A few years ago I wrote an article for Scary Mommy about what husbands really want for Father’s Day. It only had four things on it. Naturally, sex was on there (cliché, I know). But the other three, well, it was more or less time alone. I wanted time to enjoy a hobby. I wanted some time to watch a movie I actually enjoyed, without my children watching over my shoulder, learning new swear words or insisting that I change it to Boss Baby. I wanted time to sleep, or think, or to just sit in a room and look at a white wall without someone climbing on me.
The funny thing is, nothing on that wish list had anything to do with money (outside of maybe buying me a pizza). Because they weren’t gifts. You couldn’t wrap any of them. The list ended up being discussed on The View. Jim Gaffigan was the guest, and he wholeheartedly agreed and so did Joy Behar. I talked about it for weeks.
But that’s the funny thing about getting older and having a family. I have three children 12 and under, and my life is a non-stop litany of wanting and need and crying and asking for more screen time. My wife and I both work in education full time, so when we aren’t at home raising our children, we are helping to raise other people’s children. And frankly, it’s exhausting.
When I was in my 20s, before children, I never would have realized that the highlights of my 30s would be finding a Tupperware container and lid that match in the Tupperware drawer, finishing a movie in one sitting, waking up without back pain, using the restroom without interruption, and having sex when it hasn’t been scheduled.
Adulthood is humbling.
No doubt about it.
At this stage in life, with little kids everywhere, asking for all your time and all your attention, we don’t really want gifts. I mean, don’t get me wrong, we won’t turn them down. But “things” aren’t what we want. We also don’t want a family vacation, because nothing is further from relaxing than traveling with children. Sharing a hotel room with children will help you understand why animals eat their young.
What we really want is time alone in our house without anyone else. Time to sit, just for a moment, and feel like we did before we had kids. Or perhaps a weekend at a hotel alone, or a trip to Target, or the mall, or some time with an old friend without a little wiggling passenger riding along in their car seat.
Now keep in mind, I am aware that many parents get alone time in their car while commuting to work, or they are allowed to take a break and work by shutting their office door, so they can feel human again, even if it’s only for an a few moments. Stay-at-home parents often don’t get these moments.
As a father, I honestly think motherhood is the most demanding calling in the history of ever, and if anyone deserves time to themselves, first and foremost, it’s moms. Hands down. I think every husband should be freely giving their wives the time they need to leave the house, spend time alone, or whatever they need for self-care.
But I’d also like to point out that if anything unites everyone, it’s this simple fact: we all just want some time to ourselves. Not too much, just a little. On the few occasions I have found myself alone, the house to myself, for one night while my wife is out of town visiting her sister with the kids, it doesn’t take long for me to miss them terribly. But I must admit, once the family does come back, I feel 100% refreshed. I feel ready to take on my role as a father with renewed vigor.
In fact, one of the best things my wife and I ever did for our relationship was to give each other three hours a week. On Thursday evenings, once I get home from work, it’s Mel’s time. She gets three hours to work in the garden, or read a book in our bedroom, or watch a few episodes of whatever show she’s into, or go to her book club, or frankly anything she feels she needs. I watch the kids. I get dinner. I hold it all down while she recharges. On Sunday afternoon, I get three hours to ride my bike, or take a nap, or write, or read, or whatever I want to do.
We’ve been doing it for a few years now, and it’s the best thing we’ve ever done for our relationship. We don’t really fight over free time like we used to and we have something to look forward to each week. But the most important thing is that nothing — and I repeat nothing — shows your partner that you love and respect their contributions like giving them some time to themselves.