Is it time to drop the ‘dad guilt’ when you get time for yourself?

'Checking in' for the sake of it is a habit worth kicking. Enjoy your day out, Dan van der Meer writes.

Friends at the pub

Recently, I had an impromptu message from a mate asking me if I was keen for a game of golf the next day.

It was Saturday arvo and we were fresh home from a week-long family camping trip.

For the first time in forever, I resisted my immediate urge to say no: “A game of golf, on the weekend, with the kids at home … no chance, mate!”

Instead, I sat down and thought about my predicament.

We’ve just had a happy family holiday and I’d only be gone for nine holes. It was in the middle of the day, when our kids could fend for themselves if needed (with my wife at home, obviously).

So, without even asking my wife, I said I’d be there.

My wife and I have what I would like to think is a reasonable relationship when it comes to these things.

She’s been amazing when it’s come to my wants and desires to spend some time with my mates, away from the daily grind of being a dad, and I’d like to feel that I’ve done likewise for her.

In this instance, fresh from a well-planned sleep in for my wife on that Sunday morning (I got up early and made sure the kids were super quiet so she could doze), my wife had no problems with me teeing off.

It was awesome. Some good friends, a beautiful sunny day, and I played pretty well to boot.

As we were walking up the ninth hole towards the clubhouse, we started talking about a visit to the bar for a quick beer. Instantly, that pang of guilt started to kick in. The internal monologue was in full swing.

“I’ve already been here for two hours… will another 30 minutes be OK?”

“My poor wife, alone at home with the three kids. If they’ve been misbehaving I’ll be dead meat when I get home, regardless!”

“I’m literally living the dream right now, why even tempt fate with the thought of a quiet beer?”

Despite the inner workings of a bloke knowing full well he’s walking the line already, I agreed to the beer and, what’s more, stayed on for a steak sandwich.

It was the first time in a long time that I can remember where I HAVEN’T checked in at home to make sure it was OK.

I dropped the guilt, selfishly put my wants and needs at the top of the tree and, frankly, had one of the most enjoyable Sunday afternoons I’ve had in quite a while.

“We started talking about a visit to the bar for a quick beer. Instantly, that pang of guilt started to kick in.”

And herein lies the rub. When I got home (around an hour later than expected), all was good. The kids were awesome, my wife was happily pottering away around the house, and I was in a great state of mind.

So much so that I joined the kids in the pool for a cool-down and muck around, and we inadvertently gave my wife a break from the noise and mayhem in any case.

It got me thinking about the whole “checking in” thing that many dads (me included) usually do when we’re out.

I can’t remember the last time I did it because I actually felt like I HAD to… obviously, when kids are really little or sick at home, there’s an obligation to check in with home and make sure all is good. That’s just part and parcel of being a dad in this day and age.

But despite heading into the next stage of parenting, where our kids are pretty close to being able to fend for themselves somewhat, I still routinely “check in” when out having fun.

It’s sort of become the norm… and it’s my belief that it gets in the way of truly enjoying some “me time” away from home.

I know that when it’s me at home and my wife is out having some me-time, the last thing I want for her to do is to “check in”. I’ve got her phone number in my favourites, I know that if the proverbial hits the fan, she’s just a phone call away.

I also know that she would feel the same way about me when I’m out having fun … although the urge to check in is strong with this one (and many others).

I don’t ever remember my Dad checking in with Mum when he was out, although it was a bit harder in the ’80s to find a payphone I guess.

My plan moving forward is to drop the guilt and resist the urge to check in when I’m on a fully sanctioned day or night out, on my own, away from the house.

I reckon it will make me a better dad at home AND will help me have an even better relationship with my kids.

After all, that’s a key goal for all us dads, right?

READ MORE FROM DAN VAN DER MEER:

For every first, there’s a last (and it can break your heart)
Are boys trips the secret to your sanity as a dad?
‘I have three kids under five and I’ve just been made redundant’

Get the best dad tips in your inbox

Ooops