My kid is 3 years old. I noticed that kids feel happier if you do something (play, help, talk, feed etc) when they need you and not when you want them. However, while great for the kid, that being-there is exhausting on the parent and ultimately can lead to depression, which reflects back on the kid. So constantly being there is ultimately harmful for the little guy. Also, a kid might get good education from seeing you doing something meaningful to you, other than being his ragdoll.

I was trying to have everyday both unorganized activities and organized ones, of all kinds. However nothing that is organized really works and the exhaustion is even greater. Of course some activities such as eating and sleeping have more organized behavior patterns, which my son grumpily accepts. I share this with my wife, I cannot ask anyone else.

Do you think there is a better strategy? Maybe on the lines of one day of organized activities (including strict time away for daddy to play/craft/read/stareatmoon) and two days of unorganized stuff. I am concerned this would just be even more confusing.

Edit: My son goes to kindergarden but it does not count as relaxing time for me or my wife since we are working. It is only me and my wife, "others" are unavailable, although at some point we may consider a payed nanny once in a while (but not now).

When we do unorganized play/eat/sleep/etc it is really funny and very educational, everything about that rocks so no advises are needed. However everything that has a trace of organization in it means screaming, crying , refusal, anger tantrums etc. Both organized and unorganized activities are dragging us down, but organized activities are more tiring because they are perceived like torture by the little guy, even when he obeys it is still hard for us so see him so oppressed.

2 Answers 2


It is exhausting when you first must get used to having a child around all the time. For someone who is used to having a substantial amount of "down-time", it can be devastating.

There are some people who get uplifted from being with all children, and some who get uplifted from being only with their own children, and others for whom being with any children is an emotional drain. This is due to a difference in personality. Just as some people find being around others emotionally draining, and others require it for their emotional health.

For me, it was an extremely difficult transition to make. I was used to having several hours a day to unwind after work. I would read, write or play computer games. I do not go out and socialize; being around people is exhausting to me, even if they are people who I like very much.

After I became a mother that was no longer available to me. At times I was so depressed I could barely get out of bed. Here was this noisy, needy little person who never went away. Even when she was sleeping there was always the knowledge that she could wake up at any time, so you could never relax. All my needs for alone-time had to be put in a locked closet. It was like going weeks without sleeping, only the exhaustion was emotional rather than physical. And even though there were moments when I was not needed to attend to my child, it was like closing your eyes for only ten minutes at a time. I could not simply relax, especially when I didn't know how long I had before my child needed me. I was always "on call".

The only way you and your wife will be able to have the downtime that you need is if you help each other. Schedule a "daddy day off" or "mommy day off" (be sure it's a fair exchange) where the parent who does not have a day off agrees to take the child and leave the house for a set schedule.

The reason it is important to leave the house is that when your child is in the house you feel responsibility and guilt for not responding to their needs. Removing their physical presence reduces that. And the child will not feel that he is ignored if he is not with you. The person who is having a "day off" could also leave, but for me it is more relaxing if I can be in my own home.

Once a year my husband takes the kids to visit his parents for a week in another state, leaving me with an entire week alone in the house. It is very refreshing to my spirit. We also occasionally would leave the kids at a daytime daycare place for a few hours on the weekends, It was expensive but a good way to get things done, for things that are difficult to do with a child.

It seems to me that what you are looking for is a reason why it is good for you to have some time to yourself. Do not feel guilty about needing time alone. Everyone is different. Some people need more of that than others. Just because you have become a parent does not mean that all of your needs must be sacrificed.

To me, it is like when you are on an airplane and the flight attendant gives her or his speech. At some point they tell you that in case of emergency, oxygen masks will drop. You must first put the mask on your own face before assisting your child.

This is not selfishness. It is practicality. You cannot assist your child if you pass out for lack of oxygen. For me, it is also the same with food. When I get home in the evening the first thing I do is eat something, before I prepare the family meal. I have hypoglycemia, and if I allow my blood sugar to get too low, I become incapable of caring for my family.

If you are unable to have some time to yourself, you risk building up resentment toward being a father. Even if you try hard not to, even if you know you should not, it is difficult to always make our emotions obey us.

Remember to give your wife what you ask of her. Even if she says she does not need it, it might be because she feels too guilty at leaving her child. Tell her that you and your son are going to have daddy-son time, and are going to do something fun. Enjoy yourself and have fun with your son, and she will be able to relax too.

I have found two things are important for a good "time out". One is that exact times are kept. If you say that you will be gone from 10 AM to 4 PM, don't come home early unless there is an emergency. The second is that there be no requirements for the person taking time off, and no direct communication from the person on. Texting is okay, calling is not, except for emergencies. And do not ask "while you are taking time off, can you --do some task--?"

One of the nicest things about a time-out is at the end of it, when you have been away from him for many hours, you are maybe feeling like you have missed him and you can enjoy his company more, while your spouse relaxes.

I am sure that you will be able to work something out to fit your needs and your wife's. You just need to talk about it, and be honest about what you need, and willing to give her what she needs as well. It sounds like you are both so focused on giving your son all that he needs that you forget the needs of each other.

One last comment. It may be that your wife has needs other than time off that she wants. Something she wants to buy, that you would be disapproving of. Or maybe she wants a night out with you, where you go to a movie and restaurant and hire a babysitter for the night. It is okay to have different needs, and it is okay to bargain for what you need. Give each other that permission.

  • Thank you for the advises Francine, it is true that in my case I am loosing my focus if the kid is around. I will consider sending him away with mom for a longer time, now I just need to find out a place that can keep them during the evenings. Maybe a different room? As for my wife needs, they are indeed quite different, this posting was only about mememe and how not to mess my family up too much.
    – grokkaine
    Commented May 30, 2016 at 8:16
  • Weekends are usually too fun for us to miss being together, but even that can be damaging, this weekend for example we went out every day together for along while, and it was great but I ended up being work stressed on Sunday night and unable to sleep until 5am. I should have done some things to prepare for the week. Weirdly enough my wife also got work stressed but at least she managed to sleep. I am basically a zombie today.
    – grokkaine
    Commented May 30, 2016 at 8:20
  • Yes, I understand. It was nearly ten years before I stopped feeling so stressed from having a child. I had insomnia and panic attacks sometimes, and at times I hid in the closet and cried because I felt like I was a bad person from not wanting to be around my child all the time. I was fortunate that my husband was supportive, he loves being a father so he doesn't mind taking the kids away for "fun time with Daddy" often. It gets easier when they are older and able to play by themselves more. Commented May 31, 2016 at 19:47
  • If only i could give this answer a million upvotes!
    – Ivana
    Commented May 10, 2019 at 13:55

This is actually an area where kndergartens/nurseries come into their own - they tend to be very experienced at organising structured and unstructured time, including play and learning together, and this really gives you as parents some time to be by yourselves, whether that is for working, chores, or just to relax.

If you don't use that sort of facility, or have friends/relatives to help out, you pretty much are committed to being there for them. This is part of the deal when you make a child. Yes, it is tiring, but incredibly rewarding seeing them develop.

For planning play time with them, you really don't need to do it by day - a 3 year old won't need to know that "on Wednesdays we do x" - you can just choose things to do based on weather, toys at hand, learning ideas.

You say that "nothing organised really works" - well, this is not a useful approach to take, in fact organising everything a wee bit actually makes everything easier. For example, if you are going to go to the park and play, I'm sure you already organise food, drink, changes of clothing, nappies etc., so why not also plan some games - take a ball, some markers, a skipping rope, a kite etc. And if you are halfway there and it rains - go and do something indoors. Visit a museum, or a zoo, or a swimming pool, or anything

And some days, you'll just be tired out and not able to do much - so have playtime in the middle of the living room floor with your child. Grab a bunch of toys and talk about them with your child.


  • have basic plans for activities, so you can decide in the morning "we'll do activity y" and be ready to go
  • don't bother with writing a full weekly schedule, as it will only break
  • remember simple things can be fun for a child too - you don't always need to do something requiring major logistics
  • don't just rely on you and your wife - friends, relatives, and nurseries all help with the load
  • raising children is very tiring - don't let that depress you, it's just a fact of life
  • 1
    Especially the simple things! Cardboard boxes can be ANYTHING.
    – Layna
    Commented May 26, 2016 at 9:05
  • The kindergarden issue is maybe not very relevant. Yes he goes there but I have to work so I cannot use that time to relax. The question was about my time with him not the opposite. You also missed my point: I am already doing all the above and as I said it is only me and my wife. You seem to try to tell me that I might not have imagination when I play with my son, but I do, however it is tiring and I never get time for things like hobbies, reading or sports. Although I appreciate your effort, I can't consider it a valid answer.
    – grokkaine
    Commented May 26, 2016 at 9:56
  • 1
    It is tiring. That's the whole point. At this point you are providing everything for your child. This is normal for parents. Hobbies will return later.
    – Rory Alsop
    Commented May 26, 2016 at 10:11
  • But that is a cultural thing, isn't it? I fail to see why a kid that sees you doing something meaningful be it work, hobby etc is bad in our day and age. Having depressed parents torturing themselves with the "everything for the kid" bit ultimately strikes back at the kids. And let us remember, for 2 million years human kids were supposed to help parents, that was the 'social contract' so the 'have no life' approach to parenting is not natural to us either.
    – grokkaine
    Commented May 26, 2016 at 10:46
  • I'm not sure why you are misunderstanding everything I am writing. Maybe it's cultural. I have found having 3 kids one of the most fun and rewarding things I could ever have done. I have not suggested any of the assumptions you are making.
    – Rory Alsop
    Commented May 26, 2016 at 10:50

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