Hit the road AND be a better dad and partner. It can be done.
Way back when life wasn’t so crazy, as the dad of three little angels, my wife and I made an arrangement that has kept our marriage on the straight and narrow and our sanity in check.
It all started when my wife was six months pregnant with our first. In 2008, to be exact.
That year, my mates and I took a boys trip to the USA … a bucket list sort of trip that was everything and more, taking in Hawaii, Vegas and LA.
What that started was a chain reaction that, to this day, sees my wife and I take separate ‘breaks’ annually away from family life to restore some semblance of self that generally goes AWOL once you take the plunge into parenting.
Now that ‘break’ doesn’t always have to be an epic trip or massive time away from the people you love most.
Family budgets, your annual leave allocation, and just wanting to be around usually put paid to that.
But a couple of days of ‘me time’ can do the trick and it’s an annual routine that has worked like magic for us.
I remember the time we “found the secret” like it was yesterday.
Our newborn was 11 months old and the time had passed in the blurry blink of an eye. My wife and I were happy, but exhausted.
In a rock-solid marriage, there’s equal amounts of give and take, so we agreed that because of my boys trip the previous year when she was pregnant, it was her turn to find some ‘me time’.
Nek minute, she was on a plane to Bali with a girlfriend, and I’d taken a week off work to hang out with my daughter and do this parenting thing solo.
(Yes, I know that a trip to the USA versus a trip to Bali ain’t exactly a fair trade, but that’s what she wanted, and it makes sense really – she’s four hours away from being poolside with a cocktail in hand, while I still hadn’t made it to Sydney in four hours, let alone Hawaii.)
While a trip away is designed to help the traveller enjoy some peace, that week with my soon-to-be one-year-old daughter was memorable for me too.
Our days consisted of early mornings, breakfast together, play time, nap, lunch, play time, nap, play time, dinner, bath and bed time. Rinse and repeat.
I LOVED it. Really loved it, and it allowed us to bond even closer together.
It was also a week that gave me a heightened appreciation of just how bloody hard it is to be a stay-at-home parent.
I started to understand that CONSTANT type of day that all stay-at-home parents have.
Meanwhile, my wife enjoyed some much-needed ‘me time’, escaping the grind of being a new mum. It was win/win.
Please don’t get me wrong, we certainly take family trips as well. But as a couple, we’ve realised that a little bit of time to ourselves goes a long way to creating a relatively harmonious household.
Even if it’s just a weekend away. Or even at home.
My wife will tell you one of the best birthday presents I’ve given her was a ‘voucher’ she could use at the time of her choice, where I would take the kids away and let her have the house to herself for the weekend.
I really didn’t think it would cut it, but she absolutely loved it. She loved the chance to have a sleep in every morning, in her own bed, and hang out in her pyjamas all day in the comfort of her own home, only changing maybe for the nightly UberEats delivery.
If you’re wondering whether there is a catch to this utopian type arrangement, well sadly there is.
It gets incrementally harder for the person stuck with the kids for however long, when there is more than one child to look after. I found that out the hard way.
That perfect week I had with my 11-month-old when it was just her became significantly harder the second time we tried it, when our second was 11 months’ old.
One more mouth to feed, one more bottom to clean, one more nap to enact … you get the drill.
But the pain is worth the reward. Again, I think there’s a real benefit in understanding the trials and tribulations of looking after the little ones at home on your own.
Plus, in the give-and-take stakes of a healthy, happy marriage, you should get your chance for some time away in return.
Unaffected sleep that leads into a sleep in … not having to worry about anyone else in your surrounds … cooking for one.
For a weekend away that sounds like bliss to me.
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