General Question

shilolo's avatar

Does one need to sacrifice everything in order to be a parent?

Asked by shilolo (18075points) March 2nd, 2009

I am the proud dad of two young kids. Both my wife and I work the same exact jobs with the same hours and demands. Weekends are family time, shopping time, errand time, etc. However, for the past 6 years, I have played with and managed a competitive men’s soccer team that I really enjoy. It typically takes 3 hours on Sunday to go to the game, warm up, play and come home.

However, my wife finds that it is trying on her (and our family life) to build our Sundays around this event, and the game times are scattered from early morning to late afternoon. She implies but does not state openly that I should quit.

I firmly believe that we should both try to maintain outside interests so as to not become one-dimensional (i.e. our lives are built around our kids). So, I want to keep playing. However, I see her point that 3 hours on Sunday is a lot of time that could be spent together, or getting stuff done. How do I handle this? What are your thoughts?

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31 Answers

wundayatta's avatar

@shilolo: Dude, keep fighting the good fight. You will lose, but still, keep on fighting. A time will come when you will start to get back some of your time, but that will not be yours for maybe another ten years.

You will have to quit. What did I lose with kids? I used to teach trumpet. I used to go to a writers group. I used to go to a conversation group. Then, of course, there’s all the we stuff we lost. Of course, it’s worth it, but still, it’s hard to let go of some of those things.

Now I’m able to do a little more “gigging” (not for pay), and I can have some musicians over to the house for some jamming. I can get my exercise as long as I bring my son with me. I don’t know why, but my daughter gets to stay at home.

Anyway, it isn’t everything. It might feel like it, but it really isn’t. You know you love those kids!

marinelife's avatar

I think that in the long run parents with outside interests and parents who take time for themselves and time together as a couple make better parents who raise healthy, balanced kids.

My questions would be as follows:
1. Is your wife taking a comparable time for herself in a week?
2. Is there a weeknight league that would work as an alternate to the Sunday—even if it was not quite as fun, the guys you know, etc.?
3. Has she offered other suggestions on how to possibly work it out?
4. And, finally, could you do something else for fitness in between and play twice a month?

I am sure you guys can work something out.

jonsblond's avatar

Three hours on a Sunday really isn’t that bad. It’s important that your children see that you have interests too. At least you aren’t sitting at a bar. Can’t your family come along and support the team? Make it a family outing and do something afterwards?

Judi's avatar

Maybe the compromise would be to play, but give up the management to someone else…. until you are managing and coaching your kids soccer teams,... then that’s a different story too.

skfinkel's avatar

How important is this soccer team participation to you? I can see from your point of view that it might be very important—not just exercise, but also the camaraderie of the people on the team, and maintaining a dimension of your life that is outside of your family. I could imagine also (all too well) from your wife’s point of view that she is working hard—as you are—on all fronts, and she resents the time you spend on something else away from the family responsibilties.

What I really think, though, is that she needs to find something she loves as much as you love the soccer. It is good for your marriage to have outside activities—it is refreshing for both of you. Is there something she would love to do but isn’t doing in some moments on the weekend? If not, perhaps she could understand your need to get out there and kick the ball. It will be good for both of you in the long run. If she really just wants to be with the children on the weekend, she needs to let that be okay, and just enjoy them. Maybe come up with some really creative activities to do with them while you are at the soccer game.

It’s about having full lives that are not so entwined that they don’t strangle you.

SuperMouse's avatar

I absolutely think you should continue to bend it like beckham. With two very young children at home I think it is imperative that you have some time to regenerate – this is your time. I believe it is important that both of you have time built into your schedules for something that is 100% for you and your relaxation.

In one parenting class I took the facilitator likened it to the oxygen masks on airplanes. The parent has to put theirs on first or they won’t be any good at all to the kids. In order for you to be the best parent you can possibly be you have to take care of yourself first. Without that you, your wife, and your kids have nothing.

P.S. This is coming from a wife who has been there and begged my ex to do something for himself for years and years. I would gladly have let him take all day Sunday if it helped make him a happier, more fulfilled man and better husband and father the other six days.

shilolo's avatar

@daloon Say it ain’t so…. :-(
@Marina Yes, the idea of a weeknight coed league has entered our discussion. Somehow, it just isn’t the same level of competition or ego-boost (to be honest).
@jonsblond I wish she saw it that way. With one kid, it was doable. But with a 2.5 year old and 3 month old, there is only so much she can do at our games. (Plus, my son doesn’t quite understand why he can’t play, and runs out on the field, repeatedly).
@Judi The management is trivial compared to the time spent at games.
@skfinkel You summarized the situation perfectly. Running used to be her passion, but she gave it up having 2 kids in 4 years. I would love for her to get back into that, or cooking classes (which she also enjoys). I’ll try your suggestions.
@SuperMouse Well, I think she realizes it is good for my psyche, but resents not having time for herself, which I appreciate. Also, I work 1 weekend out of 3, so that is tough on her as well.

jrpowell's avatar

My sister went through something similar. But his soccer game was on a weeknight. And he took her oldest kid with him. But he was 10.

It caused problems for a bit, but eventually she got a girls night out where he would watch the kids while she went out.

Judi's avatar

@shilolo ; She needs a double jogging stroller! It is good for your children to set an example of physical fitness. I also know how hard it is when you are drained by having 2 small children!

SuperMouse's avatar

@shilolo the loss of time to myself was definitely the biggest adjustment when I had my children (3 in four years). Have you discussed options for her getting some time to herself? Maybe a girl’s night out (I wasn’t all that fond of those, I preferred sleep!), or a Saturday where you take the kids and give her some time alone at home.

While Daloon is one of my favorite Flutherers, I respectfully disagree with him, I think you can figure out something that works for both of you.

Bri_L's avatar

The only way for you to be at your best for them is to have some time for you. It’s healthy. I would just make sure that you maintain an open discussion with your wife about it. Bring it up. Be prepared to talk about it. Don’t go in all defensive, not that you would. Show her you understand the difficulty.

My wife sings at 5pm mass every sat. night. That takes away vertually every single weekend and sat. night we have from 3:00 to 7:00. It’s is tough but I know what it means to her. I know it makes her more able to do what she does and be who she is.

And like the others said, make sure your wife has her own outlets, again, not that you aren’t.

Darwin's avatar

When I was growing up my dad got three hours on Sunday afternoon to mess about in boats. However, my mom got three hours on Saturday to get out of the house and do what she wanted to do (mostly paint and draw).

My husband and I did the same thing (except when he was in the hospital for large chunks of time). He got time to go be a Boy Scout, and I got time to act and sing.

I think you need to sit down with your wife and try to figure out something she can do, say on Saturday, for an equivalent amount of time. Might she want a gym membership so she can get back into running?

And perhaps you could divvy up the weekends so she gets some weekends away from the kids, too. Since you work one weekend out of three, perhaps you need to give her one weekend out of three where you take total charge of house and kids so she can sleep or shop or cook or whatever she wants. You might look at it as having three different kinds of weekends: his, hers, and ours.

In other words, I agree with sfinkel and SuperMouse.

jonsblond's avatar

I didn’t know that your children are so young. I still feel that three hours a week is not that bad. Everyone here has given you great suggestions. I hope that you can work something out with your wife. It really is important for you to have some “me” time. It will get easier in a few years, then you can take the kids along.

shilolo's avatar

@jonsblond Why, do I seem that old? ;-) You are right that 3 hours isn’t a lot, but I think one of the major issues is (in her mind) how disruptive it is to our weekend “schedule”. Also, with the kids so small, she cannot just take them to the playground to let them run around, etc. So, she feels put upon, and, that it makes the rest of the weekend that much more stressful (rather than pleasurable). I may just have to switch to a weeknight league (despite my strong bonds to my teammates and the team in general).

Darwin's avatar

@shilolo – When my kids were that age (2 1/2 and 6 months) I certainly went to the playground with them. I wore my son in a pouch on my chest and hung out with my daughter as she played and ran around. We also went to McDonald’s, not for the food (I would purchase orange juice or milk only), but for the indoor play structures. When my husband went and did his Boy Scout thing we would actually come along sometimes, but I was always prepared to go play with the kids if they needed it.

Does the weekend have to have a schedule? Can’t the schedule be reserved for the “ours” weekends? It is too bad she feels “put upon.” Perhaps you need to discuss with her why this might be so. Three hours out of a Sunday really isn’t all that much, especially if she gets three hours some other time of her own. If she prefers it could even be an hour to herself three times a week.

Could she be jealous in some way? Possibly of the bonds with your teammates?

I don’t know. In any case, good luck. I am sure there is a solution other than giving up all outside interests.

shilolo's avatar

@Darwin Thanks for the suggestions. I used the word schedule perhaps inappropriately. It’s just that we both work 9–5 during the week and the weekends are our only chance to do things (both fun and not so fun) together. So, we usually go to a park, museum, other activity on Saturday, and have a nice day. But Sunday is typically reserved for food shopping, cooking (for the week, so we have something healthy at nights), and the occasional alternative outing. It isn’t scheduled per se, but, she views the 3 hours as a time sink that we have to build our days around (like, we can’t go to the museum if I have a game at 1 PM, for example).

jonsblond's avatar

@shilolo The cooking class for your wife sounds like a great idea. It would give her time to be with other adults that share something in common. I do hope the two of you can work something out. Good luck!

dragonflyfaith's avatar

I don’t think 3 hours is too much time at all. But it sounds like you are getting 3 hours every week to yourself without her and the kids while she does not. She’s working all week, then has busy outings on Saturdays and then watches the kids while running errands all day Sunday. Sounds like she’s exhausted and needs some time to herself as well. She probably resents your time to yourself more than anything. I think the ideal comprise, is for her to have her own alone time on the weekends while you watch the kids. Maybe you could do some of the shopping to give her a break.

wundayatta's avatar

@shilolo: I try not to remember that time, because my wife was under an awful lot of stress. I took on as much as I could, but then I hit my limit, and I began to feel like I was doing more than my fair share. She had lists and lists of things to do, and my son, as an infant, and for several years thereafter, requited an awful lot of attention and care. He wasn’t as easy as his sister.

While I hope you can work something out so that you can have this time, her desires for family time may win. I know my wife was kind of resentful when I had time to myself. I tried to give her time, but she wouldn’t take it. Her interests are the family more than anything else. Family and work.

I guess everyone else here did much better than I did about figuring these things out, but that was the beginning of my marital troubles which are only now getting sorted out. We lost our sense that the other loved the one during this time.

I wish I could say it isn’t so, and your experience will be different. I hope it is more like Supermouse’s experience than mine. I am not a good example here. However, I may be an instructive cautionary case.

Honestly, I don’t know what I would do if I had it to do over. The only thing I can think of is to get counseling right then. It may sound silly, but if we had identified and addressed our problems then, we could have prevented a lot of heartache later.

This may be a simple time management problem. It might also be a symptom of something much deeper. Of different visions of how families work. A sense of unfairness. I hope not, but it could be.

We all have different experiences in this area. I’m not advocating anything, really. Well, perhaps that’s not quite true. Maybe I was advocating a “grin and bear it” response. I think that those who are advocating action are right. Deal with it now. Don’t let it fester. If it is a tip of an iceberg, find out what that berg is all about while it’s an ice cube. Not later when it’s become a glacier.

augustlan's avatar

Sounds like you two need to have a sit-down about all this. I am in agreement with everyone (including Daloon, in his second post). Not only is time away from family important, it’s also important to find out exactly why she is feeling this way, and soon. If she doesn’t take at least an equivalent time for herself, she will find herself not only resentful, but burned out, too. Good luck, friend.

jonsblond's avatar

@daloon You make a really good point about how your wife felt at the time. She wanted family time, not alone time. When a mother has very young children, at least for me, I felt the same way. I just wanted time with my husband and children, because at that moment, that was what was important to me. It’s such a short time in a relationship, but it can seem forever when it comes to a couple with very young children.

shilolo's avatar

@all Thanks for all the useful advice. We did actually discuss many of these issues tonight. She is getting burnt out, and quite possibly, may have some degree of post-partum depression (this is bad news, but we need to face up to it, either way). She really needs me to be around on the weekends, even though she is acutely aware of how important it is to my psyche and sense of self-worth to be a part of my team.

So, we decided that in the short term, I will switch to a nighttime league (coed), and, while I will stay affiliated with my regular squad, will not play during the beginning of our season. Hopefully, as our 3 month old gets a bit easier to handle (and my wife feels less overwhelmed), I can rejoin my team later this year (the season runs from March until September). Also, I encouraged her strongly to take some time for herself. But, she is strong-willed, and, for some reason does not feel that it is appropriate for her to leave her kids right now (even for a few hours), despite my pleading that a happy mom is a better mom. I will continue to try to convince her, daily.

Thanks again.

wundayatta's avatar

@shilolo: I’ve heard a number of stories about women who just would not leave their kids to a babysitter, sometimes for years. I don’t know if there’s a growing trend. I suspect it happens more amongst working women who feel guilty that they are not spending enough time with their children, because they work and leave the kids in daycare. I know my wife felt that way (although she was able to leave them with a babysitter).

It’s interesting, because there’s data saying that daycare kids do just as well as kids whose mothers stay home. Sometimes they do better. Those kids also have an advantage in terms of socialization. I don’t know if the home kids ever catch up there, or not.

Anyway, men seem to have no problem being away from kids, but women do. Is this cultural, or is it an instinctual thing? More to the point, how could we gather the right data to figure that out? I know people have opinions all over the place, but I don’t know if there’s any real data. Should I ask this as a question?

Darwin's avatar

What if you shared the kids sometimes? By that I mean one of you take the baby (for bonding time) and the other take the 2 1/2 yo (ditto) for a bit. Having one child at a time can be less overwhelming, give each child-one-on-one time with each parent (an important part of development), and let you do age-appropriate things for the one without having to worry about the other.

SuperMouse's avatar

@Daloon, please allow me to tell you that the experience I described was not mine at all! We had all kinds of disagreements, he refused to take time for himself so didn’t think it was fair for me to take time for myself. It all just snowballed from there and well, you know where my marriage is right now. What I was describing was a situation that I would see as approaching ideal.

@Shilolo, it sounds to me like your communication with your wife is eons beyond where mine was with the hubby at that point. It also sounds as though the two of you have negotiated a way that this can work out well for all concerned. Also, my oldest son was a very high needs kid and because of that it was a while before I was willing to leave him with a sitter or even his dad for any length of time. As the post-partum depression begins to lift and she starts to feel like she is finally coming up for air, she’ll be ready to take some time for herself and will realize the importance of doing so. She’ll go when she is ready know that, and in the meantime you are way far ahead of the game because you can talk about these things and work through them.

Bri_L's avatar

@shilolo – I think you all did great. Good communication. A plan for now. A plan for the future. A compromise. She still needs to get time to herself. Maybe that will just be a massage every now and then. But I think you did great. Way to be understanding!

Jack79's avatar

No, you don’t have to sacrifice everything, but for me my daughter comes first and everything has to revolve around her. Having said that, I have always managed to play soccer, go to the movies, meet with friends etc ever since she was born. But I’ve had to give up my singing career, at least the touring.

EDIT: ok had a series of suggestions here which I later realised have been covered already – I should really read better before answering. Good luck with everything.

In any case, life need not end when kids arrive, and it is important (even for their own sake) to keep a balance, so that all of you are happy and without regrets.

marinelife's avatar

@shi I am glad the discussion got started. Perhaps if you point out that a refreshed her will be better for (and have more to give) the kids, it might help pry her away for a bit. Also, what if she just started out real small: a walk around the block for 15 minutes or a cup of coffee or tea with a woman friend. (It does not have to equal your soccer time.)

As to the possible post partum depression, I know that you know, doc, that that needs professional diagnosis and treatment if it is the case ASAP.

Good luck to you both!

casheroo's avatar

i have to have a sit down with my husband quite often on this very topic, i feel like it’ll never be resolved :(

jillarita's avatar

keep doing what you like to do your not ignoring them its you need to do what you like to do to keep your well being so you dont get burned out on the daddy role, and moms getting burned out she needs to take time off to and enjoy something she likes also and if things dont get done that need to get done there’s always next weekend you can’t spread yourself out to thin but to keep on going you need your own time too.

Darwin's avatar

@jillarita – Punctuation is your friend, and welcome to Fluther.

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