The question Travis and I have been asking lately is:
How do other parents do it?
How do other parents find time for everything? Specifically for working dads*, how do they find time to work full-time; take care of the yard, house and cars; exercise; spend time with their kids; help around the house; hang out with friends; and make their marriage a priority?
As a former full-time worker, I know it’s easy to feel that it’s all you do. And I don’t want Travis to feel like he doesn’t have time for anything else.
I also know that it’s a blessing that I get 2 days off that Travis spends working. I can exercise, run errands, do chores, get together with friends and spend quality time with Emma those days. Travis still has to fit all those things in after work and on the weekends.
The problem we run into is that when Travis gets off work, I’m ready for him to spend time either with us as a family or watch Emma so that I can have a break. And I end up feeling frustrated when he spends time on the weekend raking our yard or cleaning our cars, because I view those things as non-essential (though I do understand why Travis thinks they are important). I’ve had to re-prioritize since having Emma and accept that some things just won’t get done at all or as often anymore. So in my mind, anything ‘non-essential’ should not be getting done.
There’s a How I Met Your Mother episode after Lily and Marshall have a baby where they talk about how when they keep score of who’s done what and how much, nobody wins. And I agree that “keeping score” per se, as in “I’ve done more than you!”, isn’t helpful. But there should be a balance. I think one of the secrets of making a marriage work – with or without kids – is encouraging your spouse to continue doing the things that they enjoy. For me, that’s running, reading and writing. For Travis, it’s hunting, fishing and hockey.
So how do you make that happen? Enter the #1 thing Travis and I have learned since having Emma: the importance of communication. We were married for almost 6 years before Emma came. Yes, we learned about communication during those 6 years, but we also kind of did our own thing most of the time (perhaps a bit too much). A baby has taken communication to a whole new level.
I feel a little like the overbearing wife when I ask Travis to ask me if it’s ok before he goes and does something, leaving me to take care of Emma. But it helps me. Because even if nothing is different than it would be if he just went and did whatever, I feel noticed, cared for and appreciated. Instead of feeling like he has the freedom to do whatever while I’m “stuck” taking care of Emma (which is what it feels like sometimes, not gonna lie!), we decide together that I’ll take care of Emma so that he can get x and y done.
I guess this is especially top of mind for us right now because we are working on getting our house ready to sell, and a lot of the projects that need to be done are Travis’ area of expertise (like drywall, gutter/soffit/fascia repair, caulking, etc.) It’s not that I couldn’t learn to do those things, but someone has to take care of Emma anyway, so it might as well be me.
Honestly, I think it will get better (for me) when I’m no longer breastfeeding. Often, I don’t leave to go do something because Emma will wake up while I’m gone and she’ll want to eat, and it’s just easier to nurse her or take her along than have Travis give her a bottle and I pump later. Regardless, Travis and I are trying to balance the ‘Emma load’ a bit more evenly. We also found a couple at church who we’re going to trade date nights with, so that we can get some time just the two of us. But then, those are just more things to add to an already overflowing plate and it brings me back to the initial question:
How do other parents do it?
So I’d like to hear from all of you parents reading this, whether it’s you who works or your spouse. How do you both balance it all?
* I say working dad because that’s the situation we’re dealing with, but I realize that moms who work full-time deal with this conundrum also, in equal – if not greater – amount.