Tuesday, September 1, 2015

Dear Dad: The One With The "Me Time" Question

Dear Dad,

My wife suggested we put our three kids in after school care to free up time for us through the week. Our kids are in 1st, 2nd, and 7th grade and their schools are far enough away where I have to leave work early to pick them up and then work from home for a couple of hours at night, and where my wife has to cut short her afternoons to make sure she is home with them when we get home.  We only have one vehicle, so timing all of this really sucks.  The younger kids take the bus, but the bus stop is a hike away, as is the middle school where our son is a walker, and we live in an unpredictable climate. 

Here is my dilemma:  I don’t really want to spend the money.  It is going to cost a lot out of pocket for this, and I don’t know that I want to spend that much. We have the money to spare, but is it worth it? I also worry about taking away family time through the week, as the weekends are hectic with our kids all enrolled in a ton of activities. 

I also have a small business I would like to get off the ground, and never have any time to do it.  My wife rides her bike everywhere, and often has to leave things she is in the middle of to make sure she is home in time for the kids so I can finish my work day. 

I’m stumped.  Advice appreciated.

Dear ‘Stumped’,

Have you ever heard of “me-time?” ‘Me-time’ is this unicorn-esque, urban-legend-like amount of time where both members of a partnership step away from their parental/spousal/adult roles and responsibilities to revisit themselves and spend time working on whatever that means to each individual. 

For some it means relaxing – taking a nap, or catching up on a favorite show, or maybe even a prolonged soaker-spa bath.  For others, it means reading up on a hobby, or investing time into creating the business that has been on their to-do list for years (perhaps even dusting off an old guitar?).  In other words, “me time” is paramount to every.single.person.ever!

If I had received this question when I first started this column, I know my answer would be different.  I would have talked about the importance of structure, stability, and centeredness of your children and how paramount that must be in how you build your schedule.  Hogwash! 

My children are getting older (the twins are 7 and our oldest is 11), and I have found that the need for “planned-to-the-minute-through-the-week-schedules” are nonsensical.  They are not productive for anyone.  I used to feel guilty if I let a 20 minute time slot fall unplanned – only to realize, I was drowning at the surface of the water levels I created. I was feeling like a failure in the jaws of victory, simply because I felt I should always be doing more. 

My advice, ‘Stumped’, is to try this new free time for both yourself and your wife.  Keep in mind that you will be eligible for some type of tax write off (though, don’t get me started – it is not what it should be).  Try giving yourselves a life line and see where it leads.  What if allowing yourself this extra time frees up enough “me time” to get that business off the ground?  What if allowing your wife this extra time allows her to find a way to revisit her own dreams, and/or gives her a sense of balance she would not have otherwise?

I am a firm believer that “me time” replenishes individuals to be more involved, more motivated, and more present during family time.  My wife and I have always had ‘me time’ in place, and a give and take to make sure we each have it every week. As our children are getting older, we are both daring to do more with it – and I have embarked on new journeys I could not have otherwise, and she has finally gone back to get a degree that her job has necessitated for years.  When our “me” time is over, we engage with our children who also had “me time” and share the stories of our days.

You don’t ever want to look back and say “what if.”  Try the afterschool care for a bit and see how it works.  If you find yourself not being productive, and not accomplishing anything reconsider it.  If the children are miserable and missing you and your wife, pull the plug.  The worst case scenario in trying is realizing it wasn’t a good fit for you and your family.  The best case scenario is unlocking this great opportunity for your entire family to all give yourselves the “me time” needed to be able to fully give to the “us time” that makes a family function well.

Good luck!

We are all busy and over extended, trying to keep above water with family, career, and self-obligations.  How many people have “me time” incorporated into their weekly schedules?


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