "I don't think there is a normal." and an over-all Great answer. I'd just add that it might help to write down all the responsibilities you take care of in a given evening and have her do the same. You may not realize all the chores she is taking care of and she may not realize the amount you are struggling to do. Perhaps you can rearrange who does what a bit to make both of you feel happier and as though things are more equitable. –  balanced mama Jan 19 '13 at 0:19
    
The problem is it is no equitable. A great example is tonight. I'm exhausted and we lay on the couch to watch some mindless tv. I have to rub her legs my hands literally ach from the week. When I start to drift off she says in a snippy voice that she is going up since I'm just going to sleep. I think a bis issue is she doens't know how to manage her stress. –  Josh Smitters Jan 19 '13 at 4:19
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@JoshSmitters All the more reason to talk about it. However, for the conversation to go smoothly and not be about blame (which will make her angry) you have to be open to the idea that perhaps there is more to it than you think. She may get home from teaching all day and do some other stuff around the house you aren't even aware of. You just don't know until you talk about it. My hubby helps with laundry and does the dishes. I clean the toilets, the tubs, do the dusting, the vacuuming. . . And usually we both feel good about it. Once in awhile switching reminds us to appreciate the other –  balanced mama Jan 19 '13 at 5:03
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Or, you might be right, but the best way to catch flies, is with honey. –  balanced mama Jan 19 '13 at 5:05
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I don't think this is actually a parenting question, but the problem you are actually facing is around your and your wife's expectations of needs.

Having very little time to yourselves in the first few years with kids is perfectly normal, and getting through this requires patience, but the bigger picture for you is that you must talk with your wife.

I am guessing from your post that she is the stay at home carer, in which case she has spent an entire day looking after them and wants time with you but is tired so wants to just relax and fall asleep, whereas if you have been at work you may want more constructive activity and be able to talk with her.

Generally in these scenarios each person thinks the other one has it easy, but you need to communicate. If you think it is unfair that you do the dishes every day, you need to discuss and find out why she thinks it is fair.

And at the end of the day, there must be compromise.

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She works as a school teacher during the day. I just don't think it is balanced what we do. –  Josh Smitters Jan 19 '13 at 4:15
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TALK TO YOUR WIFE! Tell her how you feel in a quiet and meaningful way. Let her know you are not blaming her or pointing fingers, that you are just trying to communicate your feelings and prompt her to communicate her feelings. This type of communication is the only way that my wife and I have survived, it was extremely hard to do at first and has taken about a year to be able to talk so honestly about how we feel.

Also, look into getting some help from time-to-time. Last night my wife and I got a babysitter and we stayed in the house working on personal projects while the babysitter entertained our son and kept him busy. He loved having someone else in the house and my wife and I got a lot done. We do something like that about twice a month and then a "date night" or afternoon once or twice a month. It makes a big difference for us.

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Everyone on here has already said, "Talk to your Wife." So I won't reiterate that part again. This Wonderful answer gives information about how to go about engaging in that conversation in a way that is most likely to result in a positive outcome.

What I didn't see addressed was the 1-2 hours it takes to put the two kids to bed. Parenting is exhausting so the fact that bedtime requires that much time for each individual child is also impacting your evenings. I only have one, but have frequently "nannied" and worked in all sorts of situations where it was just me putting X number of children to bed. So, I thought I'd list some tactics you may find helpful if you try to have "mommy nights" and "daddy nights" as has been suggested (and as my husband and I have also done - wink wink @Karl Bielefeldt) Some of these may be obvious, I'm including them just in case.

  1. Make sure there is a regular, consistent and predictable, bedtime routine. Here are a few questions that include information about how to do that if you need ideas:

    How can I get my 12 month old to go to sleep?

    Do's and Don'ts for an effective Bedtime Ritual

  2. Stagger bedtimes slightly if either of your children still need "rocking." At all. If either child has a harder time falling asleep than the other, put that one to bed slightly later than the other so you can quietly rub the back or do whatever with the first and then move on to the second. If they are in separate rooms the second can look at picture books quietly in bed while he/she waits for a story from you.

  3. Go through the entire routine together. Brush teeth together, put on pajamas together - at this age, they can even take baths together on bath nights. Put them in the Same Room for a couple of years at this stage. Have them hearing the same two bedtime stories together (they each pick one - or for an even shorter routine, they can take turns picking one to hear. One child gets "even days" each month and the other gets the "odd.")

  4. Add cleaning up to your "pre-meal" routine so there is less to clean up right before bed time (cutting down on how long it takes to go through the whole process).

  5. If the kids are watching TV between meal and bed, turn off the TV. Many of us think TV time is calm because as an adult, if feels like you can shut off your brain, but it actually stimulates the brain and makes it harder to "settle" when it truly is time for sleep. While the article I've linked is about a study done on people 15 yrs or older, I'd imagine this effect is likely the same or further exagerrated in children (but that is just a guess) either way, TV is not your friend and is likely making it harder for your kids to settle.

  6. Avoid highly starchy or sugary as you lead up to bedtime. Of course they also shouldn't be having caffeine a lot anyway, but especially after noon. Coffee isn't the only substance with caffeine.

  7. Put your kids down for bed at the same time EVERY night whether it is a school night or not. By keeping meal and bedtimes consistent, you teach your children to use their "internal clocks." If your kids are going to bed at 8:00 every single night (or whatever time you choose is right for your schedule) then their minds will start to settle at the same time each night, and their bodies will be more ready for the shift into sleep making your job easier. Don't give them a later bed time just because it isn't a "week night."

Unless one of your kids is ill, or having some special circumstance that requires extra nurturing, there is no reason bedtime should take more than 30-45 minutes. They don't even have to be fully asleep when you leave the room once you've gone through the process of helping them learn how to soothe themselves and fall asleep (which might take a little while, but it can be done.)

As a last (or first) resort, you might try hiring a "mommy and daddy's helper" once per week for a couple of hours to entertain and feed the kids one night per week while you shut yourself into your bedroom, or home office for a little while. It might even turn into a nice chance for the two of you to go have a little dinner and sit and stare across the table at each other for a couple of hours (surprisingly good for a marriage even if you talk about absolutely nothing once or twice per month).

Good luck to you and I hope the combination of answers you are receiving is of help to you.

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The others have already given excellent answers, so I do not want to rephrase what they said. I can understand your situation very well, we're in a similar situation with 2 little kids (< 1 year and 5 years old) and it is exhausting, sometimes frustrating that there is so little time for ourselves.

For making the point "TALK to your wife!!" easier, I'd suggest

  • having a look at the "non-violent communication" of Marshall Rosenberg,
  • get a DVD of one of his seminars and watch that together with your wife instead of mindless tv shows..

it is as well entertaining as informative and might help you understand the other and discuss your problems and needs constructively without constantly blaming each other...

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I think you're maybe asking the wrong question. You really don't have free time with 2 young kids in the house and two working parents.

I think you need to ask

a) how do we get more free time?

or

b) how do we better use the time we have together?

For 'a' maybe look at the budget. Just she really enjoy working? If not, maybe it's time to rethink her working if you're already bringing in 3x the income.

Or maybe you can cut your hours. Does your company allow shorter work weeks? Many places will let you drop down to 32 hours and remain a 'full time' employee for benefits purposes.

For 'b' it sounds like the issue is that, as stated, you both need to do some talking. Doing that with a therapist might be something to consider. Is there any depression going on? Postpartum is not uncommon (and even for guys things can change after the kids). So maybe therapy for each of you might be something to consider.

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Of course talk to the wife. The part I'm going to add is that you should practice the conversation. And I mean practice... Say these things out loud to yourself in a normal voice. Doing so makes brings it out of the nebulous netherworld of your imagination and puts it into the real world as you say the words and they go into your ears. It actually works.

But the point is to think about major points ahead of time so that you are coherent and capable during the conversation. You can also make yourself aware of conversational pitfalls and avoid them so that the talk doesn't degenerate into something unsavory. You don't want to glibly joke about her stinky feet if you know she's sensitive of it.

About the kids: They are resilient. If it's taking :90 to bed them, then change your routine. It will take time, probably 2-4 weeks before it's solid, but they'll eventually get it. They're old enough to understand what you're saying to them, and the 3 yr old may even be able to discuss it.

I think that a good way to start a new routine is with a change in surroundings... it requires a complete change in thinking. Rearrange their rooms if possible. Even the living room if possible. When done, show them the rooms then tell them what night-night time will be, then start it all cold turkey... no turning back. A month later, barring interruptions (death in the family, major holiday with visitors, major weather event) you'll likely be all acclimated to the new setup.

Now... Even if you don't want to do all that, I just want to remind you of something that a lot of parents, especially new ones, forget: This part doesn't last forever. At the very least, when they start going to school, EVERYTHING changes. Such routines will long since have been in your rear view mirror.

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I love the idea of rearranging their room as a means to show that things are different now! –  Torben Gundtofte-Bruun Jan 24 '13 at 14:19
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It is not an uncommon problem to have almost no free time when there are toddlers in the house. But a normal evening in a house with kids will look different in different households, there isn't one normal or right way to do things. That said, it sounds like your family's evening routine may need some adjustments.

Reconsider your bedtime routine. 2 hours is definitely above average on how long a bedtime routine lasts. If you truly treasured your bedtime routines and looked forward to the undivided time with your child, that would be one thing. If it's feeling like a burden to spend so much of your time putting the children to bed, it may be time to try something new, or change the routine. Of course, you should discuss this with your wife first what aspects of the routine aren't working and make sure she agrees with your ideas about how to improve the routine before you change things so everyone is on the same page. Do expect a small amount of resistance to change to the routine, but keep in mind the big picture and how this will be beneficial. Be careful to watch your attitude when you discuss the changes you would like with her. There is a risk you could come across as blaming (eg: it's all your fault the kids take so long to go to sleep) and that may shut down progress on changing the situation. The sitation is what is regardless of how it got to be that way. And try to keep her perspective in mind as well so you can have sympathy for her side of the matter. Maybe she feels (or has felt) guilty that her kids spend time at daycare and she can't attend to their needs personally then, leaving bedtime as the only time she has the opportunity to nurture and love on them, and it leaves her heartbroken to leave the kids crying even for a few minutes. Only having honest and non-blaming conversations with each other will you be able to get to the heart of what's going on.

Discuss your needs and expectations with your wife. Every family has a different distribution of labor. What is she doing while you are grocery shopping and preparing dinner? Is she doing the laundry WHILE playing with the kids AND cleaning up? It's quite possible from her perspective she's working just as hard if not harder than you are in the evenings. Or she could be freeloading and taking advantage because you don't seem to mind the extra burdens you're taking on, and is just content with the way things are. A good way to bring up this conversation is with a statement about how you're feeling, not an accusatory one. "I would feel a lot less stressed if I had more time to decompress in the evenings." Discuss your concerns that the number of times a week and hours a week you grocery shop is cutting into the amount of free time you (personally, and as a couple) have in the evening. Ask for her input on solutions. Propose solutions. "What if we did things this way instead?" It is rather accomodating of you to shop and cook daily for meals she decides day of, not everyone would be so willing. But being constantly accomodating can also lead to resentment on your part. So don't let it simmer for years before you learn more about her perspective, and work out a new plan that's equitable to both parties.

Take turns. If you're both exhausted on the weekend and wish to sleep in, it's only fair to take turns sleeping in. Maybe one person gets to sleep in Saturday and the other Sunday. Just make sure expectations are set up in advance. Likewise, you can occasionally exchange chores like doing dishes.

Don't resent your wife If I were in your wife's shoes, I might be detecting a sense of resentment that you feel like your job is more important than mine because you make more money and spend more hours at the office. Managing a classroom full of kids could be equally demanding and there's certainly lesson plans and other tasks that must be done outside the set hours. Is she in full agreement with you that your career and it's demanding needs take priority? Or does she feel her career should be respected and considered just as much worthy as yours, despite the inequality in financial reward that she gets from it? Maybe physical touch is her love language and she treasures the time you spend rubbing her feet to express your affection for her? It'll be a lot easier to work out your differed opinions on how you'd like to spend your limited free time (whether that's doing solo activities side by side or spending time together) if she's confident that you appreciate her and care about her deeply, and what's underlying is not a bout of "oh, he's just feeling a little selfish this week".

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