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Learning, Sharing, and Teaching => Ask a Mustachian => Topic started by: Gay Burqueño Dad on January 02, 2020, 12:30:21 PM

Title: How to approach marriage time equity conversation
Post by: Gay Burqueño Dad on January 02, 2020, 12:30:21 PM
Hi everyone,

This isn't really about Mustachianism (except that I want more time for cooking & DIY projects)… but hey.

So... my husband and I both work full time (36 & 40 hours). He works 3 12-hour shifts which we schedule to be almost always weekdays. I work 9-5. Our jobs are similarly draining (mine pays more but I don't think that is relevant for bean counting, since we both need to work in order to meet our financial goals). We have kids age 4&5 and have prek/kindergarten/before & after care available 6a-6p 5 days a week. (3 days a week is not really feasible due to schedule variability and is no cheaper). Pronoun / gender equity note: we're both men.

I've been feeling like I'm drowning in solo time caring for kids. Today I finally added things up... and I am doing quite a lot more. I do 31 hours of "regularly scheduled" solo kid care per week, my husband does 10-14. The difference is because (1) I do dropoffs/pickups on more days(2) I am constitutionally unable to sleep in so I end up getting up when they do every day while my husband sleeps in 4 days/wk. and (3) my husband has a bowling league for ~3 hours of awake children every week and the gym for ~6 hours of awake children every week. I have 6 hours of protected kid-free time per week (2 weekdays/wk. after work); he has 15-19 plus 6 that aren't guaranteed but usually do happen (weekend gym trips). There are occasional holidays/weekends when he has to work so I have to parent all day but no vice versa days.

The way weekdays work is pretty much set (although I guess I could allow my husband to be awoken by the children earlier 2 days/week.) Weekends are the main timeframe we have to play with. To date we've been roughly splitting them. Now I realize that that is unfair, and that it's why I feel like I'm doing a second shift of solo child care (once you add the way we're currently doing weekends, I have approximately 40 hrs/wk. of solo child care).

I don't necessarily need actuarial fairness and I think a bean-counting frame would cause my husband to raise his hackles. We're not necessarily in a bad place on this issue - in the past, when I've mentioned I need more kid-free weekend time (without getting into fairness or how much), he's said "Go for it!" But I haven't realized that I was doing dramatically more kid care until now (and my husband has been depressed for the past 4 months) so I haven't grasped this opportunity he's given me dispensation for with both hands.

 I think that a needs/wants-based approach to it is the way to go. I've scheduled a kid-free hike for this Saturday & my husband is fine with it.  My husband needs/wants to go to the gym every day on the weekends & go to bowling. I need/want to exercise, have a grownup social activity, & have 4-5 hours for cooking and maybe a DIY project. We both need a date in there, which we can make going to the climbing gym together which gets both of our exercise needs done. So, my idea for how to get this done is:
-I point out my weekend needs/wants and say what I think his are, ask if those are accurate.
-I propose my idea for how to schedule the weekend so we both get our needs/wants met.
-We have a discussion about it. Prior to the next weekend I do the same thing, and the next. (Planning things far into the future is not my husband's favorite thing so I think a weekend at a time is the way to go.)

Does that sound like a good approach? I'm not going to talk about the hours per se, but I guess if he points out that my proposal has more time for him solo-parenting on the weekend than me, I can reasonably and not-meanly point out that he gets 2 weekdays/week when the kids are in child care? If we get into a fight and can't resolve it then get a marriage counselor?
Title: Re: How to approach marriage time equity conversation
Post by: kei te pai on January 02, 2020, 12:50:18 PM
So, just as a reference point, how much time do you have as "do things together with kids" in a week?
Title: Re: How to approach marriage time equity conversation
Post by: MrUpwardlyMobile on January 02, 2020, 12:55:34 PM
I mean, have you ever just said “hey, I want to do x on y days from a-b, can you watch the kids?”  If not, this was a long post for something you could do in 2 minute conversation.  If you don’t offer up concrete plans, as he does with his plans, then you’re basically complaining that he isn’t asking for you about something that is really on you to ask.

Title: Re: How to approach marriage time equity conversation
Post by: affordablehousing on January 02, 2020, 12:56:22 PM
I think your post might freak a lot of people out as being to quote you "pretty actuarial" but I think you are just more honest than most parents are. We have struggled with the issues you raise and I know a neighbor who confided that they kept a spreadsheet for several months to data verify the inequity. I think it can be hard for a pattern to be broken in the wants/needs basis discussion as one partner has a history of documented wants/needs, and the precedent always makes that party feel like those are hard and fast requirements. For us, my partner needed to sign up for things that cost money, such that if I didn't step in, we'd be out some serious bucks for them to miss the activities. It's also harder to go back on something structured than something unstructured. Just my .02.
Title: Re: How to approach marriage time equity conversation
Post by: Freedom2016 on January 02, 2020, 12:57:30 PM
I sympathize (our kids are 5 and 7).

You're right that bean counting will get pretty unproductive - at the margins anyway - although it's useful in identifying large discrepancies.

The way into the conversation might be about your respective needs for down time, recharging time, etc. And that you have been feeling like you're drowning, so did a little reflection to figure out why, and... well, whaddya know it turns out (for various justifiable reasons) that there's a lot of kid care falling disproportionately to you (I think you can share some of your number crunching here - in a non-accusatory, just information-sharing kind of way). And hey, can we work together to figure out a different division of labor that will help me get more recharging time?

The more you can enlist him in problem solving with you, the better.

The direct request approach upthread is also a good one.

[sidebar - for me it would be a pet peeve that someone NOT WORKING on a given day would sleep in and not participate in the morning routine with the kids. They could always go back to bed afterwards...]
Title: Re: How to approach marriage time equity conversation
Post by: Watchmaker on January 02, 2020, 01:02:54 PM
I don't necessarily need actuarial fairness and I think a bean-counting frame would cause my husband to raise his hackles. We're not necessarily in a bad place on this issue - in the past, when I've mentioned I need more kid-free weekend time (without getting into fairness or how much), he's said "Go for it!" But I haven't realized that I was doing dramatically more kid care until now (and my husband has been depressed for the past 4 months) so I haven't grasped this opportunity he's given me dispensation for with both hands.

He's been supportive of the idea of you having more alone time. Maybe just start taking that time?

Does that sound like a good approach? I'm not going to talk about the hours per se, but I guess if he points out that my proposal has more time for him solo-parenting on the weekend than me, I can reasonably and not-meanly point out that he gets 2 weekdays/week when the kids are in child care? If we get into a fight and can't resolve it then get a marriage counselor?


Your approach is reasonable enough; you may be overthinking things a bit. I was surprised to see you reference a marriage counselor at the end--unless there's part of the story missing, that seems like overkill.
Title: Re: How to approach marriage time equity conversation
Post by: Gay Burqueño Dad on January 02, 2020, 01:26:18 PM
@kei te pai - Lately we've been doing about 4 hrs./wk. of "doing something together with the kids" - spend a weekend morning or afternoon all together doing something. But if you schedule that in with him getting up around 8 plus his 9 hours/weekend of relative non-negotiables, there's little time left in the weekend for me. I'm willing to give up the "doing things together" time on a regular basis for now - I think a weekly date is more important and it's something we're not currently doing. We newly have family in the area so a weekly date is now cheaper. :)

@MrUpwardlyMobile - I do that quite frequently - every weekend, really. It's a matter of quantity of stuff, though. The default so far is we each get approximately the same number of kid-free hours on the weekends, or he gets more given he has 9 more or less non-negotiable hours per weekend. But given that I only get a few kid-free hours on the weekdays, rough equality is not enough for me.

Also, I want time to do cooking & DIY projects, which often de facto end up with me doing almost as much kid-watching as he does, even if we pre-discuss and say he is "watching the kids" while I fix the kids' bikes/make food for the week/whatever. His kid-free time is outside the home or with the kids in child care, hence actually kid-free.

@affordablehousing - Yeah, that's definitely part of the issue. My husband can't miss bowling without letting people down, and he's severely overweight, so missing the gym is bad. My things are more flexible, so historically they have flexed disproportionately.

Edited to add: I just re-read your comment, and didn't get the whole thrust the first time. The implication is that I could sign up for some non-flexible activities. I'll have to think about that - nothing leaps to mind as a non-flexible activity I really want to do but hopefully my subconscious will come up with something! Maybe signing up for organized hikes every weekend is non-flexible enough, even though I do have to proactively keep signing up every week or two. I already started that this week, just have to keep it going.

@Freedom2016 - really good ideas, thanks!

@Watchmaker - the marriage counselor thing is not about the marriage being broken - it's not, overall we're pretty happy! But if we can't figure this particular piece out on our own, I do want some help figuring it out. Maybe "couples therapist" more exactly specifies the kind of help I'm open to than "marriage counselor." Also, we've had all kids of gyrations around this issue, so I know that it's a hot-button issue. (2 years ago we both worked too much, commuted too long, and there was simply not enough time so we were both pulling for more kid-free time. Last year, he was staying home so I took them on the weekends as much as humanly possible to preserve his sanity. ETA: Now, I think there is enough time in total for us each to get our needs met, but I'm not currently getting as much time as I need.)
Title: Re: How to approach marriage time equity conversation
Post by: Laura33 on January 02, 2020, 01:48:30 PM
How is your husband managing his depression?  Is he getting therapy, on medication, etc.? 

I mention that as a FWIW because when I was in the thick of it, depression made me withdraw inside myself and need a lot more time alone; it took all my energy just to manage conversations with my DH or my kids, despite how much I loved them.  So DH ended up taking the lion's share with kid stuff by default, because I couldn't handle it.  I really was not a good partner, and I still kick myself for it sometimes, but I just couldn't be -- my own head was all I could handle. 

I may be reading way too much into it, but your DH's focus on his mandatory gymtime and such strike me as both ways to improve his mood and ways to grab himself de-pressured alone time without the guilt of seeing you running around taking care of stuff he knows he should be doing.  If he's not being appropriately treated, maybe getting that help would put him in a better place to engage.  Or if he is getting appropriate treatment, would it help your mental state to think of that time that he spends alone as "medical treatment"?  And are you getting any help dealing with his depression -- do you have a therapist you can talk to?  His depression makes things harder on you, too, and you deserve help and support as much as he does.

Not saying that you shouldn't raise the issue, btw -- it isn't fair that you are dealing with so much more of the kid duties, and you should always raise resentments before they start to fester.  And the way you framed it up sounds very fair and non-accusatory.  But the mention of his depression means that something else may be going on beyond the standard "you're not carrying your weight."  And if he can't carry through with much more than he's currently doing, maybe the answer is to accept that he is doing what he can now, and to find other ways to get you more time off, like paid babysitting or a "daddy's helper" from the neighborhood or something.

Anyway, good luck.  I feel for both of you.
Title: Re: How to approach marriage time equity conversation
Post by: Dee18 on January 02, 2020, 01:59:11 PM
The info that he stayed home last year shifted my view a bit.  He may feel like he deserves more kid free time this year since he had way more kid duty time last year. 
Title: Re: How to approach marriage time equity conversation
Post by: Watchmaker on January 02, 2020, 02:03:08 PM
@kei te pai - Lately we've been doing about 4 hrs./wk. of "doing something together with the kids" - spend a weekend morning or afternoon all together doing something. But if you schedule that in with him getting up around 8 plus his 9 hours/weekend of relative non-negotiables, there's little time left in the weekend for me. I'm willing to give up the "doing things together" time on a regular basis for now - I think a weekly date is more important and it's something we're not currently doing. We newly have family in the area so a weekly date is now cheaper. :)

You have something like 32 hours of time awake on Saturday and Sunday, right? If you spend 4 hours doing something together with the kids and he does his 9 hours of bowling/gym, that leaves 19 hours up for grabs. Even allowing for scheduling inefficiencies, it doesn't sound like it should be hard for you to have 12 hours of kid free time on the weekends. It sounds like your problem is less about the time, and more about the kid free part, since the things you want to do are at home. Rather than you leaving, what about suggesting they (husband and kids) leave the house for a few hours to let you do your thing. Park, movies, brunch, whatever.

@Watchmaker - the marriage counselor thing is not about the marriage being broken - it's not, overall we're pretty happy! But if we can't figure this particular piece out on our own, I do want some help figuring it out. Maybe "couples therapist" more exactly specifies the kind of help I'm open to than "marriage counselor." Also, we've had all kids of gyrations around this issue, so I know that it's a hot-button issue. (2 years ago we both worked too much, commuted too long, and there was simply not enough time so we were both pulling for more kid-free time. Last year, he was staying home so I took them on the weekends as much as humanly possible to preserve his sanity.)
If some guaranteed alone time is really all you need to solve this problem, talking about bringing in a counselor still sounds like overkill to me (from what I know, which is obviously incomplete).

Title: Re: How to approach marriage time equity conversation
Post by: 20957 on January 02, 2020, 02:18:25 PM
Can you schedule some of your stuff for weekday mornings while he does the morning routine? Examples: leave for the gym, do a project in the basement. It would only be an hour or two but it might be a different more satisfying start to the day.
Title: Re: How to approach marriage time equity conversation
Post by: NonprofitER on January 02, 2020, 02:20:16 PM
I think most marriages and partnerships struggle with this stuff - especially when one person (due to logistics, work flexibility, gender roles, or whatever) becomes the default primary caregiver. 

The way we have broached this subject in my household is discussing the burden or mental load of visible AND invisible work, and occasionally working to re-calibrate with open communication.  Using these terms, we've been able to more equitably factor the workloads. Its impossible to keep balanced 50/50 in all things, all the time (work hours, childcare hours, liesure hours, housework etc.), but the occasional discussion/ back of the napkin tally of visible and invisible work loads helps us when we need re-balancing.

I hope this framework might be helpful in your discussions.  It's challenging to aim for constructive conversation and avoid tit-for-tat-ness!

Visible: work hours outside the home, preparing meals, housework/ cleaning, childcare taking (meal prepping, laundry, supervision, drop offs/ pick-ups, etc.), running errands (groceries, etc), and visible forms of leisure time, quality family time

Invisible: mental work of  managing housework (having the innate sense that its time to change the sheets, clean the bathrooms, etc. even if these tasks are delegated out), the mental work of meal planning, mental load of managing the finances, mental/social work of managing childcare (daycare emails, class parties, planning play dates), emotional work of managing social ties (usually one person in a relationship tends to be the default keeper of all things social responsibilities, IE extended family member's birthdays, mailing cards, picking up presents, planning family trips, staying in touch with family friends, etc).  Basically, less overt but still very real time, tasks or mental space that's occupied by family or household planning.


Title: Re: How to approach marriage time equity conversation
Post by: Gay Burqueño Dad on January 02, 2020, 02:33:42 PM
We have talked about it and my husband insists that I should take as much time as I want (while maintaining gym/bowling as sacred). So I'm going to schedule my weekends as packed with outside activities as I want them (which honestly is not super packed). Still not sure how to get my cooking/projects done without more kid "help" than I want since my husband does not want me dictating when he should leave the house with the kids, and doesn't plan his weekends in advance (so I can't plan my outings around the times when he plans to be at home with the kids).  Stay tuned!

@Dee18 - yeah, I think that's part of how this started. But given that both kids were in fulltime childcare at least 3 days/week starting last January, and my husband started work (and 5 day/week childcare) last May, I think it's reasonable to think that enough kid-decompression time has passed.

@Laura33 - Yeah, he's not managing it through any traditional means. My whole side of the family has had depression and does therapy/meds/etc. so I have recommended that many, many times and he is not interested. I think he does view gym/bowling as his "treatment" and I doubt that he will go to therapy or get meds anytime soon. However, he does think he's getting better from this bout of depression, and he thinks he can do significantly more than he's currently doing. He is naturally very good at kid-care and enjoys it a lot, so I believe him when he says he can do a lot more of it on the weekends.

Maybe I should get a therapist for myself, that's a really good idea!

@Watchmaker - I don't think your schedule accounts for the presence of kids or food. It takes 2 hrs/day to get ourselves & the kids ready for life. Then it takes 1 hr/day for wind-down & bed. (Both these figures are conservative). Not that all of those have to involve both of us, but given that we have two kids and they are both generally needy at those times, it takes some careful boundary-setting to avoid being sucked in if I'm even in the house in the morning or the evening. Plus there are lunches and dinners to be made. Realistically, if I'm going to talk to a grownup, exercise, make a large meal including leftovers for much of the week, have a date, and get some amount of DIY/financials/whatever done, that's going to take all of the non-gym/non-bowling time that exists in a weekend. And that's what I plan to do.
Title: Re: How to approach marriage time equity conversation
Post by: Gay Burqueño Dad on January 02, 2020, 02:47:36 PM
Thanks @NonprofitER . I think we need to have that discussion too (I believe I am bearing the brunt of most of the invisible work, and social tie management is mostly not happening) but I think I need a rejiggered weekend or two to decompress from kid-overload before I'll be in a good place for that discussion. New Year's - "Yay, the kids are home! With me... and only me." was the straw that broke the camel's back.
Title: Re: How to approach marriage time equity conversation
Post by: Gay Burqueño Dad on January 02, 2020, 03:01:07 PM
@20957 - That's a good idea. To date I've tried to let my husband sleep in, because he has to get up at 5 on workdays and is naturally more of a night owl, so he would otherwise be sleep deprived. Plus he mostly cannot nap! (A very sad condition IMO). But this may be a case of needing to put my oxygen mask on first. And, if he's capable of it, research says my husband would benefit from wrestling his bedtime earlier because he could then get up at a more consistent time while getting enough sleep in total.
Title: Re: How to approach marriage time equity conversation
Post by: Watchmaker on January 02, 2020, 03:03:28 PM
@Watchmaker - I don't think your schedule accounts for the presence of kids or food. It takes 2 hrs/day to get ourselves & the kids ready for life. Then it takes 1 hr/day for wind-down & bed. (Both these figures are conservative). Not that all of those have to involve both of us, but given that we have two kids and they are both generally needy at those times, it takes some careful boundary-setting to avoid being sucked in if I'm even in the house in the morning or the evening. Plus there are lunches and dinners to be made. Realistically, if I'm going to talk to a grownup, exercise, make a large meal including leftovers for much of the week, have a date, and get some amount of DIY/financials/whatever done, that's going to take all of the non-gym/non-bowling time that exists in a weekend. And that's what I plan to do.

I don't have kids, so it's certainly possible my assumptions aren't reasonable. But if it's taking 2 hours to get the family ready in the morning, I'd say there's significant scope for improved efficiency.

The list of things you want to accomplish on your weekends is significant; I think if I was doing all that, I wouldn't want to leave the house for any other reasons, even if I got some alone time. So maybe you could think about ways to improve efficiency in your life to get back more time overall, then it might not be as hard to carve out personal time.
Title: Re: How to approach marriage time equity conversation
Post by: wellactually on January 02, 2020, 03:18:17 PM
1. Depression

Agree with @Laura33 completely. I've had chronic depression and anxiety my whole life and had a couple bad times during marriage. DH had some situation depression during a three month period of unemployment. Having been on both sides of that, it's super exhausting. Depression is exhausting. Caring for someone who is depressed is exhausting. Sometimes you think you should just pull things together until the phase is over, but then you look up and 6 months have passed and its affecting all kinds of parts of your home.

So regardless of whether your husband gets additional treatment for his depression, you need to consider how to recharge yourself as a caregiver. But also some tough love is necessary here. When I was depressed, I felt guilty all the time, but the idea of trying to get help (after several failed attempts at help in the past) was even worse. Getting support for yourself, therapy or otherwise, might help you navigate how to encourage his own mental health.

2. Child Independence

Your kids sound like they are at a great age to step into some additional self-sufficiency. I'm not even quite at the start of parenthood, so this is aspirational for me! But I've got tons of childcare experience and several very needy nieces and nephews. My co-worker gets up at 4:30 so she can shower and blow dry her hair and do morning chores before she has to spend an hour getting her 8 year old awake, showered, dressed, and fed. That is not what you want! It sounds like you've got a lot of exhausting care time in the mornings and at bedtime. Dream big and imagine what parts of those routines the kids could start taking on themselves. Obviously that's going to vary kid to kid and change over time. But I've watched so many parents continue to take on 100% of their child's grooming and clothing until things are way too baked in. How could you design baby steps toward independence? Brushing teeth and hair is an option. Maybe it's picking out their own clothes. You may have to accept lower standards here as they learn.

Another component of this is independent play. When they get home from school, could there be a 30 minute time of independent play or rest in their room(s)? Maybe it's that there are a few low-supervision activities they can pick from while you're getting settled and getting dinner started (coloring, play outside, etc). On weekends, maybe one of the hours daddy is at the gym is quiet time for kiddos and dad. Set a timer and start with 10 minutes and work up to longer time. This will help your active kid time to be less taxing and likely help you enjoy active kid time more since you get a break.
Title: Re: How to approach marriage time equity conversation
Post by: Gay Burqueño Dad on January 02, 2020, 03:33:07 PM
@wellactually - Thanks re: depression. I have chronic depression too but I'm kind of at a loss as to how to encourage someone who is treatment-averse since in my side of the family treatment is just an accepted fact of life. My husband tried ONE medication once and has thus decided that no medication/therapy will help (or at least not enough to be worthwhile). I bet a therapist can give some good ideas as to how to encourage him. Even if this bout is actually getting better, there is sure to be another one someday.

2. Child independence. I actually have been making huge strides on this lately. My kids now have morning task lists & move from one to the next with minimal encouragement. But you're inspiring me for greater independence. Currently I still have to be involved in many of their morning chores (policing if they actually did their 2 minutes of tooth brushing; spraying their hair before they brush; etc.) Though this is way easier than before and lets me prep and eat my breakfast while they simultaneously get their chores done, I still can't go brush my teeth, dress, shower, etc. efficiently because of all the points at which I am involved in the kids' morning chores. I can think of ways to get them fully independent on each chore now that you have mentioned it; I just have to implement them. Egg timers for the tooth brushing; they can spray each other's hair; etc.
Title: Re: How to approach marriage time equity conversation
Post by: Laura33 on January 02, 2020, 04:19:35 PM
@wellactually I'm kind of at a loss as to how to encourage someone who is treatment-averse since in my side of the family treatment is just an accepted fact of life.

Sounds like a great question to ask your own therapist!  ;-)

Seriously, though, I echo the tough love sentiment.  As you know from dealing with it yourself, the first thing depression does is convince you that there's nothing you can do, and it's soooooo hard to even try, so why bother?  For me, it took my boss at work (who I know thinks I'm great) telling me that I was going to go home and have my husband sit beside me while I looked up therapists in my network and called to make an appointment.  And that he was going to check up on me to make sure I did it.  So I am not surprised that your DH hasn't taken steps -- and given your own history, I'm not surprised that you have found a variety of reasons not to push the subject.  But this is something that needs to be done. 

As much as you love your husband, he cannot be the arbiter of his own mental health, because his opinion is biased from the disease.  And if you are feeling the effects of his disconnection, then he is not fine, no matter what he may think.  So it is your job, for your mental health, his mental health, and the health/stability of your family, to figure out how to get him to go see a professional.  Which means you should elevate your own search for a therapist to priority #1 so you can start figuring out what approach may have the best chance of getting through to him.

I'm sending you my very best wishes.  You are in a very tough spot, and you are doing an admirable job at managing it.  Your love for your family, your emotional maturity, your desire to make things work for everyone come through every word. 
Title: Re: How to approach marriage time equity conversation
Post by: Gay Burqueño Dad on January 02, 2020, 04:26:04 PM
@wellactually - Thanks for bringing your perspective. Someone who's not a parent but also has lots of childcare experience brings a special lens, which I appreciate.

I realized I didn't engage about independent play. We highly value independent play. We consciously chose to live in a neighborhood where our 4&5 year olds can go play outside unsupervised and we all absolutely love it in general. Blissful afternoons where the kids go play outside or at someone else's house in an impromptu playdate that I didn't have to arrange are common in good weather. Yet, the 4 year old struggles to find playmates in the winter. I think that it's probably natural and normal - in addition to the cold, there are usually no other kids outside in the winter, so she would have to knock on someone's door and ask to play. That's a lot to ask of a 4-year-old on her own.

So that leaves inside independent play or me finding her a playmate (maybe her sister, maybe someone else). She's very capable of holding attention for long periods of time on things she chooses. Where she struggles is rule-following; it's very common for there to be a mess, something broken, etc. after she plays by herself for 10 minutes. And then I have to intervene in order to get that cleaned up. I'm newly working on discipline - having clear rules and immediate consequences when they're broken. Hopefully that will bear fruit in rule-following and cleanup after messes are made. Being more proactive about setting playdates in seasons of bad weather is something to consider though I'm not sure I'm up to the additional invisible labor this week. Though maybe the looming unpleasantness of my husband working a 12-hour shift this Sunday will motivate me out of desperation :-) And spring will come very soon in New Mexico.

I think quiet time is an area where I can improve. We're very inconsistent about it, sometimes use separated quiet time as a punishment, etc. If it happened every weekend day, it weren't a punishment, and they could be in the same room together if they didn't argue, I could see it being a good way to gain 30+ minutes of peace per weekend day.
Title: Re: How to approach marriage time equity conversation
Post by: MayDay on January 02, 2020, 04:50:50 PM
I think it's wildly unreasonable to expect a 4/5 year old to get themselves ready independently. The best you can hope for is, like you said, doing periodic reminders while do something else intermittently.

Same with playing independently. The difference in my approach is that I let them break that toy. Fine, you learned a consequence. Now you don't have that toy and there is one less thing to clean up the next time you make a mess! Speaking of the mess, yep, age appropriate. You just clean it up once a ____ (at least once a day but we tended to do it before outings). You lead the kids on it and eventually you say "you have ten minutes to clean up, anything left is getting donated".  They'll clean up, or hey, you donate and now there is less to clean next time!

Title: Re: How to approach marriage time equity conversation
Post by: Gay Burqueño Dad on January 02, 2020, 05:01:39 PM
@MayDay - I agree with your assessments of what's developmentally reasonable. Yet, there are gradations within each category, and moving somewhat more towards the independent side helps tremendously. For example, as of mid-December, I was telling the kids what their next morning task was, and generally wrangling the 4-year-old to make her do every step of the way. Now that I have wisely changed screen time from "As soon as they get up they get screens for a while cuz I don't want to deal with kids first thing in the morning" to "After a child has finished her morning chores she gets some screen time if there is time left before we have to leave" they move from one task to another generally on their own and ask me for help when they need it. I don't have to track who has done what, nor convince the 4 year old that yes, today too, she has to get her teeth brushed.

Your approach to toys would be mine, but my husband disagrees. So every time a toy is to leave the house, he has to approve/deny. All of contemporary American culture is telling him that a room overflowing with toys is Absolutely Necessary For Happy And Healthy Children, so I can't blame him. We are actually very far on the minimalist end from our peer group (We have one toy chest... and all the toys fit in the toy chest and we keep it that way) but moving further is not something that we can agree upon at this time.
Title: Re: How to approach marriage time equity conversation
Post by: Gay Burqueño Dad on January 02, 2020, 05:05:21 PM
@Laura33 - thank you for your kind, heartfelt response that has a laser focus on mental health. I am coming around to believing that my husband's depression is a semi-hidden root cause here. You brought tears to my eyes and a phone to my ear. No one is open now, but inspired by you, I've left messages for a bunch of therapists in my network to see if they're taking new patients.

I should have had one active for myself anyway given my depression history but have neglected it :-)
Title: Re: How to approach marriage time equity conversation
Post by: mm1970 on January 02, 2020, 06:14:01 PM
I think most marriages and partnerships struggle with this stuff - especially when one person (due to logistics, work flexibility, gender roles, or whatever) becomes the default primary caregiver. 

The way we have broached this subject in my household is discussing the burden or mental load of visible AND invisible work, and occasionally working to re-calibrate with open communication.  Using these terms, we've been able to more equitably factor the workloads. Its impossible to keep balanced 50/50 in all things, all the time (work hours, childcare hours, liesure hours, housework etc.), but the occasional discussion/ back of the napkin tally of visible and invisible work loads helps us when we need re-balancing.

I hope this framework might be helpful in your discussions.  It's challenging to aim for constructive conversation and avoid tit-for-tat-ness!

Visible: work hours outside the home, preparing meals, housework/ cleaning, childcare taking (meal prepping, laundry, supervision, drop offs/ pick-ups, etc.), running errands (groceries, etc), and visible forms of leisure time, quality family time

Invisible: mental work of  managing housework (having the innate sense that its time to change the sheets, clean the bathrooms, etc. even if these tasks are delegated out), the mental work of meal planning, mental load of managing the finances, mental/social work of managing childcare (daycare emails, class parties, planning play dates), emotional work of managing social ties (usually one person in a relationship tends to be the default keeper of all things social responsibilities, IE extended family member's birthdays, mailing cards, picking up presents, planning family trips, staying in touch with family friends, etc).  Basically, less overt but still very real time, tasks or mental space that's occupied by family or household planning.
This is so good.  And it's so easy to get lost in the shuffle.  I don't get many dates with my husband, but we walked to the grocery store on our lunch breaks today (we work a block from each other).  We talked about stress, how tired we are, how tired we are of cooking, etc.  And some of the things come with time - your perception changes.  He said "well, that's why you changed your schedule to work late, so you wouldn't have to cook!"

Um, no.  I started working late because my job changed, and I had 2-3 meetings a week that go until 6 pm.  So you HAD to pick up the kids.  And you had one day a week where you had to go in early, not the same day.  To avoid having different schedules on different days, which I personally think will end in disaster, we swapped schedules.  That puts the burden of cooking on him. 

"Oh yeah".  He totally forgot that.  He was starting to feel the burden of cooking was all on him because I didn't want to do it.  Similarly, we have a LOT of appointments.  Dentists, doctors, kid dentist, orthodontist, vet for our new rescue dog, etc.  I used to track them ALL and do more than half.  But I cannot anymore.  I asked him to make an appointment to see a doctor about his snoring, and he snapped at me with all the appointments.  I said simply "you have been snoring, and promising me you'd talk to a doctor, since October of 2018."  Really that long?  "Yes. And it feels like you do not care that I cannot sleep."

We have been using shared calendars, and it has really helped both of us realize the mental load that we carry.  We are both middle aged, with children that are WORK.  We are both pretty tired.  I have worked hard over the last couple of years to take what I need.  I need sleep.  I need exercise.  I need healthy food.  Thus: I go to bed at 8:30 pm.  Before the children.  I only do bedtime routine if he is traveling, and they know it's bedtime earlier.  I stopped fighting the fight to get bedtime to be earlier.  He is a night owl.  It does not bother him if the kids aren't asleep until 9 or 9:30.  Likewise I get up at 5 to go to the gym every day.

He does not get enough sleep and he does not exercise.  I cannot make him do that.  He is an adult and will do it when he gets around to it.  It sounds like you just need to decide what you need and take it.  For me it really was the going to bed at 8:30.  Laura is, as usual, very wise.
Title: Re: How to approach marriage time equity conversation
Post by: Gay Burqueño Dad on January 02, 2020, 06:45:59 PM
@mm1970 -
Yeah, the types of discussions you mention are why we need weekly date nights. There is otherwise no good time for them (among other talks). We are getting a date this Saturday! I need to remember that lunchtime dates are an option. Thanks for reminding me!

OMG, going to bed before the kids sounds FREAKING AMAZING. What a mindspace-expanding idea!

Currently, our bedroom is directly below a kid who likes to bang on the floor so I doubt I would get to sleep before she goes to sleep though. We want to swap her room with the guest room, though, so it could happen after that project is complete! And even before that, I could be in bed reading and getting drowsy with the noise machine on :-)

Where we are on appointments is pretty good actually. I do the invisible labor, my husband does the visible labor (since he has some weekdays off). I only started resenting it in the past few months so thinking about it again makes me realize that appointments aren't a problem, it's the rest of the work division that makes the invisible appointment labor feel like too much.
Title: Re: How to approach marriage time equity conversation
Post by: Captain FIRE on January 02, 2020, 07:32:10 PM
I understand that I have only one kid (although younger), and two is more work, but holy moly, 2 hours to get ready in the morning seems totally crazy and quite ripe to introduce efficiencies.  I'm hoping you are just exaggerating there.

I agree with working on more independent play.  It's something we're working on too.  What do you mean by a mess or broken?  One thing that helps is to make consequences of "mess" less significant.  When he was a baby and crawling/starting to walk, we gated off the room we were in most often and had that pretty childproofed so we could sit on the couch and rest.  Things like crayons/markers/pencils are not left out where he can draw on the walls when unattended (and markers are washable).  So maybe curate the toys to those less breakable/less capable of mess (e.g. colored pencils rather than markers).  Have fewer toys available for playtime if needed.  And learn to be ok with toys being out and messy until independent play is over. 

It sounds like you'll get pulled into morning/evening routine if you are there, so either you need to work on setting better boundaries or you need to be out of the house/obviously unavailable then.  You could probably ease into the better boundaries by a few weeks of being out of the house first.  But yes, you need to learn to speak up to say what you need, enlist your husband's help to be more proactive in engaging the children during this time, and teach the children you are busy if you can't interact with them.  Everyone needs to learn new routines.  :)  Also, just to push back on the you time, do you need as much as you say?
 You said you need time for cooking, but can't they learn to cook with you?  Yes, it definitely takes longer, but my kid likes to "help" sometimes and I am still able to cook then.  Or ask your husband to prep/cook on the weekdays he's at home.  (As a side note, he may not be doing child care, but he is doing other household work during this time?  Maybe rejiggering the balance of household responsibilities is another solution.)

I'd be careful in how much change you introduce at once.  I don't know much about depression, but I can see you getting that relief you need only to have your spouse start to feel worn down.  Can you look into hiring a helper to entertain the kids some days?  Not necessarily full on babysitting but a 10-12 year old who can be paid less because you are around/they are are learning.  Also, sometimes it may be after a short getaway to recharge, such as a weekend away, you just need a little change - such as a few hours to yourself one weekend day.  The weekend away can also make a spouse appreciate the away spouse more than they might otherwise!

Ultimately, keep in mind this is a short a term problem for you given their ages.  I'm pregnant with our second and our first is not yet 3, so I'm looking at a much longer timeframe to free time! 
Title: Re: How to approach marriage time equity conversation
Post by: Gay Burqueño Dad on January 03, 2020, 09:35:34 AM
@Captain FIRE -

2 hours to get ready in the morning is the reality. Note, this is from when I get up to when we leave and includes my morning stuff, packing food for me & at least one kid, etc. I am working on getting it lower, but it is a slow process. Yes, one can pack food at night, but then that's one more thing to do at night; it just moves the work around.

Yeah... the 4-year-old is relatively inclined towards more problematic messes than average. I have a couple holes in the drywall in her room I still need to fix (there was a pre-existing weakness in the drywall), marks on her door from her boots, pencil on the walls, one time a sharpie was left out and that was a problem, etc. Yes, those things don't actually impair life, but someday this house will be sold and those things will need to be dealt with eventually. I don't care about toys on the floor (until the end of the day when it is time to clean them up) but currently when I let her free play at home with no friends it is fairly likely to result in something that is actual work for me to fix (yes, I have her "help" to learn but she is 4 so the "help" increases the time). We are working on it, but this kid is just significantly more "spirited" than most other kids. Quiet time / independent play is no problem for her sister.

Unfortunately, my husband and I have different food preferences. He can and does eat pasta and prepackaged food all week long, whereas I desire and think I need for health and thriftiness more of a variety of food that he finds unappetizing. (He is pretty far on the spectrum of being a picky eater; our peer group and family generally finds my food delicious.) So asking him to do "my" cooking is a non-starter. Asking that he regularly go shopping on his days off is more of a possibility.

My husband does do close to 100% of the "real cleaning" (as opposed to tidying, dishes, wiping down counters) and kid-laundry and this generally occurs on his days off. However, he also does have significantly more leisure time than I do - the gym, Netflix, and voluntarily picking the kids up hours early from childcare to go do something fun for them are also part of his weekday-off routine.

Cooking and most projects can and do happen with the kids around and I definitely include them in the things they can do. I suspect we'll end up with that as the end-state and I'll be happier to have them around once I take more outside-the-home kid-free time.

I think we do need an overall rejiggering of household responsibilities. Aside from finance, DIY projects, and yard maintenance being on my side of the ledger and cleaning/laundry being on his, we've sleepwalked into a something like a stereotypical male/female two-income gender role division where I'm doing a "second shift" and his responsibilities, though significant, don't add up to as much. I'm interested by the apparent gender split in the comments and think it's not an accident.
Title: Re: How to approach marriage time equity conversation
Post by: Captain FIRE on January 03, 2020, 09:59:15 AM
I have really tried to avoid commenting about gender, but I have to tell you I really wanted to write that same sex relationships really are just like opposite sex ones!  Except 1) I pretty much already knew that and 2) I'm pretty sure that's offensive so let's pretend I didn't say anything.  :)

Believe me when I say I understand spirited, active child.  My kid took his first steps at 8.5 mos, solidly walking at 10, and wants to explore and get into *everything*.  It's evident watching him at daycare or seeing other friends kids he's on the very high side of active.  You can't prevent all messes, but I still think you can minimize them (no unsupervised pens, markers, pencils!).  Maybe also work on independent play in your eye sight, so you can be cooking say, and speak up if there's  a problem, but you're not sitting on the floor with her.  And make sure there are logical consequences for mistakes.  You made marks on the door with your boots?  You get to help scrub the marks off the door. 

Even if he has different food preferences, he can still help out with the cooking, or at least the tedious prep work.  It's simply something that needs to be done, like laundry.  Perhaps package it as either he can chip in with this on his alone time, or he needs to figure out how to give you X hours of kid-free time on the weekend for you to do it (that does NOT overlap with kid-free leisure time).  And that means either he needs to take the kids out of the house or he needs to be much more active/aggressive in rechanneling the kids when they come to you during that time.  Of course there's room to compromise here too - e.g. X nights a week, you eat his easier style food.  For another compromise -
if he wants to sleep in most days, maybe he takes over all bedtime routines and you take over the morning routines.

We are out the door, everyone showered, dressed, fed (ok, kid only fed, but by choice we bring breakfast in if we eat it which is an option for you), and yes, a lunch made for the kid/sometimes adults within an hour.  I imagine we'll add on some time for kid two but nowhere near an hour, and we'll save some time as kid one will learn to put on clothes himself in the next year/stop needing/wanting an adult in the bathroom with him every time he uses it.  Even when my husband travels and it's just me getting him ready, it's still an hour or sometimes less, as we have one less shower to fit in.
Title: Re: How to approach marriage time equity conversation
Post by: seemsright on January 03, 2020, 03:29:41 PM
I am going to chime in: preschoolers are HARD. I have a rock solid marriage and when our 9 year old was a preschooler it shook our marriage foundation to the core. Our DD was so hard at 4 you could not pay me all of the money in the world to do that age again.

Leave the small to dos on the list. Take care of what you must do...the hole in the wall can wait.

 Give the 4 year old a can of foam shaving cream and let them go to town on the kitchen floor while you drink a cup of coffee and read a book. Then when they are done playing...a perfect place to practice their letters. You mop up the kitchen floor (the best thing I ever found to clean the floor) and you put the kid in the tub. I was always able to get about 3 hours of time with the trick.   
Title: Re: How to approach marriage time equity conversation
Post by: Sandi_k on January 03, 2020, 09:50:13 PM
We are DINKs, but have been together for 20+ years, and have recently moved so that I am out of the house for 12 hours per day (commute + work) 4 days per week. As a result, we had to optimize and do better at re-negotiating our previous routine.

FI is great, but divorce is expensive. For the time while you still have pre-schoolers, I would say that DIY is not something that needs to be preserved in every area.

For example: I would be hiring a mother's helper 2x per week while food prep is being done; I'd be using delivery for groceries, with a standard weekly list; I would be dropping off laundry to a wash-and-fold service to get back time...

One way we dealt with inequities in the chores list early on was a simple notation system on the fridge; I'd enter date, length of time, and task, e.g., Sandi, 45 mins, Jan 2, dishes.

At the end of the month, we'd total up the length of time we'd each spent, and pay one another the differential. We used $18 per hour as the average cost, and if I spent two hours more than DH on tasks that month, he owed me $18 (I would have paid a housecleaner $9, and he would have paid $9). If he didn't want to lose cash, he had to look at the list, and step up.

By month 2, he was identifying things that he could do to even the time, and by month 6, we were close to 50/50 in terms of time spent on household chores.

The money "hit" isn't as substantial/obvious if your funds are completely co-mingled, but ours are not. So the pain was real, and so was the progress. ;)
Title: Re: How to approach marriage time equity conversation
Post by: Gay Burqueño Dad on January 06, 2020, 08:55:09 AM
So, to update anyone who's reading, I have:

-Identified the feeling I have as "burnout"
-Made an appointment with a therapist
-Laid out what I want to my husband. He hasn't processed it enough to be ready for give-and-take yet, but I told him that I need to get started ASAP because of how burnt out I am. So we are starting with my proposed schedule (which has almost equal hours of solo kid time and kid-free time, at least in the way I am counting things). I would guess he'll be ready to talk more later this week. (It's typical for him to take a number of days to process emotional info, and this is a rather big piece.)

A hike on Saturday and yoga this morning made all day with the kids yesterday so much better.
Title: Re: How to approach marriage time equity conversation
Post by: Laura33 on January 06, 2020, 10:25:12 AM
So, to update anyone who's reading, I have:

-Identified the feeling I have as "burnout"
-Made an appointment with a therapist
-Laid out what I want to my husband. He hasn't processed it enough to be ready for give-and-take yet, but I told him that I need to get started ASAP because of how burnt out I am. So we are starting with my proposed schedule (which has almost equal hours of solo kid time and kid-free time, at least in the way I am counting things). I would guess he'll be ready to talk more later this week. (It's typical for him to take a number of days to process emotional info, and this is a rather big piece.)

A hike on Saturday and yoga this morning made all day with the kids yesterday so much better.

Great start!  Really glad to hear it.  It's also great that you know your husband well enough to know how he needs to process things, and that you are ok with giving him the space he needs to do that.
Title: Re: How to approach marriage time equity conversation
Post by: Gay Burqueño Dad on January 06, 2020, 11:04:13 AM
Thanks @Laura33 ! You and the others on this post were a big help! :-)
Title: Re: How to approach marriage time equity conversation
Post by: researcher1 on January 06, 2020, 11:38:51 AM
I've been feeling like I'm drowning in solo time caring for kids. Today I finally added things up... and I am doing quite a lot more.

Lately we've been doing about 4 hrs./wk. of "doing something together with the kids"
I'm willing to give up the "doing things together" time on a regular basis for now.

So I'm going to schedule my weekends as packed with outside activities as I want them.

So we are starting with my proposed schedule (which has almost equal hours of solo kid time and kid-free time, at least in the way I am counting things)

What you have described is NOT a family.

It is more of a contractual obligation requiring each of you to work xx hours/week babysitting kids, and actively trying to minimize the time you spend as a “family.”

This sounds like a very cold, business like environment.
You've provided little to no discussion of spending quality time together as a family, or what might be best for your two young kids.

There are over 100 hours waking hours in a given week, yet you only spend 4 hours together as a family?????
That is really sad.  Yet your solution is to spend even LESS time as a family, in favor of further maximizing your personal alone time.
Title: Re: How to approach marriage time equity conversation
Post by: Gay Burqueño Dad on January 06, 2020, 12:01:25 PM
@researcher1 - It's 4 hrs/week on some kind of Outing going somewhere together outside the home. I actually think that is plenty, & my proposal doesn't give that up. The kids have great childcare during the week but it is a lot of time in structured activities. The kids need some unstructured time to just be kids and the weekends are most of when we can do that.

All kinds of meals together, reading together, playing games together, and hanging out together still happens. It's not counted in that 4 hrs/week.

The kids have a wonderful, nurturing life and I really don't have any concerns there. We have made that a priority and implemented it fine. It's how it happens that is changing.

My husband and I have always (especially post-kids) had warm give-and-take where we're each looking out for each other and will continue to. But the amount I was previously giving, I didn't actually have available to give long-term. That doesn't work. I needed to reset the starting point back to something close to equality in order for us to evolve it to something great & workable long-term.
Title: Re: How to approach marriage time equity conversation
Post by: researcher1 on January 06, 2020, 12:27:00 PM
@researcher1 - It's 4 hrs/week on some kind of Outing going somewhere together outside the home. I actually think that is plenty, & my proposal doesn't give that up.

All kinds of meals together, reading together, playing games together, and hanging out together still happens. It's not counted in that 4 hrs/week.

But the amount I was previously giving, I didn't actually have available to give long-term. That doesn't work. I needed to reset the starting point back to something close to equality in order for us to evolve it to something great & workable long-term.

You've spent a great deal of time and energy in calculating you & your partner's share of "solo kid time" and "solo kid-free time" and are solely fixated on these buckets, with absolutely no mention of "family time". 

You say your "proposal" doesn't give up your 4 hrs/week of family time, but you explicitly said "I'm willing to give up the "doing things together" time on a regular basis for now."

I'd be curious to know how much additional time is spent 'hanging out together', beyond the 4 hours you mentioned previously.
For a couple in a committed relationship with two young kids, it seems like there is an awful lot of time dedicated to "solo kid-free time." 
Title: Re: How to approach marriage time equity conversation
Post by: Gay Burqueño Dad on January 06, 2020, 01:11:53 PM
@researcher1 I appreciate your perspective. We may evolve in that direction as time goes on. Right now, getting to a minimum of self-care time and 1:1 couple time must happen. We won't have my mental health or a strong relationship without that and everything else depends on those things.

ETD something about research that I don't want to get into.
Title: Re: How to approach marriage time equity conversation
Post by: researcher1 on January 06, 2020, 01:50:31 PM
I'm not aware of research showing that two-parent-with-kid(s) time has important developmental outcomes.

You need clinical research to feel that kids spending quality time with both parents is a good thing, versus having isolated/segregated interactions with just 1 parent (while the other is always gone doing their own thing)?

This comment in particular seemed off..."I'm willing to give up the "doing things together" time on a regular basis for now."
That sounds awfully close to describing a broken, divorced home life.
Title: Re: How to approach marriage time equity conversation
Post by: honeybbq on January 06, 2020, 01:52:08 PM
I have high needs for "Getting out and DOING stuff" both with and without kids, so I am more like your husband here than you maybe, but here are some things I do to try and 'balance' the time I need with family/spouse/etc.

Our YMCA has a play area for the kiddos so that we could both work out at the same time. Not sure if your exercise time includes gym or not but might be worth looking into. Kids love it, we both get to work out however we want, and it's "free".

Get a bike trailer and bike around with the kids in tow. Find a playground 5 miles away. Bike there, let them play, bike back.

4 and 5 year olds can also hike. Maybe you are doing long get-away hikes, but introduce your kids to hiking now, and they will be able to keep up with you when they are older. My daughter can do 8 miles RT right now, and hoping to increase her ability.

In a few years, if you like running, you can run while your kids bike along side of you.

If I need "ME" time, I get up early. Like I leave for my hike or my long run before anyone in the house is awake. I try to get back reasonably quickly and have time to spend with the family or to give my spouse a break for his needs.

Weekends away: we both schedule weekends away for hobbies. So I might go somewhere out of town (fly or a long drive) for a hockey tournament or a race. He has his own weekends to do his hobbies as well. We try to be fair and equitable in our distribution of these times and spaces according to our needs.

Anyways, I think your situation is relatively NORMAL for married couples. Sometimes the pendulum swings too far one way and you have to constructively get it back in the middle. Have some conversations with your spouse, explain your needs, maybe not bean-count but describe the distribution of free time as non-equitable.  Good luck!
Title: Re: How to approach marriage time equity conversation
Post by: Giro on January 07, 2020, 07:19:14 AM
Just find a gym with childcare.

Title: Re: How to approach marriage time equity conversation
Post by: Gay Burqueño Dad on January 07, 2020, 09:29:43 AM
@Giro - jeez, what an obvious piece of the puzzle, thanks! Inspired by you, I found one with hours that work & childcare, hopefully my husband likes it! WAY cheaper than an equivalent amount of babysitting, and no one has to do the invisible labor of setting up babysitting or papa's helper schedule forever.
Title: Re: How to approach marriage time equity conversation
Post by: jeninco on January 07, 2020, 10:15:28 AM
I've been reading along, and am wishing you all the best.

One thing I did for just plain exercise was (as honeybbq mentioned) run on relatively flat trails with a kid on a bike keeping me company. We managed to talk (somewhat), and I could give him a boost on hilly sections. It also got us out of the house and into the sunshine. Hiking with kids is less "exercise", more "get outside" for a while, though.

Good luck!
Title: Re: How to approach marriage time equity conversation
Post by: Gay Burqueño Dad on January 07, 2020, 11:06:50 AM
@jeninco - Yeah, I spend a good portion of my solo time with the kids "hiking" (more accurately, playing in nature).

I also sometimes run while one or both bike. It's not a sure thing to get the 4-year-old to go at all, or to go any reasonable distance for fitness. Also, their bikes both currently need to be fixed, whether by me or a shop. One of the bikes has been languishing ever since winter started (we are in New Mexico, so there are a good number of winter days that are still bike riding weather). That languishing points to how we may need to address our division of non-kid labor. And maybe I sold our bike trailer too soon!

My husband will sometimes bike along with us, but having the kids along kills hiking for him because he wants to make forward progress.
Title: Re: How to approach marriage time equity conversation
Post by: MrThatsDifferent on January 07, 2020, 10:32:20 PM
I'm not aware of research showing that two-parent-with-kid(s) time has important developmental outcomes.

You need clinical research to feel that kids spending quality time with both parents is a good thing, versus having isolated/segregated interactions with just 1 parent (while the other is always gone doing their own thing)?

This comment in particular seemed off..."I'm willing to give up the "doing things together" time on a regular basis for now."
That sounds awfully close to describing a broken, divorced home life.

Research—You don’t need to be so Judgmental. They are a family and they are navigating this like everyone else. It isn’t easy and no one has all the answers. I admire him for his honesty and willingness to work on solutions, and take care of himself. Too many families have absent fathers, whether in the house or gone for good.

Ease up and back off, you’ve had your say.
Title: Re: How to approach marriage time equity conversation
Post by: researcher1 on January 08, 2020, 07:34:37 AM
Research—You don’t need to be so Judgmental. They are a family and they are navigating this like everyone else. It isn’t easy and no one has all the answers. I admire him for his honesty and willingness to work on solutions, and take care of himself. Too many families have absent fathers, whether in the house or gone for good.

Ease up and back off, you’ve had your say.
The entire point of this sub forum, "Ask a Mustachian", is to receive feedback about whatever situation you post about.
He asked about navigating through being a family and I gave my opinion. 
Are we only supposed to share opinions that make the OP (or other posters) feel warm & fuzzy?

I also admire his honesty, but does that mean we should be dishonest with our feedback?
Should we just sugarcoat our responses and give him a pat on the back?
Or should we highlight problem areas for him to think about?

It shouldn't be controversial to suggest that the OP giving up all time spent as a family is not a great solution!
Title: Re: How to approach marriage time equity conversation
Post by: Captain FIRE on January 08, 2020, 08:58:37 AM
While constructive criticism can be helpful (and OP took your comments very well), it can also be worthwhile to recognize that sometimes you need to put on your own life jacket first.  Here, OP is at wits end, so the immediate issue is figuring out how to get him more down time so he doesn't have a mental breakdown, and secondarily, figure out a long-term plan for the family that includes a good balance of work/home/personal/family time.  This is why suggestions on how to accomplish getting more time back - like Giro's suggestion of a gym with childcare (which I foolishly assumed the OP had already considered so didn't propose) - are particularly valuable.  Suggestions on how to negotiate the remaining time with the spouse are also useful, but probably a bit less so.

I agree that more family time in the long run is good, but I'm confident they can navigate that themselves once everyone is on an even keel (e.g. more time for OP, depression issues for spouse looked into/resolved).

I think MrThatsDifferent is probably also reacting to your challenging tone.  You don't need to walk on eggshells, but oftentimes the medicine goes over better with a spoonful of sugar, or in other words, sometimes the message is fine but the delivery can be improved so it's better heard.*

*Written by one whom sometimes takes a more challenging tone than ideal.
Title: Re: How to approach marriage time equity conversation
Post by: Gay Burqueño Dad on January 08, 2020, 09:16:45 AM
Thanks, @Captain FIRE and @MrThatsDifferent . I had consciously chosen to disengage from @researcher1 because of their tone.

I will note, the perspective (though not the delivery) was helpful, so I would encourage you @researcher1 to continue to voice potentially hard truths in this forum (though please do think about tone and try to put yourself in the other person's shoes). I am thinking that the weekend time we will hopefully get back by using a gym with childcare can, in the long term, be family time.

But, I stand by my conviction that family time is/was far from a top priority in the short term given that I am/was in burnout crisis from kid overload (and family time involves additional kid exposure).
Title: Re: How to approach marriage time equity conversation
Post by: Laura33 on January 08, 2020, 09:32:00 AM
He asked about navigating through being a family and I gave my opinion. 

Yeah, no.  You said they weren't a "family," and you have questioned their commitment to being together.  That is insulting and hurtful -- and very likely particularly insulting to two gay dads who for most of their lives didn't even have the legal right to marry and be a family, and who probably to this day hear snide, underhanded, plausible-deniability comments suggesting that they aren't a real "family" even now. 

You can give constructive feedback without being personally insulting.  The fact that someone sat down and tracked the specifics of something that was bothering him isn't exactly novel for this particular forum, now, is it?  I swear, the number of people here who run their lives based on Excel is kinda scary sometimes.  He also very specifically noted that his conversations with his husband were not based on bean-counting, but that instead he'd done the tracking to confirm or deny his own impression that he was carrying a lot more of the load.  Again, that is something that normal people do when they're dealing with a partner who doesn't seem to see any difference -- you want to make sure you're not overreacting and your concerns are real before you raise them (ask me how I know).  It does not mean they are not a family, it does not mean they are not committed to each other, it does not mean they don't want to spend time together, and your suggestions to the contrary are a negative distraction to the conversation.  If you want to help, offer real suggestions instead of insulting their relationship and commitment to each other and their kid. 
Title: Re: How to approach marriage time equity conversation
Post by: Gay Burqueño Dad on January 08, 2020, 10:22:21 AM
As usual, @Laura33 saw into the emotional reality, beyond what I was able or willing to say here/admit to myself. I did find your comments hurtful, @researcher1 , and the thought of potential anti-gay bias did cross my mind. The "not a family" comment, yes - but also it felt to me that you were cherrypicking statements & not giving benefit of the doubt. I hoped it was because you had had had negative experience with divorce / separation / broken marriage and thus were extra-sensitive to the potential for it in someone else, or because you had a fairly rigid view of how families should work, but anti-gay bias was also in my mind as a possibility.
Title: Re: How to approach marriage time equity conversation
Post by: Goldielocks on January 08, 2020, 10:59:42 AM
Lots of good responses, my quick take away:

1)  Your husband needs to find a gym with child care, especially on the weekends.  He gets in gym time, and you get 2 hours of time on your own.   Or he doesn't ever have to miss gym time even if you plan an all day hike with friends a couple of times a month.   Switching gyms or adding a second weekend gym should not be a non-negotiable for a Dad.

2)  You go to bed / have quiet you time in the evenings, and he puts kids to bed.  You just "retire" early, 1 hr before kids do, and read or PC or whatever you like.

3) Don't  include your early waking / taking care of kids as your tracked on duty time.  Sure you can track it and let him know, but in your own mind, let it not "count".   People don't work that way.   You have to realize that you are an early riser so even if he did choose to take over mornings, you will still be up, and as you are a very good Dad, you will still be interacting with the kids.   Instead, have some of that time as your cherished one to one breakfast time with the kids (It shouldn't be a fight / yell fest, with 2 hours to get ready, right?)

IMO, this is normal human stuff and not therapist -required.   Just do it.   Have a standing agreement that you can take off last minute on Saturdays even if you did not make other plans, that he is on the hook for figuring out the kids.
Title: Re: How to approach marriage time equity conversation
Post by: researcher1 on January 08, 2020, 11:12:12 AM
u said they weren't a "family," and you have questioned their commitment to being together.  That is insulting and hurtful -- and very likely particularly insulting to two gay dads who for most of their lives didn't even have the legal right to marry and be a family, and who probably to this day hear snide, underhanded, plausible-deniability comments suggesting that they aren't a real "family" even now. 

So would my comments be acceptable if this were a male/female relationship, but not for a same sex partnership?
Why should it matter what sex they are?  Shouldn't advice be similar for all types of families?
Or should we suppress or sugarcoat our responses depending on what type of family it is?

The facts are that the OP made zero mention of spending time as a family in the first post.
When someone asked about that, the response was..."I'm willing to give up the "doing things together" time on a regular basis for now."

Is that how you would describe a family?
Would you suggest this is how a healthy family should operate (spending zero time together)?

I fail to understand how this is even a controversial opinion.
Title: Re: How to approach marriage time equity conversation
Post by: Kris on January 08, 2020, 11:17:03 AM
u said they weren't a "family," and you have questioned their commitment to being together.  That is insulting and hurtful -- and very likely particularly insulting to two gay dads who for most of their lives didn't even have the legal right to marry and be a family, and who probably to this day hear snide, underhanded, plausible-deniability comments suggesting that they aren't a real "family" even now. 

So would my comments be acceptable if this were a male/female relationship, but not for a same sex partnership?
Why should it matter what sex they are?  Shouldn't advice be similar for all types of families?
Or should we suppress or sugarcoat our responses depending on what type of family it is?

The facts are that the OP made zero mention of spending time as a family in the first post.
When someone asked about that, the response was..."I'm willing to give up the "doing things together" time on a regular basis for now."

Is that how you would describe a family?
Would you suggest this is how a healthy family should operate (spending zero time together)?

I fail to understand how this is even a controversial opinion.

Wow, researcher1. Gross.

I would strongly suggest the tone and hostility/aggression you've repeatedly displayed in your posts here say a lot more about you than about the OP.
Title: Re: How to approach marriage time equity conversation
Post by: Laura33 on January 08, 2020, 11:29:23 AM
u said they weren't a "family," and you have questioned their commitment to being together.  That is insulting and hurtful -- and very likely particularly insulting to two gay dads who for most of their lives didn't even have the legal right to marry and be a family, and who probably to this day hear snide, underhanded, plausible-deniability comments suggesting that they aren't a real "family" even now. 

So would my comments be acceptable if this were a male/female relationship, but not for a same sex partnership?
Why should it matter what sex they are?  Shouldn't advice be similar for all types of families?
Or should we suppress or sugarcoat our responses depending on what type of family it is?

Well, if you actually want to help someone, you usually try to say things in a way that they can hear.  And usually, when you start off insulting people, that forces them to become defensive, which then forces them to double down to defend their own position, and so as a result makes them less likely to hear what you're trying to say.  If you actually thought about the OP's situation, you'd realize that having and being a family is a big fucking deal for gay people, and that maybe starting with the insinuation that they are not really a family is hurtful and counterproductive.

It's not about gay/straight in particular.  It's not about sugarcoating (Lord knows I'm direct).  It's about trying hard not to gratuitously insult people under the guise of "helping" -- about taking that extra minute or two to think about how you say things.   
Title: Re: How to approach marriage time equity conversation
Post by: researcher1 on January 08, 2020, 11:38:30 AM
As usual, @Laura33 saw into the emotional reality, beyond what I was able or willing to say here/admit to myself...
I can assure you, with 100% certainty, that your family makeup has absolutely nothing to do with the comments made here.

You yourself said my perspective was helpful.  And that perspective is...
It is NOT a healthy family dynamic to cut out all time spent as a family, which is what you initially suggested...
"I'm willing to give up the "doing things together" time on a regular basis for now."

That is not, and should not, be a controversial position!!!

Here is my point...
Your main issue is that you've been feeling like you're drowning in solo time caring for kids.
The solution is for your partner to step up and help out more AS A FAMILY, not retreat to your separate corners to maximize personal alone time.

A big problem is your partner's atypical work schedule AND his desire for so much personal alone time. 
Given his 12-hour shift schedule, you are effectively operating as a single parent for much of the week, instead of as a team (dare I say family).
This is compounded by the fact that your partner "requires" so much time pursuing personal activities (bowling, working out, ect).

If he were around more, it would both lessen your stress/burden dealing with the kids and allow for more time spent as a family unit.
This would hopefully kill 2 birds with 1 stone, as you wouldn't feel the need to trade what little family time you currently have for more personal alone time.

It may be worth it for him to find a job with a more traditional 9-5 schedule.
At the very least, he should be working out at time that don't impact family time (before kids wake up, after they go to bed, ect).

Title: Re: How to approach marriage time equity conversation
Post by: researcher1 on January 08, 2020, 11:59:59 AM
Well, if you actually want to help someone, you usually try to say things in a way that they can hear.  And usually, when you start off insulting people, that forces them to become defensive, which then forces them to double down to defend their own position.

Again, I don't see how anything I've said has been controversial in any way.  Here are some of the OP's comments I used to form my thoughts...
"I'm willing to give up the "doing things together" time on a regular basis for now.
So I'm going to schedule my weekends as packed with outside activities as I want them.
So we are starting with my proposed schedule (which has almost equal hours of solo kid time and kid-free time, at least in the way I am counting things)"


The OP is effectively operating as a single parent much of the time (due to partner's work schedule and personal activities).
There is zero discussion of time spent as a family.

This does not sound like a cohesive family atmosphere, and spending even LESS time as a family doesn't seem to be the answer.
Do you find this to be an unreasonable perspective???

I guess I could have couched my thoughts with lots of superfluous fluff in an effort to avoid offending anyone.
Title: Re: How to approach marriage time equity conversation
Post by: historienne on January 08, 2020, 12:10:35 PM
A few thoughts thoughts:

First, my husband and I do MUCH more beancounting than you are describing here, and we are extremely happily married.  I think you're actually doing great in balancing the realities of the inequality that's playing out right now with a recognition that the goal is to get to a balance that works for you, not some exactly equal division of time.

Second, since you are doing more of the childcare, maybe he just needs to use his non-working days to do more of the housework so that you can have a few hours to putter around after the kids are in bed.  I tend to think that it's good for our family dynamics to have equality in childcare, separately from the issue of overall household labor--i.e., we try not to get into a pattern where one person does all of the childcare and the other person makes up for it by doing all of the housework, because we both want to have time to nurture our relationship with our kids.  But sometimes it can't be helped, and if you're burnt out, you don't want the perfect to be the enemy of the good.  It sounds like he's already doing bedtime at least two days/week, which is good - that might also be a time when, instead of being out of the house, you might try to come home a bit earlier and spend the time doing your projects.

Third, is there any chance that the family who is willing to babysit would be willing to host a sleepover at their house, at least occasionally?  My parents actually love having my kids sleep over at their house, and it's a great adventure for my kids.  We generally use the time to have a luxurious morning of sleeping in, but you could get up and do some DIY or cooking then.  If you're family's not genuinely enthusiastic about it, then it's obviously not something to push--but I know that in my case, it's a win-win. 

Alternatively, maybe you could alternate getting family to watch kids for a date night, and having them keep the kids for an afternoon where each of you do solo projects.  Both are important.  And if you start using a gym with childcare, it sounds like you might be able to get some weekend time together while you exercise.  My husband and I will take our kids to the Y and exercise separately, but then sit in the sauna together for a half hour or so before we pick the kids back up.  It's not a ton of time, but it's time when we are out of the house and relaxing, which is hugely valuable to maintaining our connection.

Finally, I do think it's worth being realistic about the amount of "free time" that's available in life with young kids.  Y'all are actually both getting more kid-free time than my husband and I do.  Some of that is by our choice; we prioritize family time on the weekends more than y'all do.  That's not a better choice, just a different one, that works for our family and our needs.  If y'all need more solo time, then you should absolutely prioritize that.  But I think we'd have trouble building in as much solo time as y'all have right now (21+ hours minimum between the two of you) while still doing the basics required to keep our life together (cook, clean, pay bills, do repairs, etc).  If we did, it would come at the expense of basically all our family time and couple time.   Again, if you can make it work because you have family support, using gym childcare, etc, that's great.  But part of this equation might have to involve your husband admitting that the amount of time he expects to get is just not realistic. 
Title: Re: How to approach marriage time equity conversation
Post by: Gay Burqueño Dad on January 08, 2020, 12:18:59 PM
I can assure you, with 100% certainty, that your family makeup has absolutely nothing to do with the comments made here.

That's great, thanks for clarifying. Please do work on your tone & empathy, I think that would improve your ability to help on these forums a lot.

The solution is for your partner to step up and help out more AS A FAMILY, not retreat to your separate corners to maximize personal alone time.

A big problem is your partner's atypical work schedule AND his desire for so much personal alone time. 
Given his 12-hour shift schedule, you are effectively operating as a single parent for much of the week, instead of as a team (dare I say family).
This is compounded by the fact that your partner "requires" so much time pursuing personal activities (bowling, working out, ect).

If he were around more, it would both lessen your stress/burden dealing with the kids and allow for more time spent as a family unit.
This would hopefully kill 2 birds with 1 stone, as you wouldn't feel the need to trade what little family time you currently have for more personal alone time.

It may be worth it for him to find a job with a more traditional 9-5 schedule.
At the very least, he should be working out at time that don't impact family time (before kids wake up, after they go to bed, ect).


These are reasonable thoughts. I will note:
1) Not everyone has access to traditional 9-5 employment that they find tolerable and that pays them enough. My husband is not highly educated ("some college") and works in healthcare. Believe me, I'd love to have him working 9-5 but for now that's not happening. Yes, he could work in outpatient clinic care 5 days/week 9-5, but it pays far less per hour and he enjoys having more days off. I do have it on my mind to try to cut our expenses/grow my income to the point that a part-time clinic role was a good option for him, but it's not a good option right now.

2) I think it's reasonable for my husband to work out without children (gym), and for him to need a social outlet without children (bowling). Unfortunately, it would be really hard for him to find a good social outlet on his days off. Stay-at-home parent circles generally have kids around (not our favorite right now), and retirees are much older than us. It certainly could happen (find a stay at home parent with all their kids in school/childcare with time/chemistry?), but it would take a good bit of effort on his part.

3) I actually think we'll find a good balance while preserving his gym time and bowling time. Aside from getting me some self-care time on weekdays, and getting a gym with childcare, I think a third key to it will be off-loading me of some non-kid responsibilities too. Whether those go to my husband on his days off or to paid services, I don't know. But if the shopping & other stuff wasn't weighing on me so much, I think it would make a difference. I could get home for dinner every weekday that he works rather than often shoehorning a grocery or library trip in after work. Just feeling that I have a lighter load of non-childcare tasks in exchange for a heavier load of childcare would help me be happier doing whatever we end up doing together on the weekend rather than getting some task done or getting in some piece of self-care.

4) I think you're fixating on a statement about giving up our "doing stuff together" time that I made while in crisis (and later clarified as "Weekend Outing" time) & brainstorming potential solutions. I don't feel trapped in the old way of being anymore, and that's not something I'm thinking about anymore. But even if I were - I'd like to point out that there are plenty of healthy marriages and families where people don't go on Weekend Outings. Maybe a spouse or child is disabled and it's just too hard. Maybe they're homebodies. Whatever. The interstitial times together, wandering around the neighborhood, and lazy evenings at home can bond a family just fine if that works for that family.
Title: Re: How to approach marriage time equity conversation
Post by: Goldielocks on January 08, 2020, 12:38:03 PM
4) I think you're fixating on a statement about giving up our "doing stuff together" time that I made while in crisis (and later clarified as "Weekend Outing" time) & brainstorming potential solutions. I don't feel trapped in the old way of being anymore, and that's not something I'm thinking about anymore. But even if I were - I'd like to point out that there are plenty of healthy marriages and families where people don't go on Weekend Outings. Maybe a spouse or child is disabled and it's just too hard. Maybe they're homebodies. Whatever. The interstitial times together, wandering around the neighborhood, and lazy evenings at home can bond a family just fine if that works for that family.

Ha.  Not just that.   As your kids get a bit older you will be amazed when you realize how many parents are driving kids to every known activity under the sun (sports is a big one, but also dance, chinese lessons, music) on the weekends and evenings and if they have two kids, are doing it separately and have zero time together... a whole lot less time together than you do now yet society holds them up to be pillars of parenting.   
Title: Re: How to approach marriage time equity conversation
Post by: Laura33 on January 08, 2020, 12:39:32 PM
Again, I don't see how anything I've said has been controversial in any way. 

. . . .

I guess I could have couched my thoughts with lots of superfluous fluff in an effort to avoid offending anyone.

Well, you've had specific examples pointed out to you directly, with a clear explanation of why they are offensive.  So I have to assume that you understand that telling a gay couple they are not a family can be seen as hurtful and offensive given the social history involved; you just reject the idea that your comments were offensive, because you didn't mean it that way.  But you don't get to determine what other people find offensive.  So, again, if you want to help people, think about things from their perspective for a minute and try to avoid offending them, either gratuitously or unintentionally.

And it's not about superfluous fluff.  I thought your 11:38 comment was right on point and helpful, without being at all fluffy or insincere.  There is a difference between "direct" and "obnoxious."
Title: Re: How to approach marriage time equity conversation
Post by: Gay Burqueño Dad on January 08, 2020, 12:42:13 PM


Yes, both of us having the amount of kid-free time my husband currently has is not realistic/desirable. I laid out a schedule like that to him mostly to dramatize the huge privilege he has in having childcare on days off 2 days/week and THEN getting weekend gym/bowling on top of it. We're of course not following said schedule, and it's in the direction of more family time.

However in general - I think we put a relatively high emphasis on avoiding experiences we find to be painful with our kids right now (e.g. grocery shopping, hiking for my husband). So, a good bit of the "kid-free time" is spent on "cook, clean, pay bills, do repairs" type things. Out parenting experience so far has been an unusually wild ride so there may be some excessive guarding in there that we should watch and see how it develops. E.g. maybe in 6 months or more we can establish discipline to the extent that grocery shopping with kids is NBD, which would give the kids the benefit of some wholesome fun/education while shopping.

At the same time, I'm very glad that we don't place excessive emphasis on family time. E.g. I see families all together in the grocery store with the kids wild and both parents distracted/annoyed and say, "Jeez, if this is a regular thing, that seems like probably a bad decision to me, can't one parent just run out to the grocery store alone?"
Title: Re: How to approach marriage time equity conversation
Post by: historienne on January 08, 2020, 12:53:17 PM
However in general - I think we put a relatively high emphasis on avoiding experiences we find to be painful with our kids right now (e.g. grocery shopping, hiking for my husband). So, a good bit of the "kid-free time" is spent on "cook, clean, pay bills, do repairs" type things. Out parenting experience so far has been an unusually wild ride so there may be some excessive guarding in there that we should watch and see how it develops. E.g. maybe in 6 months or more we can establish discipline to the extent that grocery shopping with kids is NBD, which would give the kids the benefit of some wholesome fun/education while shopping.

Two words: grocery delivery.  I have taken my kids grocery shopping maybe 10 times in 7 years, so I hear you.  It's not fun for any of us.  But it's totally feasible to check my cupboards and put in an online order while my kids are playing in the next room.

For the rest of it - if that's the kind of stuff you need kidfree time for, your husband should be able to do 75% of it on his days off.  Even if he goes to the gym those days!  He can't do all of the cooking then, but he can meal prep so that it's easy to throw dinner together on the other weeknights.   He could cook soups, stews, lasagnes, curries, etc. in advance so that they just need to be reheated.  I know you like cooking, but the daily grind of putting dinner on the table is a lot of work; if you are doing that and a disproportionate amount of the childcare, it's going to be very very hard to balance things out.  Maybe you cook one "fun" meal/week, and he throws together simpler stuff the rest of the time?
Title: Re: How to approach marriage time equity conversation
Post by: researcher1 on January 08, 2020, 01:00:27 PM
These are reasonable thoughts. I will note:
1) Not everyone has access to traditional 9-5 employment that they find tolerable and that pays them enough.

2) I think it's reasonable for my husband to work out without children (gym), and for him to need a social outlet without children (bowling).

3) I actually think we'll find a good balance while preserving his gym time and bowling time.

4) I think you're fixating on a statement about giving up our "doing stuff together" time that I made while in crisis (and later clarified as "Weekend Outing" time)

1 - That makes perfect sense, and why I said it "MAY" make sense for him to have a more conventional work schedule.
Everything in life is a trade-off.  If it would make your quality of life substantially better (which it may not), it might be worth the reduced income.

2 - I agree with you, but not at the detriment to your mental well-being.  He's already enjoying substantially less family responsibilities due to his work schedule.  It doesn't seem fair for you to bear the additional burden of him being gone for an additional 10+ hours/week for personal social time.

3 - I mostly agree with this. But why does he have to work out while you are dealing with the kids.  At age 4/5, they probably go to bed around 8pm and wake up around 7am.  Why can't he go to the gym after they go to bed, or before they get up?

4 - I'm not trying to fixate on that point.  But it was the ONLY comment you offered about family time, and was the comment I reacted to with received such negative responses.

Lastly, I want to point out something important you mentioned...
"Just feeling that I have a lighter load of non-childcare tasks in exchange for a heavier load of childcare would help me be happier doing whatever we end up doing together on the weekend rather than getting some task done or getting in some piece of self-care."

This is EXACTLY what I was trying to get across with my previous posts. 
You were taking on an unfair share of child rearing, and to some extent operating as a single parent.
Instead of attempting to fix this imbalance by maximizing personal alone time, he should team-up and help out more, so that you could spend quality time TOGETHER as a family.
Title: Re: How to approach marriage time equity conversation
Post by: ABC123 on January 08, 2020, 01:09:17 PM
I don't have any great wisdom for you, just want to let you know I feel your pain.  My kids are 11, 9, and 3.  And my husband is more than willing for me to take on as much as I am willing to do. He is never going to volunteer to do anything around the house, I have to specifically ask him to do something.  I manage everything, I make all the major decisions, I do the majority of the kid work.  It is stressful.  And I have just recently come to the realization that I am done with it.  I never thought I would ever think about divorce, but it is almost to that point.  I have tried to talk to my husband, and he pretty much brushes me off.  So that said - I think it is great that you are talking to him about this, and that you are aware of what you need.  I hope you are able to come to an agreement that gets both of you the family time and the along time that you need to thrive.
Title: Re: How to approach marriage time equity conversation
Post by: Gay Burqueño Dad on January 10, 2020, 01:32:31 PM
@ABC123 - I'm so sorry to hear that you're facing the same thing, but with an uncooperative husband. That's BS.

Update - after interruptions for work, sickness, and emotional processing, I've finally gotten an hour to actually talk about this with my husband. He recognized that I was doing too much and was burnt out. He also felt that I wasn't adequately valuing what he was doing (laying with / fending off our "spirited" 4 year old for up to an hour after the 5 year old is asleep; doing most of the night-time wake-ups; voluntarily picking the kids up early so they didn't have to spend so much time in childcare). He also felt like I resented him having the job that he does, and felt that wasn't fair because he doesn't have good other choices that we know of right now.

He still claims his depression is getting better and that he feels he can take on more than he was doing. I didn't really press on that - didn't have time and haven't strategized with a therapist yet.

So... I didn't even bring up the topic of invisible labor and whatever. We're going to have weekly+ lunch "business" talks going forward (in addition to "fun" dates) and I think this is going to be a whole process with many discussions. But I did lay out kind of a "compromise" schedule plan that gets me the minimum that I feel I need while maximizing family time. He's clearly happier with that; he felt like this week I was a little "absent." Honestly I feel that this was a very good opening discussion given who we are.

He wants a week to have a chance to check out the gym with childcare and see if he likes it. (Going to the gym before the kids wake up is too early and going after they go to bed keeps him up at night). He feels like it's a little silly to pay extra for a gym with childcare when he's already picking the kids up early 2 days/wk. to get them *out* of childcare hours that we pay for. In one sense I agree... but I pointed out that when he goes to the gym sans childcare on weekends it uses *my* time to care for the kids, and I'm the one who's burnt out. We shall see what happens with that.

Overall, the minimum I feel I need is to have the ability to exercise an hour or two on one weekend day, plus about an hour every weekday morning (I greatly changed the morning routine, and successfully got the kids out of the house half an hour after they woke up, so that it's a possibility on the days my husband works. I got a short but intense weight circuit workout in on Wednesday so it IS possible). To enable that, I asked that my husband to do bedtime (post-books) solo on at least the days he doesn't work. That will let me prep those nights so the mornings can be quick & I can exercise.

I also feel I need a social outlet but hiking is not a very time efficient way to do that. I'm interested to see if setting up play/talk dates on weekends can get me the social outlet I need while being also something akin to family time.

So more or less we are gonna try for now -
Me: 18 solo parent hours, 11 kid-free hours (some of which are getting ready for bed/sleeping before the 4-year-old finally goes to sleep)
Husband: 15 solo parent hours, 21 kid-free hours
Family time: 22 hours (a small increase from the former status quo, but improvement in quality is really what's important)
Kids in childcare: 42 hours
Title: Re: How to approach marriage time equity conversation
Post by: Goldielocks on January 11, 2020, 10:31:01 PM
Group hiking with kids is also excellent social adult quality time.  Better than most activities where kids are involved, anyway. The spirited 4 year old sounds like they would have alot of energy and 5 yrs is a good age to hike shorter distances.   

Do you have any friends with kids to try a 3mile walk / hike with?
Title: Re: How to approach marriage time equity conversation
Post by: englishteacheralex on January 12, 2020, 12:26:16 AM
I have little to add except that this thread is interesting and relevant to me, since I have a 5-year-old and a 3-year-old and my husband and I both work full time.

I don't spend a lot of time resenting my husband over the time equity thing. For one, he's really good about doing stuff. For another...I don't know...I'm not that great of a person, but for some reason I can't be bothered to get super wrapped up in who's doing what. It might be conflict avoidance, really. I think when I get pretty bogged down in the craziness of the time poverty we find ourselves in so often, I mostly just think--you know, this is all going to be over pretty soon. The kids being so needy; this stage isn't going to last forever. A couple of years will pass in a blink of an eye and before I know it--poof, suddenly I'll be able to read a book while the kids bathe themselves. For some reason, that thought seems to help me a lot. I was single for a long time and I just figure in a couple of years I'll be in command of my time again and probably (due to human nature) look back at this time as a wonderful though extremely stressful time and I'll realize that it was a small percentage of my overall life. And that it was really, really special in its own way, so maybe it was ok that I was 10 lbs overweight the whole time and my gray roots were showing a lot because I couldn't get to the salon. Both my husband and I exercise and eat pretty well, so it's not a total disaster or like we're neglecting our appearance and health. It's just not what it was before kids.

I can only offer a couple of things where I differ from you guys:

1. We generally don't pick the kids up from daycare early. My husband goes in to the gym before work, while I do drop-off. And then I get home and work out for an hour/start dinner/tidy up around the house and he does pick-up when he gets off. I could get the kids when I got off work, which would be about 1.5 hours before he gets them, but I'd be doing housework with them at home, and we all know how effective that is. And I wouldn't be able to exercise. So my feeling is look, we pay a lot of money for daycare, we might as well use it.

2. My husband had a twice a week social commitment after work for about six months at one point (so the equivalent to the bowling) when we only had one kid. I hated it. It pissed me off. I couldn't be gracious about it. We didn't have room in our schedule for it. Still don't. Because my husband is awesome, he sensed that things were getting out of hand and axed the social commitment. What I'm trying to imply here is...how truly necessary is this bowling stuff? Because...it seems a bit much to me.

3. My five year old has been getting himself ready since he was 4. I made him a checklist and incentivized it. He now bathes himself and gets himself ready entirely on his own. I don't enforce two minutes of teeth-brushing. In fact, two minutes of teeth-brushing is a habit I only started personally about a year ago (before I always did about 30 seconds). I get my 3 year old up, dress her, brush her hair and teeth, and get her out the door in about fifteen minutes while her brother colors at the table (if he was able to get himself ready in time). I'll be training her to get ready on her own next school year. Not all kids are capable of this, so...maybe that wasn't a helpful comment. Probably not. I hate it when people tell me all about how great their kids are. Mine are insane and suck at the playground. You would judge them if you saw them. But the oldest one gets himself ready pretty well. So hey, good for me.

I'm appreciating all the answers from everyone who's in the trenches with littles. Chin up! Also you have a great attitude. Also the researcher guy came on too strong. But he seems to have reformed a bit. Hey, meta-comment on the thread itself. Personally, I wouldn't have bothered with that guy. Too confrontational for me. "Someone is wrong on the internet!" Blech.
Title: Re: How to approach marriage time equity conversation
Post by: Omy on January 12, 2020, 07:41:40 AM
My sister is divorcing her husband over this exact thing. She has always felt like a single mom and did all of the cooking and most of the household chores. She has always had the more stressful, bread-winning job (and their jobs were offset enough that they didn't have a lot of quality family or couple time). So it's important that you address this early and often.

She blames her husband for not wanting to participate and not volunteering to help out, but she bears some responsibility for not letting him know what she needed from him - and for not giving up control and letting him take care of activities that she felt he wouldn't do as well as she would.
Title: Re: How to approach marriage time equity conversation
Post by: ender on January 12, 2020, 10:30:12 AM
This is long but a really good description of the men/women household chore divide - https://www.theguardian.com/world/2017/may/26/gender-wars-household-chores-comic

Title: Re: How to approach marriage time equity conversation
Post by: Sandi_k on January 12, 2020, 04:43:48 PM
This is long but a really good description of the men/women household chore divide - https://www.theguardian.com/world/2017/may/26/gender-wars-household-chores-comic

Dude, this is a same-sex partnership. Irony much? ;)
Title: Re: How to approach marriage time equity conversation
Post by: ender on January 12, 2020, 05:47:19 PM
This is long but a really good description of the men/women household chore divide - https://www.theguardian.com/world/2017/may/26/gender-wars-household-chores-comic

Dude, this is a same-sex partnership. Irony much? ;)

Considering the last few posts specifically address husband/wife relationships where this is a problem...

My sister is divorcing her husband over this exact thing.

I have little to add except that this thread is interesting and relevant to me, since I have a 5-year-old and a 3-year-old and my husband and I both work full time.

@ABC123 - I'm so sorry to hear that you're facing the same thing, but with an uncooperative husband. That's BS.

Regardless of gender, the same principle in that article also applies to the OP, if you read it.
Title: Re: How to approach marriage time equity conversation
Post by: Gay Burqueño Dad on January 13, 2020, 11:03:43 AM
Do you have any friends with kids to try a 3mile walk / hike with?

I'm working on it. I started a weekly nature playgroup which is more like a 0.5 mile RT hike with playing in the middle. The kids love that but any longer hiking that I've scheduled *without* kid-friends has been a non-starter for the kids so far. I'm hoping that longer hiking will happen once we have kid-friends along but I haven't gotten a chance to schedule much hiking with kid-friends.

Unfortunately, the spirited 4-year-old still asks to be picked up a LOT when hiking. She has asthma which may be part of it. I'm hoping hiking with kid-friends will help. I also made up a "grownup hide-and-seek" game where one grownup goes up ahead and hides (after leaving a jacket or backpack on the trail to signal where to look) in order to motivate walking in the right direction. That has been effective so far.
Title: Re: How to approach marriage time equity conversation
Post by: Trifele on January 14, 2020, 04:16:55 AM
Do you have any friends with kids to try a 3mile walk / hike with?

I'm working on it.

Random thought OP, but maybe you could try letterboxing?  My kids loved that when they were the age your kids are, and it was a great way to get them outside hiking.  It's like geocaching with no equipment -- just a "treasure map." 

https://www.letterboxing.org/ search for "Albuquerque."  And there are other clubs as well.  Do preview the instructions.  You want to pick a box that looks "active" to increase your chances of finding the box, and that has simple directions.  There's usually a little book inside the box where your kids can write their names or stamp.  (Our kids loved the stamping part.  They brought their own stamp and ink pads along.)

I think you're doing great @Gay Burqueño Dad -- your husband and kids are lucky to have you. 

 
Title: Re: How to approach marriage time equity conversation
Post by: mm1970 on January 14, 2020, 12:47:35 PM
Do you have any friends with kids to try a 3mile walk / hike with?

I'm working on it. I started a weekly nature playgroup which is more like a 0.5 mile RT hike with playing in the middle. The kids love that but any longer hiking that I've scheduled *without* kid-friends has been a non-starter for the kids so far. I'm hoping that longer hiking will happen once we have kid-friends along but I haven't gotten a chance to schedule much hiking with kid-friends.

Unfortunately, the spirited 4-year-old still asks to be picked up a LOT when hiking. She has asthma which may be part of it. I'm hoping hiking with kid-friends will help. I also made up a "grownup hide-and-seek" game where one grownup goes up ahead and hides (after leaving a jacket or backpack on the trail to signal where to look) in order to motivate walking in the right direction. That has been effective so far.
Yeah, so my kids are 7 and 13.  For the last 2-3 years, I've scheduled my workouts religiously.  Bonus: I get good hard workouts.  Bad: I do not get to "work out" with my kids.  To be honest, at your kids' ages it's "family time", not exercise.

We are now at the point where we can easily do hikes with the kids, so this year that's going to be more of a goal.  Fewer long weekend runs for me, more family hikes.  We can also bike ride with the teen, but he's a bit too slow (he has a mountain bike, we have hybrids with slicks).

I think you have a few years at least before you can combine family time and exercise time.
Title: Re: How to approach marriage time equity conversation
Post by: Goldielocks on January 15, 2020, 12:08:18 PM
Do you have any friends with kids to try a 3mile walk / hike with?

I'm working on it. I started a weekly nature playgroup which is more like a 0.5 mile RT hike with playing in the middle. The kids love that but any longer hiking that I've scheduled *without* kid-friends has been a non-starter for the kids so far. I'm hoping that longer hiking will happen once we have kid-friends along but I haven't gotten a chance to schedule much hiking with kid-friends.

Unfortunately, the spirited 4-year-old still asks to be picked up a LOT when hiking. She has asthma which may be part of it. I'm hoping hiking with kid-friends will help. I also made up a "grownup hide-and-seek" game where one grownup goes up ahead and hides (after leaving a jacket or backpack on the trail to signal where to look) in order to motivate walking in the right direction. That has been effective so far.
I have good news - you are very close, time wise, to having a family hiking activity being a fun and regular thing. 

Your thought about other friends with kids is spot on... and playing in the middle of it.   One thing we did, we gave our 4 year old a kick scooter when we had access to paved trails, as a start, then the occassional weekend true hike was a lot easier because they were used to the idea of walking for the sake of walking.
Title: Re: How to approach marriage time equity conversation
Post by: researcher1 on January 24, 2020, 12:45:08 PM
Also the researcher guy came on too strong. But he seems to have reformed a bit. Hey, meta-comment on the thread itself. Personally, I wouldn't have bothered with that guy. Too confrontational for me. "Someone is wrong on the internet!" Blech.

I have a lot of haters here, but my comments/advice have turned out to be 100% spot-on, and have been vindicated by the OP's subsequent posts.

Here are a few of the OP's comments in particular...
- But I did lay out kind of a "compromise" schedule plan that gets me the minimum that I feel I need while maximizing family time.
- I pointed out that when he goes to the gym sans childcare on weekends it uses *my* time to care for the kids, and I'm the one who's burnt out.
- I asked that my husband to do bedtime (post-books) solo on at least the days he doesn't work. That will let me prep those nights so the mornings can be quick & I can exercise.


This is all stuff that I pointed out as issues to address.  The answer to burn-out wasn't retreating to more alone time. 
It was getting his partner to help out/pitch in more as a family, working together to share the load and minimize the stress on the OP.

It appears the OP deleted a recent post that even more strongly validated my comments.
I won't go into what he said (as I assume he deleted it for a reason), but it proved that what I said was right all along.

I wasn't trying to be confrontational.  Just calling it as any rational person should have seen it.  I'm glad it seems to be helping the OP.
Title: Re: How to approach marriage time equity conversation
Post by: halftimeprof on January 28, 2020, 07:49:36 PM
Lots of dismissals of "bean counting" in the responses to this post.  Count me as a happily-married (almost 40 years) bean counter.  I attribute a rigorous attention to balancing/alternating household chores early in our relationship (and later to balancing childcare) for habits that are now automatic and have served us well over a lifetime.
Title: Re: How to approach marriage time equity conversation
Post by: Gay Burqueño Dad on February 10, 2020, 04:29:38 PM
OK, update time!

We are doing better. A long January of illness was an obstacle to really getting into any kind of new groove, but we're mostly there now.

1) I'm getting therapy. I definitely don't want to sink into my own depression.
2) I've revamped mornings on the days my husband works. We ALWAYS change kids into the next day's clothes the night before, and pack my lunch and the kid's lunch that is brought (my husband doing the majority of parenting the night before helps free me up to do this). Now mornings when my husband works are faster and fine. So I get to work earlier, and can get off work and pick the kids up earlier, and then they're not meltdown hungry children at pickup.
3) Currently, we are usually heading over to my family's (walking distance from our house) for dinner on nights when my husband works. But my plan for when/if that ends slash breaks in that is to up my sandwich game and pack the kids awesome and varied sandwiches for dinner that they can have on the way home. Yeah, yeah, family dinner, whatever. This will probably be in the summer, and we'll go to the pool across the street instead, and it will be awesome family bonding time of its own kind. (Lunch for the kid who brings lunch is essentially never a sandwich. We rock the little thermoses of hot food).
4) I'm (sometimes) getting up ideally before the kids and leaving and going the rock gym and/or yoga in the mornings when my husband doesn't work.
5) Husband got a gym with childcare. The only weekend time is Saturday mornings, but that's enough (and the most that I could find offered in our area). So I get exercise time on Saturday mornings. Woot.
6) Sunday evenings are now dubbed "movie nite" - I prep for the week while the kids watch some amount of TV/movie.
7) I leave for a long walk / talking to friends / something on Sunday afternoons so I'm in a good-ish mood come Sunday evenings.
8) I've been asking my husband to shop on his days off. Also, I rocked the Walmart Grocery pickup service yesterday.
9) Lunch dates (or just walks when the weather's nice) on at least one of my husband's days off per week. We need maintenance/logistics discussion time and we are just too tired (or I am literally sleeping) in the evenings.
10) Often a weekend date.

We definitely fought about the time issue at first. I was in such a bad mental state that I couldn't present it in the most effective/compassionate way. But we've worked through that and are happy with each other and at a more equitable division of labor now. We don't feel the need to hire any additional help right now, but it's quite possible that when my aunts are away for their lengthy summer vacation, we will hire some.
Title: Re: How to approach marriage time equity conversation
Post by: Laura33 on February 10, 2020, 08:49:00 PM
So I get to work earlier, and can get off work and pick the kids up earlier, and then they're not meltdown hungry children at pickup.

Isn't it amazing how much life improves simply by the absence of routine meltdowns?  And yes:  lowering expectations for things like home-cooked dinners and TV time when necessary is my own favorite coping mechanism.  ;-)

I am very seriously happy for you.  You had some tough conversations and made a ton of changes.  And I am particularly glad that you have your own therapist who can be a much-better-trained sounding board for these issues in the future.  (Not that we're not happy to help, of course, but, you know, you get what you pay for and all that)
Title: Re: How to approach marriage time equity conversation
Post by: SuseB on February 11, 2020, 07:06:28 AM
I have three kids (now 13,11,9) so I am out of the little-kid woods a bit - but just came on to add one idea I didn't see mentioned, that we used to term 'divide and conquer' - basically, any activity that is way stressful with all the kids, is much, much better with only one of them... this realisation meant that we were able to feel that we had 'recharged' a bit, even though we technically had a child with us. Grocery shopping with one kid - bonding educational experience for the child and parent! Same deal with two or three - mayhem. Similarly one kid on a walk with all your attention on them? Awesome! Plus when you have multiple kids they all LOVE time on their own with a parent. I used to take one of mine out to 'run errands' - post office, library, maybe stop at a cafe - and I would feel like I got a break! Husband at home would do similar with the other child(ren). Plus this has the advantage that you get to practice taking your kids places, so that someday in the future when you do have to take them all to do a full shop at Aldi on a Saturday morning, you can be done and home by 9.30am and feel like you have won a parent of the year award...
Title: Re: How to approach marriage time equity conversation
Post by: Annie101 on February 11, 2020, 09:15:49 PM
Sounds like you have made some great changes and things are going much more smoothly.  Yay!  One other thing that makes a huge difference for us is trading off the bedtime ritual.  We alternate every other day, but since you do more mornings, your husband could do more of the evenings so it balances out.  I don’t like the idea that I should need to leave the house to have alone time.  It’s nice to have time to myself every other evening.
Title: Re: How to approach marriage time equity conversation
Post by: Gay Burqueño Dad on February 12, 2020, 10:01:05 AM
@Annie101 - Oh yes, it's not explicitly mentioned but implied - my husband now does bedtimes solo ~4 days a week, I do solo 1 day a week, we do it together ~2 days/wk. Once I'm done with lunch prep, I generally journal or get in the hot tub when he's putting them to bed. Soo nice.
Title: Re: How to approach marriage time equity conversation
Post by: Gay Burqueño Dad on March 12, 2020, 10:56:08 AM
Update -

Home life was significantly improved in February but my work life was still suffering from bleedover stress from home life. So, I planned a staycation for this past week. It was AMAZING! I didn't plan to use the time mostly recreating like the term "staycation" implies. I thought of it more like a DIY Queer Eye for the Gay Guy life makeover. Focused on things that will reduce my stress in the long term (not on fashion or hair... not priorities for me right now).

So I:
-Found some convenience/frozen food options that the kids will eat and I think is reasonably healthy (and I will probably eat it sometimes). Trader Joe's cauliflower-crust pizza is good! TJ's breaded cod and chicken are probably not ideally healthy, but having actual meat chunks inside feels better than sticks/nuggets.
-Also, smoked trout in a tin for me. Ugh, such a relief to not have to cook meat for myself to put on my salads all the time! (Note: I think normal supermarket canned chicken and tuna is unappetizing).
-Made a good-enough meal plan. It's only one week's worth, but I'm declaring it good enough to repeat it every week until I get motivated to find more dishes to put on the meal plan.
-Switched loud kid's bedroom with guest bedroom further from our bedroom so one parent can sleep more effectively while the other puts kids to bed.
-Caught up on a slew of other life tasks. Not interesting to you, but made my life better.
-Made a list of every single little thing that I/the kids could do in the evenings to make mornings when my husband works better. While off, I started building the habit of doing most/all of the things on it. There's a lot beyond making lunches and changing clothes! I now shower & shave & get my clothes out at night; prep & schedule coffee; get breakfast requests from kids so I can prep their breakfast before they get up; have kids get shoes & socks & jackets chosen and out; etc.

I plan to use more of my PTO as staycations going forward. Travelling with the kids doesn't sound fun to me yet (actually I know from experience that it is NOT fun. For me. Right now.) So staycation is a great option in the meantime. The kids were in daycare which was such a relief compared to travelling with them. Highly recommended to other parents with little kids (especially 2-working-parent homes)! If you're in a position where using more of the time for recreation makes sense, all the better!

As an aside, the "spring forward" daylight savings time always throws our kids' sleep for a loop. So it was nice to have a parent home Mon-Wed this week so I could be the designated putter-to-bed-er (and be able to take a nap the next day if necessary). I didn't factor that into my choice of staycation timing, but I'm going to consider it next time, all else equal :-)
Title: Re: How to approach marriage time equity conversation
Post by: former player on March 12, 2020, 12:23:21 PM
Nice update.  Congrats on thinking it all through so sensibly and then putting it into practice.  It's a rare human being that can do that!