3

Some context

During the week, I work every day from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. About once a week I finish about two hours later because I’m visiting a client in another city.

When I am not working, I’m at home where I take good part in the chores and taking care of the baby.

This week, the sport I am doing will resume after the winter break. I’m doing it one evening a week. It is weather dependent, so the duration is variable. Sometime it could take the whole evening (from 6 p.m. to 10 p.m.), and sometime it could last less than an hour or even be cancelled.

Now the parenting part

I am the happy father of a 1 ½ month old baby :)

And the problem

My wife says I should stop doing this sport for at least a year. She says she needs more help at home, and that going to this sport shows a lack of involvement in our baby and family. On my side, I have the feeling that this is giving me a rest from work-baby-sleep-work-baby-… I believe that it’s good for me, hence for them, to maintain a minimal activity outside home and work.

My question

Is there any general agreement on maintaining hobbies for recent parents (especially fathers)? Should I, when I’m not at work, focus at 100% on the baby, house chores and mother? If so, for how long?

I would like to avoid this question being closed for opinion based: I’m not looking for your judgment on this. I’m asking for guidelines or information about balance between very young baby and hobbies.

  • 8
    Does your wife get a similar break? Are you resistant to the the idea of being at home, alone with the baby, so that she can have a evening out as well? Is she guilting you because she doesn't get a break? – SiXandSeven8ths Apr 25 '18 at 20:35
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    @SiXandSeven8ths My wife is studying, so everytime when possible, I take care of the baby so that she can study for her forthcoming exams. But this isn't really a break for her, it's another type of work. – Legisey Apr 26 '18 at 7:52
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    For those interested: I tought it over and negotiated with her. I'm going to reduce the sport to about once-twice a month until she feels more in control and more relaxed. Thank you all for your answers. – Legisey May 3 '18 at 7:07
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    ok, I'd recommend you offer to look after baby on your own for at least a few hours on Saturday and Sunday, so your wife can have time for herself. Then she will feel much happier about you continuing with your sport. She needs to be able to get out of the house as well. – user1751825 May 3 '18 at 7:19
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    Just a word of caution though. When looking after a young baby on your own, be sure mum is easily contactable. It can be very very stressful to be a dad alone with a baby, when that baby cannot be pacified by anything other than a feed. Don't be too ambitious initially, and don't underestimate the stress, or your overestimate your ability to cope with it. – user1751825 May 3 '18 at 7:29
13

First, congratulations on becoming a parent! As you have (or will soon) discovered, babies are work. A lot of work. And usually when you'd rather be sleeping or cleaning the baby puke out of your hair. Babies are demanding, have no patience and are vocal about their needs. It can burn anyone out dealing with them constantly. And as you've argued, having a break from the baby is good for you. It gives you a stress release valve, making you better able to care for your baby and your wife, fulfill your work obligations, etc. You are a better caregiver when you are sane.

So you are correct that you need to have some time to yourself. But that same argument applies to your wife too. Her request that you give up your personal time to help her sounds like a cry for help. She's probably overwhelmed dealing with your child. While work may not sound like a real stress reliever (and it may not be, but it is a change of pace), it gives you 9-ish hours a day where you aren't dealing with a screaming kid, changing diapers or being deathly afraid of making the slightest sound for fear of waking a napping baby. And at work you aren't still in your pajamas, covered in various bodily fluids and you get the bonus of some social interactions with other adults. Your wife is doesn't get that. And it sounds like she desperately needs it.

For starters, sit down and have a talk with your wife. Acknowledge her struggles then figure out how you can solve them together. It's not fair (or advisable1) for either of you to never have personal time. Figure out an arrangement where you both get time to yourselves. Maybe that looks like you agree that for every hour you are off playing sports you give your wife an hour to herself. Maybe you come up with something different. Whatever you come up with, make sure you both agree to it. No being dismissive of needs, no strong-arming anyone. Realize you are both in a hard situation and it will take some compromise and sacrifice from both of you to make this work.

Also, make sure your wife knows how much you appreciate her and how she takes care of the baby. Being a stay-at-home mom is a pretty thankless job. Hearing you are grateful for her efforts will mean the world to your wife. Make sure she feels loved.

1 Everyone needs personal time. The people I've known with the best relationships / marriages / families are the ones where each party is encouraged to take personal time. It shows you care when you take someone's day-to-day burdens for a few hours so they can get some relief. And later, this will pay dividends with your child and their relationships. If they see that daddy supported mommy and gave her time so she could de-stress, they will look for someone who will support them in the same way. And on top of that, you get involved with your child which builds your relationship with them.

  • Thank you for your answer. I always tried to acknowledge the hard work she is doing. I will try harder. However she seems not to want to compromise on this subject. – Legisey Apr 26 '18 at 8:03
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    @Legisey if she doesn't want to compromise, I would start be dropping the sport initially and help her because she sounds like she really needs a break, and then maybe later she will be less stressed about everything and coping better and more willing to compromise once she doesn't feel like she's drowning. It may be a sport day every week or two, and she gets some hobby time too. That said, now is NOT a good time to be pushing the issue. Let her recover first. Give yourself both time to prioritize the family and find balance, and then see where the hobbies fit. – user30275 Apr 26 '18 at 19:25
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    I marked his answer as approved, because it's what I ended doing: I talked (a lot) with her, thought it over (a lot) and decided to reduce the sport to about once-twice a month until she feels she is more relaxed. – Legisey May 3 '18 at 7:09
  • Also make sure your wife picks up a hobby. The only way you can get a hobby is she has one first – Batavia May 3 '18 at 14:41
7

I wouldn't necessarily think of it that way. Try to consider that everyone in the family has to make sure nobody in the family loses their minds. Putting 100% of your time into baby after work might be exactly what it takes to make you lose yours as well. That's what I consider to be tag team parenting which is horrid and will drain everything you enjoy out of your soul. If either of you think you are the only one doing any specific task - anything at all - you may find yourself getting less happy, more angry, and eventually totally irrational. Dealing with a baby by yourself can feel like being stuck on an island alone. Obviously there are some who just love it, but I am not one of those people.

First things first, when you get home, you get baby time because you haven't seen them all day. You'll probably be excited to see your baby. If you don't already feel this way you will as they develop. She's been stuck on an island all day, so she's excited to at least not be alone on the island. She has to have a break, same as you. And NO, work is NOT a break. Not even close. Same way 9 hours at home all day with a baby is NOT a break. It's also not a competition either so anyone wanting to rant about babies being harder, just accept that every single aspect of life is hard except the few moments where you all have a great time, alone or together.

Your sport you do - it's pretty selfish of anyone to insist you don't do something you love to do just because some personal or societal expectation demands you place a quantifiable 100% of your off hours into your baby. Without your "happy place" you won't be giving 100% of anything to anyone. But you have to realize the allowance of personal space will be defined very much by your enthusiasm and participation in cooperative parenting when you are around. Let me reiterate - NOT TAG TEAM PARENTING because that's the same thing as being a single parent with a room mate. When you are together, you both have to do the chores, cook meals, make sure the baby is clean and dry, entertained, and all those goodies. Do it all together and it will be no big deal if you want to play a game once a week or if she decides to take a nap or go see friends or whatever else people like to do with their detached time.

Your sports game may be her book club. It also may be her night to pump and drink herself to sleep and if that's what she really wants to do with her time. In that case, your endurance of that has to consider that your sports game may be every bit as upsetting or confusing to her. We all have our desires, delights, escapes, hobbies, fantasies, and fears. Remember that when you think of how you want to spend your time, and how you expect her to spend hers. If you share the weight, you will ensure everyone is as happy as they can be and nobody is losing their minds.

That being said, if your goal is to keep on sporting, then I encourage you to encourage her to do something she likes to do as well. Even if that something involves you and you don't want to do it. Maybe invite her to be there while you sport on. Maybe you'll find your escape time is most rewarding when you escape together.

  • 1
    Thank you for your answer. I'm not totally sure I understand what you mean by Tag Team Parenting. Do you mean one of the parent taking care of the child alone? Or always both of them? Or both of them, but at separate times and not together? – Legisey Apr 26 '18 at 8:00
  • Seconded on not sure what you mean by "Tag Team Parenting". What you seem to be describing seems to be the opposite of what I'd call Tag Team. To me Tag Team means you can tag someone else in to take your place, i.e. tagging yourself out. e.g. on Tuesday you tag out and play sport, on Wednesday you tag in, tagging your partner out so that they can go to book club. – AndyT Apr 26 '18 at 10:56
  • @AndyT - That's roughly what I mean. I have the baby now. You have the baby later. Never a time when we both have the baby and do things together. The mentality of it being "your turn" exclusively. Turns can be unavoidable because of work, but if you are both home and the turn based thing keeps happening, then it's a problem. – Kai Qing Apr 26 '18 at 17:46
  • Surely if one parent works full time (and the other stays home) then there is very little time for both parents to be together in the first place? How can parents work, and have hobbies, and also both be there to parent their child together? While I understand your point, it is very unrealistic for many families today purely because there just isn't enough time in the day. Unless you could give an example of how you think it could work in a household where one parent is working full time? I just don't see how it could work. – user30275 Apr 26 '18 at 19:21
  • @Stacey - I'm detailing from my own experience. There's plenty of time to raise a baby together. While on maternity leave it was exactly like this, and just like the OP's situation. We did hand off responsibilities and it drove us mad so we changed the rules. We decided to do everything together - making meals, brushing teeth, etc. Without doing it together it felt like being alone all the time. My point is to avoid the feeling of being alone. Do that and hobbies become much more realistic. That's what we did, so my post is the example. – Kai Qing Apr 26 '18 at 21:06
5

When my husband and I were doing some pre-marriage counseling which our church required from all couples getting married in the church, I got a piece of advice that has been extremely useful for all aspects of married life.

It's okay to make a deal with your spouse.

Trade something you want for something she wants. Everybody wins.

The elderly couple who mentored us said it kept things "fair". The husband loved stock car racing and it enhanced the experience for him when his wife willingly shared that with him. His wife loves jewelry. So they agreed that when she spent the day at the races with him, he would take her to the jewelry store and buy something. She had her trip to the jewelry store to lift her spirits through the event, and he had the benefit of sharing something he loved with a spouse who was now there because she wanted to be.

My husband loves to fence. I'm not thrilled with the sport. He wanted me to come to fencing with him and watch him fence. In return, he would take me to a movie and restaurant of my choosing afterwards. We also traded child-free days. One Saturday he would take the kids and leave me completely at liberty at home. The next weekend the reverse; he was free to do whatever he wanted while I didn't expect anything of him (that includes no chores or running to the store).

For every hour she is stuck taking care of the baby all by herself while you do your hobbies, give her an hour to do something of her choosing while you take care of the baby. The biggest benefit of this is the alleviation of guilt and blame. If your sporting event runs long you don't have to feel apologetic or tense about it, because you know she's going to get equal time. And if you decide that it isn't worth it, that you'd rather skip the event than take a few hours of solo parent time, that's your choice. It's still fair.

As @Kai mentioned, you both need to be responsible for the daily activities of parenthood, that's just what is going to be eating up your days for a while. The time off is what will keep you sane and give you something to look forward to.

One additional piece of advice; do not ever think that the 8-10 hours you spend each day working is more exhausting than spending the same amount of time with an infant. You both deserve, and need, a break from the demands of parenthood, but the key word here is "both". Keep it fair.

  • Thank you for your answer. I will try to make a deal with her again. But last time I tried to ask her what she wanted, her answer was "you at home helping me, instead of going to your sport". Thanks anyway. – Legisey Apr 26 '18 at 8:05
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    @Legisey that sounds to me like a cry for help. She may be lonely and wish to spend more time with you, she may need you to step up and take care of some more household chores. Try tabling the sport/hobby talk and just seeing how she is doing with life/baby/relationship balancing - it may give you a clearer picture of what she needs. – BunnyKnitter Apr 26 '18 at 22:08
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    If that is her answer, you definitely need a different deal. Give up doing the sport yourself, but maybe make a deal about once in a while going to training to meet the team, going out with them for a victory drink after a won competition, maybe going to cheer them on during a competition. Just not every week. – skymningen Apr 30 '18 at 7:59
5

There are a lot of interesting answers, but I would like to maybe add a little more perspective from the "wife" point of view.

Maybe your wife is 100% convinced that hobbies should be put aside for parents of babies, and in that case maybe try to get the reasons why she might think so. But I guess everyone would agree that it is not a sustainable way to live in the long term, as it would lead anyone to loose themselves.

It is also possible that your wife can't see a way that she could have time for HER hobbies, so she feels that you shouldn't either. With our first child, I got resentful with my husband because I felt that he could just continue his life (almost) like before, while I was stuck with a baby all day and all hours of the night while on maternity leave. He would participate in some social events or accept engagements for work like it was no big deal, while I could not even come up with a way to go get a haircut. Is your wife breastfeeding? Your baby is still young, she needs to feed often and is probably not on a reliable schedule at this point, so just getting out of the house might be difficult or overwhelming for her. She might also feel guilty to leave the baby, for fear that she might need her when she is away, or that she will not take a bottle and will cry endlessly, etc.

I'm sure you appreciate all the hard work your wife do all day, but I just want to add that it is difficult for a dad to really get all the pressure that is put on a mother's shoulders. We as a society have LOTS of expectations about mothers and what they should do to be considered a "good" mother. Breastfeeding is also hard on its own, physically and mentally (the survival and development of your baby relies 100% on a bodily function over which you have little control, and this can feel crushing at times). And most of all, although you seem to be a good dad that share the chores and the work of raising the baby, make sure that you are not just "helping" her. Don't ask her what she needs or what to do, take initiatives. Read about babies and their development, be involved with doctor's appointments, plan for what your baby will need next (clothes, purées, etc.). Share the mental load!

So, to get back to your question... I will give you an example from my experience. With my first I almost never got anywhere without the baby for the first 6 months of his life. I was breastfeeding, but did not introduce bottles soon enough, so eventually he would not accept them at all. Why didn't I used bottles more? Because I would have to pump my milk, prepare a bottle, then make sure that all this stuff was washed and sterilized, etc. My husband actually giving the bottle was of little help as I had to do all the planning and he was clueless about it all. What I mean is, a mother can feel "trapped" even if she has a good partner. It is possible that your wife feels that you should sacrifice as much as she does in this parenting journey.

I think you can really help your wife by making her realize how good it actually feels to leave the house and spend some time doing things she enjoys on her own. She will need to experience it, and you will need to really help her organize it and make it work. There are many techniques to help a baby get on a routine, research them (I had success with the EASY method). Buy a breast pump and bottles so you can feed baby from time to time (and learn how to wash and sterilize properly). By the time babies are 3 or 4 months old, things get easier and more predictable. When your wife will have her own time for herself out of the house, I bet she will gladly accept that you should have yours too.

4

Congratulations! There's a lot of detail missing from your post so I'm going to make some assumptions, based on your wife's request:

  1. Your baby is fed by your wife, so she can't spend much time away, so you can't offer to let her go out for 4 hours one evening (plus she's probably too tired to want to).
  2. She's having a typically terrible time as a new mum, and possibly spends quite a lot of time during the week alone with just your baby.

My wife was counting the minutes till I got back from work, so if you are already away 1 night a week for work then it's a big ask to get another night away right now.

Solutions

  1. Stop working in the evening (unless you get paid to do so and you need the money) and see if that means you can do your hobby*.
  2. Make a deal that you can go to do your hobby on weeks where you aren't away for work.
  3. Take up a less time consuming hobby, or one that you can do at the weekend.
  4. Do as your wife asks for now and check in once she and your baby seem more settled into a happy routine (perhaps once she is able to spend some quality time away from your baby). If you need some time during the week then perhaps go for a walk or a run once the baby is settled and your wife has her feet up in front of the TV.
  • Thanks for your answer. Both your assumptions are correct. Changing working hours is not an option. Doing the hobby on weekend is no help, because she also needs me on the weekend. The 4th option is maybe the way to go, but then I don't get to have free time until months/years. – Legisey Apr 26 '18 at 8:24
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    @Legisey it doesn't have to be months/years at all! Be involved. Research ways to help a baby get on a routine (I like the EASY one) and talk with your wife on how you can implement it. Introduce the baby to bottles so eventually your wife can have a bit of free time too. There are bottles that are compatible with breastfeeding, buy some and you can have special bonding time with your baby while your wife gets a real break! – aneder Apr 26 '18 at 18:03
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    @legisey At the moment, hers and your baby's needs overrides yours but equilibrium shifts over time so you'll be able to get time back sooner than it feels now. At some point you will both get faster or deprioritise elements of cooking, cleaning and washing/sterilising in favour of sanity and time. How long that takes is different for everyone, but it will happen, and this time in your kid's life will become a distant fuzzy memory very soon. – conradj Apr 26 '18 at 22:00
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    You have a newborn. Yes, that means that you don't have much free time for a while. Did you think that you would bring a brand new human who depends on its parents to meet every single basic need 24/7 into your home and family and your life would stay exactly the same? – Aravis Apr 28 '18 at 18:17
  • @Aravis - harsh but fair. – bigbadmouse May 2 '18 at 7:50
1

On my side, I have the feeling that this is giving me a rest from work-baby-sleep-work-baby-… I believe that it’s good for me, hence for them, to maintain a minimal activity outside home and work.

Sure it's great for you...but doesn't she deserve a break from all-baby-all-the-time labor? You are taking away a night for her to have a rest from that.

Is there any general agreement on maintaining hobbies for recent parents (especially fathers)?

You think that the answer should be different for working fathers than working mothers? Why?

And surely you think that different hobbies are going to yield different answers, right? A night a week is different from spending a weekend a month away, or doing something in the home that's easy to put down at a moment's notice.

  • Thanks for your answer. She of course deserve a break, which I'm giving her as much as possible when I'm home. I believe it's different because: baby needs his mom every few hours because she carries food in her breast. Also, at least where I live, moms are getting maternity leaves much longer than fathers, hence being at home with the baby much more time. Finally, I know that it's not the same being away an hour, a day, or just down in the cellar. That's why I was asking about general guidelines on this subject. – Legisey Apr 26 '18 at 8:18
1

It's very important for you to maintain your sanity, and it's not unreasonable for you to maintain a sport/hobby. However your wife's need for more help is also very legitimate, and cannot be dismissed.

Perhaps what you should do, is addition to being very helpful and family focused when you're at home, is allow your wife some away time as well. Where you look after the baby for a while on your own.

Due to the baby's age, more than about 3 hours away from mum may be a challenge, but even this amount of time will help a lot.

Encourage your wife to take up a hobby as well, so she's also getting time out of the house on her own.

My guess is that her request has less to do with her actually needing help at home, and more to do with her feeling a little resentful that you're getting self-time that she's not getting.

0

This question should probably go to interpersonal questions, as it regards to an arrangement between you and your wife.

There are multiple options here.

  1. Take a break from your activity as your wife requested. Having a baby is a major change, which pauses many things in life. For a lot of people, its even career, so this is small (unless you are playing professionally).

  2. Calculate the approximate number of hours you spend as the sole care-taker of the baby (in a week). Compare it with your wife's. Make sure its more-or-less equal. Edit: Taking care of a baby and household full-time is exhausting and without much reward. You are cleaning up messes all day, and the house is still always messy. You are always getting food ready, and just as this meal/snack is done, it time to start planning for the next one. And then one has to plead with the baby to eat, clean up the mess/dishes, and it needs to be repeated again. To the point that your wife is a stay-at-home mom, ensure an environment where you are taking care of the baby without her being involved atleast for a few hours after work every day.

  3. You can be the sole care-taker for your baby for 4-5 hours at some other time of the week, where your wife is free to pursue what she wants to do. No calls to her unless its a trip to the ER!

  • Thanks for your answer. The point is that I don't wish to stop this activity, because it help me change my mind once a week. Baby is a life changer, yes, but should I really not do anything apart from work, chores and baby? She is of course spending much more hours with the baby because she stays at home while I work, so your point 2 is tricky. I'm already taking care of the baby when I'm home, while she does some other things (mostly sleeping and studying for upcoming exams). – Legisey Apr 26 '18 at 8:11
  • i agree, point 2 is unfair unless she also works somehow. – bigbadmouse May 2 '18 at 7:49
  • @Legisey, if you don't wish to stop the activity, you'll have to do #3 and give her a similar block of time, over whatever you are doing right now. – user61034 May 3 '18 at 15:22

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