Are You Demanding Time for Yourself in Your Marriage?


You should be.

by Stephanie Kaloi

woman sitting at a mirror

If I had to name one common idea that I hear expressed by many of my female friends over (and over) again, it’s that they just can’t get the time to have an hour or two a week to themselves. An hour or two, to check out of their daily responsibilities and just… be. Get their nails done. Have a meal. See a movie alone (my fave). And I don’t mean that they can’t find the time—they can’t get it.

Get it from whom, you ask? It’s (almost) always the obvious person: their partners. Maybe they stay at home with kids while their partner works outside the home. Maybe they work from home solo, which means that work never gets left at work because work is always at home. Maybe they work outside of home all day, then get home and there’s a never-ending pile of laundry, of dishes, of children, of pets. And when all or some of this combines, it’s super easy to just… feel… stuck.

I’ve been mulling this over a lot lately, partly because we’re in a new-to-us part of the country and navigating new-to-us social norms. More than anywhere we’ve lived in the U.S. so far (Alabama, Tennessee, Oregon, and now California), we’re finding ourselves regularly hanging with families where one partner works, and the other partner doesn’t, and that’s their long-term life plan. Besides how utterly confounding I find this (How does anyone live in the Bay Area on one income? We’ve been doing it for a few months and it’s hard as hell), I am also sociologically intrigued: How do these relationships function? What are the expectations, and what actually happens?

It’s also partly because I just spend a fair bit of my time thinking about how relationships that include at least one female work. And I’ve tapped into this before (last year’s essay on emotional labor is still one of my favorites), but the idea that women feel they can’t ask for a little bit of alone time each week—that they even consider it a question to be asked, and not an understood demand to be made—is even bigger than emotional labor. And it boggles my mind. When you’re talking about an hour or so a week to take a break and remember who you are, you’re talking about… an hour or two a week to keep your sanity and soul together. Right?

what is alone time, and who is it for?

Of course, the idea of “alone time” comes packed with privilege. I think it’s a privilege that is pretty squarely rooted in class. There are many women for whom the idea of taking an hour a week is laughable because there’s literally no one else to watch the kids, for example—maybe they’re single moms with no family nearby, or women in relationships with partners who don’t get it or try, or the cost of a babysitter is truly, actually too much (sometimes you really do need that $10 to $15 an hour for gas to get to school the next day, or for a gallon of milk and a loaf of bread).

There’s also a pervasive idea that if your labor is unpaid (maybe you stay home with your baby while your partner works), or you work part time (while your partner works full time), or you earn an hourly wage, that your labor isn’t as difficult or emotionally and mentally taxing as labor that our society tends to reward with a big paycheck and vacation days. So it can be hard to imagine saying out loud, “I need an hour alone each week,” when you feel like you’re not holding up the end of your respective bargain. For other women, the idea of “alone time” might as well be another fairy tale that someone has made up, because they’re too busy trying to keep their children safe from abusive members of the family, trying to navigate a war zone and keep their family in tact, trying to negotiate a famine, trying to just make it on the day to day, paycheck to paycheck.

So when I, specifically, am talking about “alone time” and its value, I’m mostly speaking to women who are generally something like me. Women who have the potential to take this time because the space exists, and because the hardest thing about taking it is asking for it in the first place. Women who may not have been raised to know that it’s okay to advocate for themselves in their relationships, that it’s okay to put your needs over those of your kids sometimes, that it’s okay to look at your partner on Saturday afternoon and say, “Hey. I’m going to get my nails done and read a book. My phone will be off. I’ll be back in two hours.” Because most likely, nothing is going to blow up or fall apart. No (literal or figurative) fires will be set. Because you have that space already, but maybe you can’t see it yet.

how to raise feminist partners

There’s an idea out there that if a woman is with a partner who supports her emotionally and mentally (and who she also supports), who recognizes that she has needs and goals and desires, who preemptively says, “Hey, I’m taking the kid out for a hike on Saturday for a few hours,” who prioritizes her over themselves, that this woman is lucky. Lucky because she just happened to get one of the handful of good ones out there. Lucky because the world just worked out in her favor. But here’s the deal: in my experience, even in relationships that we see as very feminist, you still have to ask. Sometimes, you still have to demand. You still have to take care of yourself, while simultaneously taking care of your partner. For me, a real partnership means you’re both nourishing each other, you’re feeding each other, you’re tickling one another’s brains, and you’re discussing it all while it’s happening.

And yes, there is an awful lot of luck in it. I can only speak to relationships that either I have been in, or that I’ve seen play out, but if my IRL and social media circles are any indication… an awful lot of men talk a big egalitarian, feminist game before they get married. And then they, you know, get a nine to five or have a kid and all of the sudden the assumption is that oh, of course you’ll stay home with the kids, that’s what women do, that’s what you want, right? Or maybe you both work, but they assume they can’t possibly keep the kids alive without you for the two hours it takes to get your nails done (or you think they can’t!), so it just never happens.

But when I think about myself and talk about this with women who are married to feminist partners (who actually remained feminist well after marriage, the job, and the kids) there was also a very deliberate, very intentional choice made. Maybe it was made early in the game, during the dating stage, when it was obvious that they’d picked a good one. Maybe it was made six months after the wedding, when she balked when confronted with something that might tip the equality scale. Maybe it was made ten years into the marriage, when she was presented with an amazing work opportunity that put his on pause. Maybe it’s made every single day, when she remembers to advocate for what she wants, what she needs, and is prepared to insist on it, even if that means the conversation will be hard, the topic rejected, or that it might cause ripples in the relationship.

if you don’t preserve you, who will?

Ultimately, insisting on time to be alone is crucial for women—but it’s not something that every woman can attain easily. A lot of us have very real, very intense journeys (like being worried about where our family’s next meal will come from, or trying to figure out how to pay rent when there’s no money coming in, or navigating a humanitarian disaster with children in tow). But if you have the space to ask for time alone, I think you should insist on it regularly, weekly. Daily if it’s realistic!

I have personally done the most growth as a woman when I have had many opportunities to find out who I am at various ages, alone, without worrying about my child for a second, without being concerned about my husband’s job, or about money, or about the pets, or about the playdates for the weekend, or the doctor’s appointments, or what’s going on with our families, or… any of it. Just me, myself, and whatever book I’m reading that week. Or a nail technician. Or Terrace House. And obviously, taking this time can feel harder if you have tremendous responsibility or a whole passel of kids, but in those cases, it’s even more important to ask yourself a question: Is this impossible to actually attain, or am I just scared to ask for it?

I’ve spent the past few months being my family’s sole income provider, and I’ve never been more stressed out in my life. And lately, I insist on this time because I know that I need it. I insist on it because it matters. And I’m not saying that it doesn’t matter for anyone who isn’t a woman, too—in fact, I strongly feel that EVERYONE needs it—but I believe that for women? It’s vital, and it’s unfortunately not easily given. While men are often socialized to expect to have their own time by default (and many women in hetero relationships are socialized to give men this time by default), I don’t think women articulate this need—let alone ask for and take it—nearly as frequently. You don’t necessarily even need to leave your house. You just need to have a little time inside your own head, thinking your own thoughts, wondering about your own self.

At least… that’s what I’m aiming for.

do you insist on time to yourself? how… do you do it? what advice do you have for women (and anyone!) who is struggling to ask for or demand this time? how important is it to you to have a little alone time in general?

Stephanie Kaloi

Stephanie is a photographer, writer, and Ravenclaw living in California with her family. She is super into reading, road trips, and adopting animals on a whim. Forewarning: all correspondence will probably include a lot of punctuation and emoji (!!! ? ? ?).

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  • Mary Jo TC

    Yes! x 10000. Thank you so much for this, Stephanie. Stuff like this is why I still visit APW 7 years after my wedding and why I’m so excited for The Compact!
    The different ‘default modes’ is how it works in my marriage. My husband’s default is that free time is his to use as he likes unless he has some explicit job to do. My default is that I only get free time if everything is done around the house. Like, I only take showers after the kids are in bed. He takes showers when he wants, even if it means I have to care for both kids or get them ready in the morning with no help while he does it. When I pointed that out, he said that of course I can take showers when I want and ask him to take the kids, no problem. But I don’t ask. For this silly shower example, maybe part of it is that he says he absolutely needs a shower first thing in the morning every day, and I mostly only take showers in the evening after I’ve been to the gym in the afternoon or when it’s been 2-3 days. He enjoys showers and they’re a chore to me. It’s more important to him, so he takes that time and I don’t.
    After the boys are in bed, I do laundry, make a crockpot, sometimes make a last-minute grocery run–he plays video games. If I want to ask for help, I have to think of a job to give him, and that’s emotional labor. I know that I CAN speak up and he never says no or gives me grief when I ask him to give me some time, but I also feel bad if I use that privilege too often. And I’m not sure how often that would be.
    The thing I’d like to do lately that I haven’t been advocating for myself enough about is going to meetings and events for various activist groups in the evenings. I feel bad missing those evenings with the kids and making him do bedtime for 2 kids on his own because I know I don’t like having to do it on my own either when he goes out. And at the same time I feel guilty that the country is going to shit and I’m not doing anything to stop it. (Also I’ve been frustrated with inefficiency, pontificating leaders, and meetings going over time at these activist groups, so it’s not only because of this dynamic in my marriage that I have been skipping the meetings.)

    • CMT

      Having to point out chores to do is probably my biggest relationship pet peeve. But I had a relationship where I literally had to leave lists of chores every morning and even then things still wouldn’t get done. That relationship was particularly bad in that regard and now I have a no-tolerance policy for doing that kind of emotional labor anymore. I know that it works for some people but I don’t think I could ever go back to that dynamic again.

      • zana

        We’ve got a chore chart, the same kind of mechanism I had when living in a house with four other women. It helps him take more notice of the cleanliness of areas when it’s his turn. This really only works for things that need to be done regularly (empty dishwasher/sink, clean countertops, empty trash/recycling, clean toilet & mirrors). Once the chart was made, it’s fairly egalitarian on the emotional labor…but both parties do have to remember to move the magnets back and forth and take notice when it’s their turn.

        • Natalie

          Chore charts for the win! Seriously, ours has reduced our fighting/arguing substantially. I am usually the one writing out the chore chart, but that’s pretty fast, and then I’m not doing the emotional labor. I no longer need to “nag” about things. They’re on the chore chart, and I trust that he’ll do them in a reasonable time frame, and he does. Also, we both have chores we hate, so I never assign him to vacuum and he always takes out the trash. We both see that on our chore chart and appreciate that we never have to do our most-hated chores.

        • Abs

          This may be a silly question, but how do you deal with scheduling the chores? My partner and I have a routine when we clean the house, and we’re both competent at it, but he literally never initiates cleaning the house. Whenever it needs cleaning, I’m the one who says it needs cleaning, and then I have to figure out when in our weekend we’ll have time to clean, and then I have to tell him “time to clean!” At this point in our relationship he doesn’t drag his feet on it anymore–he will just do his share of the cleaning, but I’m doing 100% of the managing of the schedule.

          The only way I can think of not to have to do this would be to institute a rule that we clean the exact same time every weekend, but since neither of us exactly want to clean that often the idea of enforcing that exhausts me.

          • CMT

            If you figure this out, please tell me the answer!

          • Elizabeth

            So like I mentioned upthread, chore chart is having only limited success at the moment in terms of creating equality, but I have found some help in having it monthly, so it’s things like ‘vacuuming needs to happen 2 times in the month’ and ‘cleaning the chinchilla cage is down for happening 7 times in the month (so basically twice a week but there’s some slacking allowed)’.

            But we have a small place that isn’t well suited to us both cleaning at the same time.

          • zana

            We live in a ~650sq ft space. The key is to each person be working on a different room, and do floors last ;)

          • zana

            “it helps to lower your cleanliness/chore standards”
            That’s pretty much key to our cleanliness success. The {dishwasher/sink, countertops, trash, toilet} set is the only one that gets done on a near-weekly basis. Pretty much nothing else gets cleaned unless we have guests coming over, and then we spend 3 hours cleaning everything else together.

            So. The key [for us] is a chore chart, and then to have friends over 1-2 times per month. I’ve chosen this over nagging and disappointment for missed/forgotten chores.

          • penguin

            This is our system! We both have the same low-ish standards, and then we invite people over as an incentive to clean.

          • zana

            Whenever I feel like I’m living in a pig stye, it means it’s time to invite friends over for taco truck & card games, lol.

          • Katharine Parker

            Is there a way to do way smaller amounts of time cleaning? Like 10 minutes a day each? I hate the idea of a chore chart (bad college roommate flashbacks), but each doing a little bit each day helps keep our apartment under control.

          • jem

            We used this when we first lived together to divide chores (alternated days) http://www.apartmenttherapy.com/how-to-clean-your-house-in-20-minutes-a-day-for-30-days-131142

          • If you’re a googled up couple, Google Keep allows you to make shared task lists with date and time reminders. Having something to tick off is very satisfying, and it can also help with breaking down tasks into bitesize parts that are less off putting. I’ve been using it to task honeymoon booking jobs to J so I’m not panicking about forgetting something important and leave us sleeping in the snow one night without taking it over myself.

          • Ros

            What worked for me, mostly: pointing out that the coordinating/scheduling/planning counts as work, that managing is work and is usually paid accordingly, and that if he’s ok with counting the management work as work on my side of the ledger, FINE, but he’s getting more chores and every chore I hate, because I’m not signing up for this without benefits.

            Litterbox? Him. Laundry? Literally, I put dirty clothes in the hamper and they reappear on my shelves. Floors? Him. I do cooking/groceries/lunch-packing/dishes on a nightly basis, half the childcare, and household coordination and budget tracking. He does all the cleaning and tidying. All of it. And half the childcare, obv. And in the end? We’re spending about the same amount of time and effort on the household.

            But for that to seem FAIR, he has to acknowledge that the planning and tracking and scheduling is work. Otherwise you’re doomed from the start.

    • Amy March

      You feel bad asking for time to do something important while he sits on his butt playing video games instead of bothering to look around his own house and figure out a way to contribute when you’re clearly doing stuff? It’s not a privilege you can use up to demand that he contribute to the care of the household as an adult who lives there. The privilege is in believing you are entitled to take whatever leisure you want without considering your partner’s needs.

      If he has leisure time to game every day, I think taking time to read every day is completely reasonable. And if you can’t do that and have time to get life done, he doesn’t have all this magic leisure time available either!! You are not the maid.

      • Mary Jo TC

        Sigh. You’re right. #AmyMarchTellsItLikeItIs

        • Amy March

          Fighting the patriarchy is hard! Whether it’s in the streets or folding the sheets.

          I’m always particularly struck by golf. It’s an utterly absurd game. Who would think “oh, yes, I have children, I should absolutely take up a sport that has me out of the house for 4 hours at a time.” Who indeed if not 70% of the men I know. And meanwhile their wives fret about staying an extra half hour at a bridal shower because Jimmy is watching the kids.

          • Cellistec

            Pretty sure being out of the house for 4 hours at a time is one of the main reasons one takes up golf. Which makes me feel like I should. Or pretend to. When really I’ll be sitting in the car within a free wifi bubble, watching Shameless on my phone.

          • Emily

            This. It’s an excuse to not be at home. In Texas the hunting population (like – I need to leave my kids and spend the entire day at the lease) and the golfing population have a ton of overlap and all tend to just want to not be at home with their kids / spouse and these are valid “excuses” to not be at home – at least in my experience.

          • Kara E

            Well, it’s also a good chance to be outside, have some talk time with the guys (but not too much), and generally be away from tech/responsibilities. My husband and his buddies schedule their rare golf outings for week days (like as part of work stuff) or on weekends for the earliest of the early bird tee times (like 645/7am) so that they can be home well before lunch. It works.

          • Katharine Parker

            Golf should be for retired people only.

          • zana

            Eh…golf is the main way that my father maintains his relationship with his brothers. Men aren’t socialized super well to maintain their social relations (lotsa fascinating research on widows vs. widowers in that regard), so I’ve always appreciated golf as a means for family bonding.

            What I think we need is additional hobbies that take four hours that are good excuses for getting out of the house…and then just demanding that time like it’s a round of golf. Being an avid marathon runner. Attending activist events. Volunteering. Book clubs. Knitting clubs. Drinks with friends. Whatever.

          • cml

            This made me LOL for several reasons – so true.
            Though I don’t really care if he wants to golf once in a while (I’m a horse person so THAT takes me away from home WAY more than golf ever could)…but we’re getting married on Saturday and he casually said he was going to go golfing on Friday. HahahahahaNOPE.

        • stephanie

          I am a big, giant fan of real talk in marriage and in life! Amy March always brings it.

    • Natalie

      May I recommend a chore chart/schedule? Assigning chores for given days/weeks takes less emotional labor than asking him to do X when X needs to be done (at least for me). It would give him jobs, since he seems to have trouble seeing what needs to be done and doing it. Once it becomes an ingrained habit that on Tuesday and Thursday nights he makes the crock pot, and Mondays he does laundry, and Wednesdays he goes to the grocery store, you might find you no longer need a chore chart. But it might be a good way to start getting him in the habit of pulling his weight around the house without you needing to give him jobs.

      • Elizabeth

        I really want a chore chart to work for us. But my partner doesn’t work well on a ‘x day of week I do y’ any sort of schedule basis, and a general list of ‘these are all the chores and number of times that they need to be done this month’ ends up starting with good intentions but I’m the only one that looks at it for things to do and even when my partner does things, they don’t mark them off.

        • Natalie

          Ugh. Yeah, chore charts only work if both people look at them regularly and mark things off. They work for us because my husband *hates* being asked verbally to do things, because he just does not remember. I have to write things down for him, so a chore chart became a good solution for us.

          On the other hand, whatever solution works for you might require some practice before it becomes seamless. I had to be trained not to ask my husband to do X at some point today, and instead just write it down on his side of the to-do white board. It took some practice before I consistently requested things of him in the way that works best, and some practice for him to look at his to-do list daily.

          • Elizabeth

            Yeah, I think I’m going to try the chore chart process again. The issue is that my partner becomes very upset at realizing they’re not doing equal shares of the work, but when they’re upset they then are even less in the mood for doing the work and then I can’t do the work, so it ends up being less work for me if I can make it look like 50% of the work gets done by fairies and then I’m doing 50% of what’s left and so are they. That’s pretty clearly only a short-term solution though, not a long term one.

          • Amy March

            No. Just, no. Too bad so sad you’re upset. Srsly?!? Are you honestly planning to spend the rest of your life coddling someone who a) doesn’t do the work, b) gets upset when that fact is pointed out to them?

            I know you already see this isn’t sustainable, but sometimes you just gotta power through feeling bad. Like, I have never been in the mood to clean even once in my life, but I do, because I’m an adult and living in filth is unacceptable.

          • Elizabeth

            Oh I totally agree! (But it’s still good to hear, just because making my partner upset isn’t high on my priority list, even though it’s sometimes a consequence of other things that need to happen.)

            It’s not something solved in a single conversation, though, since it’s a matter of habit that they think of cleaning as a ‘nice to have’ or ‘something that just gets done by other people (aka their mother)’ rather than as just plain a thing that has to get done. We tried straight up dividing tasks, but that didn’t work well because it bothers me a lot when the sheets just plain never got cleaned, etc.

            We’ve had quite a few conversations about it. We’ll have a number more, including another one tonight.

          • NolaJael

            I saw someone on APW post in another thread about how they helped “solve” this by listing ALL the work that had to be done in their household – from daily dishes and weekly grocery shopping to scheduling annual things like termite inspections and filing taxes. Then they divided them up roughly equally based on time, preferences, etc. So maybe you’d do more sheet washing, but your partner would have set things to make up for it that are your partner’s sole responsibility.

            And if all else fails, there’s a cleaning service if you can afford it!

          • Alissa

            After 4 years of marriage and 4 years of dating before that, I feel like we finally hit a good rhythm last year (just in time for a baby to arrive and change it all up again!) So amen to everyone who says that patience, time, and habit-building are required–it took us many attempts at chore charts and all the rest until we found what worked. We don’t have a chore chart. In the end, what worked for us was each having our own domain of expertise: I clean the bunny cage, he does daily tidying at the end of each night, he does the laundry, I clean the bathroom, etc. Mostly we went by what we each preferred and, also, what bugged us the most. Shower mold gets to me, so I took that on. Crumbs and clutter at the end of the night bug him more than me, so he took that on. Other tasks we divided with a pure every/other trade off. It’s not so rigid as me doing dishes MWF while he does TRSS, since then what happens if one of us misses a night? So once one of us does a load of dishes, it simply becomes the next person’s turn. AND, a pro tip we learned from a married couple when we were engaged–is there a sensitive topic in your relationship? Budget? Chores? turn it into a character. We now have “Mr. Budget” and “Dish Monster.” It sounds childish, but it gave us a way to inject humor into tense conversations, and it allows you to redirect blame. So now I say “Dish Monster looks ready to eat you!” instead of “Please, for the love of God, could you do the dishes?” Same with: “What does Mr. Budget say about eating out tonight?” vs. “I feel like we’ve spent too much money.” It works for us–though it sounds like it helps us evade responsibility, it really just allows us to have those necessary conversations without it feeling like personal attacks that get our defenses up.

          • Jenny

            Yes! SO much to coming up with ways to have these conversations without seeming personal.

          • I made a list like this with every chore and time estimations and ideal frequency of cleaning. It was really helpful to use when dividing chores equitably. (And I discovered after timing myself in all the steps, that laundry takes MUCH longer than I had expected.)

          • Jenny

            This was me (I think)! It was a really really helpful way for us to think about ALL the effing work that it takes to be an adult. I think it helped us have conversations about how often to clean in a more neutral context. It actually reminds me that we need to up date this now that we have a kid.

          • NolaJael

            It was a great idea. Clearly it made an impression on me. :)

    • Caitlyn

      Because sometimes it’s helpful for someone else to say things back to you – in your post you state that your husband takes showers when he wants and you don’t. When you pointed this out to him “he said of course I can take showers when I want and ask him to take the kids. But I don’t ask”. When he takes showers does he ask you to take the kids? If he doesn’t ask – then why should you? Sorry if this is misguided, there’s just something about your wording. There’s this inequality and when you discuss it – your husband unintentionally perpetuates the inequality by stating that of course you can “ask to shower” and it sounds like he means well, but I think maybe it’s not about whether either of you showers – its about the assumption that he can shower whenever because you’ll take care of the kids if he’s unavailable, but that you must ask him for the same consideration. (and he’ll be happy to accommodate when you ask… but you must ask).

      • Mary Jo TC

        You’re right, and maybe that’s more of why I had a problem with it, something I wasn’t able to articulate to him at the time. Thanks for stating it in those terms for me.

      • Ros

        Yes. The ‘asking’.

        Thanks for highlighting this, because I share the EXACT frustration, and ARGH. It’s like… what, so the kids are my default responsibility and I can ASK you to take care of them so I have free time, whereas free time is your right and the responsibilities come in to take away your free time? NO. Shared responsibility. Step up.

    • NolaJael

      He needs some set evening chores that must be completed before video games happen. That way you do the emotional labor once (together) then it’s his responsibility from there on out. (It’s never actually this easy, but it’s a place to start.)

      • Eenie

        I agree that this may be a good solution. I personally hate when one of us is doing work for the household and the other isn’t. And somehow it’s videogames for my husband too. He’s really broken himself of the habit of playing while I’m working, or he’ll ask “I need a break, can I play some games and pick this back up later?” I’ve also gotten better about continuing watching TV if I’ve already finished my tasks for the weekend but my husband procrastinated.

        • Ros

          oh the goddamn video games.

          No joke: about 3 weeks into the newborn+toddler phase, I told my husband that the next time he played video games while I did housework AND nursed the baby at the same time, I was throwing his ipad out the window. And I 100% meant it.

          We usually have a fairly feminist relationship but goddamn that was a low point.

    • Jessica

      “My husband’s default is that free time is his to use as he likes unless he has some explicit job to do. My default is that I only get free time if everything is done around the house.” Ugh, exactly the same here. It is both helpful and not-helpful now that my sister-in-law lives with us, because her default is the same. They will do the dishes after dinner, or watch the baby whenever I ask, but they both assume that I am responsible for maintaining the house and taking the baby unless I specifically hand over a chunk of that responsibility to them. It is kind of a gender thing, but obviously not entirely. And it’s partly that I need to ask, and also accept their standards for (cleaning/cooking/childcare) a bit more, and partly that they start doing more adulting in the house, and raise their standards for (cooking/cleaning/childcare). I appreciate the Real Talk from Amy March downthread but it is a hard thing to figure out and solve.

    • gipsygrrl

      I just wanted to share that I have this dynamic in my marriage too – and it’s something that took a while for me to realize and then figure out how to even articulate after we had a kid. We are still working on it. And he’s a wonderful man… he just sort of assumed that when we were both at home on the weekends, I was in charge of the kid and he could decompress however (and whenever and for however long) he needed. It’s getting better for us. But he still sometimes disappears into the bathroom with his tablet for, like, 45 minutes while I’m playing play-dough and wondering where the hell he went ;)

    • Chris

      So, 5calls.org is great. You put in your zip code and it gives you a script and phone numbers to call about whatever issues you care about.

      ALthough, I also read a NYT article recently saying that 86% of the calls to congress right now are from women. And men should be doing some of that emotional labor too. But… like all the sameness things we’re talking about about, it needs to be done.

    • Jenny

      So I think you might spend some time figuring out what you want to happen, and then talking with your husband about how to make that happen.
      For example, do you want him to ask to take a shower, do you want him to set his alarm 15-20 minutes earlier so that he can shower AND help out with the kids, do you want to be able to just announce, I’m going to the gym and I won’t be home til 7, have fun putting the kids to bed? Working your way to any of those are fine, but they are different.
      Do you want your husband to do chores with you nightly before video game time, do you want to have him do them on his own, do you want to have him be responsible for x and you are responsible for y. All of the above?

    • Ros

      Soooo… I basically read half your comment out loud to my husband with a ‘THIS is what I’ve been trying to articulate/fix for 3 damned years’. And for the record: it’s getting better, but ARGH. Which is to say: I don’t have a solution, but I share your frustration, and maybe you helped me fix mine by bluntly articulating it to the spouse in question?

  • Amy March

    Just throwing a suggestion out there- I love watching a friend’s baby for an hour while she gets a manicure or goes for a coffee. And I’ll totally swing by your place on a Saturday afternoon for a couple hours to make sure none of the kids kill each other while you run a 10k.

    Totally team demand your partner contribute, but also remember the rest of your village!

    • Such a great point. I’ve been the friend who kept saying “let me help, let me help” when a friend has a new baby…and then I never get tapped. Now that I’m a mom, I’m trying to cash in those “let me help” offers from my friends, as I know they genuinely want to cuddle Phi while I go get a pedicure.

      I guess the hesitancy is around not wanting to “burden” friends even when they offer? As opposed to family, which feels a lot easier to ask to do things.

      • Ani

        Yes, for me it’s that I assume my childfree friends are just being nice…and, condescendingly I admit, I sometimes assume they don’t *really* know what they’re signing up for, i.e., that even an hour with my kid is usually not just snuggling a little snuggle bug (I’m working on not having that response, which I know is often totally unfair!)

        And I also assume that my mom friends already have too much on their plate and are also just being nice, but need a break themselves! And I’m not at the point yet where I’m willing to reciprocate by watching their kids + my infant, so I always decline.

        • Amy March

          Yeah that’s really hurtful to hear. You don’t have to have your own kids to know how to take care of them- lots of us babysat, had siblings, etc.

          • AP

            Definitely! We watched our friends’ 18 month old for an entire weekend last month, and when we didn’t know what to do…we figured it out! We have NO experience with kids other than our nieces and nephews. We did it because we love our friends and wanted them to have an anniversary weekend, and we love their kid. So even though we were exhausted by the time they picked her up, it was great all around! The more loving adults in a kid’s life, the better.

          • Mary Jo TC

            I read that as not being hurtful to the “clueless” childfree friends, but as a parent who knows that her kid can be particularly hard to deal with. My nephew, for example, screamed for up to 3 solid hours when parted from his mom. Really bad separation anxiety. She did not want to subject anyone to that.

          • Ani

            Yes, this.

          • NolaJael

            No, but the kid needs it. If the person is willing to try, give them a chance.

          • Ani

            And hat’s why I said I’m working on it.

            But it does feel like a burden if I know my kid is going to be screaming in their faces and having blow out poops (he has some digestive issues that we’re working on), especially since our baby sleeps a lot less than the average newborn.

          • emmers

            I think if you’re worried about those particular issues, I’d just mention them to to whoever volunteers. If they’re then like “yes, I’m still good with that,” then if you can, try to trust them. But then you’ll hopefully also feel like you’ve given them fair warning.

            When I was single I used to volunteer to watch my friends’ kids all the time. I’m sure I didn’t do things as well as them (I have a vivid memory of 2 year old twins literally running in circles around me while I was trying to get them and their sister w/ teeth brushed and in bed), but I really liked being part of their lives like that, and I really liked getting to know the kids, and also feeling like I was giving my friends a night off.

            It’s almost like the “next level” of friendship. It’s maybe hard to trust people to help with that stuff, and maybe hard for them to do it, but in my experience then there’s this extra closeness from sharing your lives.

          • emmers

            On the flip side– there are friends who I’ve offered to help who never took me up on it, and I kinda felt like they just didn’t trust me enough to let me in to the “next level.” We’re definitely no longer as close, not just because of this, but it definitely contributed– just feeling like they were happy with their family lives and didn’t really want to/need to include me, even when I offered. I’m sure that they probably had worries that I couldn’t handle whatever. But when I think of those friends and those turned-down offers, I do feel sad!

          • Amy March

            Yes, this. Refusing help shuts people out of your life.

          • Gaby

            And if they’re really not comfortable with leaving their kids with you for whatever reason, they can at least accept a friend coming over regardless of how crazy the kid situation is. I’d still rather spend two hours with you laughing together at how hectic your life is and attempting to help out, than to be shut out and not see you at all for long periods of time.

          • accidental_diva

            THIS!!! I’m the friend without kids – I’ll totally hang on to your baby while you pee and drink coffee or try on clothes at the mall.
            I’m your friend – I love you and I want to know your kid(s) – how else will they know who to come to for food you don’t allow/when big shit happens and they need to talk to someone who’s not their parent?

          • PAJane aka Awesome Tits

            Yesssssssss.

          • emmers

            Yea. It’s rough, because I’m sure that sometimes I’ve had friends with kids/new kids who have refused visitors I think because they’re so overwhelmed. And I don’t want to invalidate that. But it does get to a point when I’ve offered a few times, to even just stop by with some food .. and I just don’t want to offer any more when I keep getting shut down.

            I have one college friend in particular who lives maybe 3 hours away, and her kids are now 4 I think? And I’ve never met them, despite trying for a few years to meet/accommodate their schedules, etc. And it makes me sad but I’ve basically written off the friendship since it doesn’t seem like it’s a priority for her, since I’ve reached out multiple times and it’s never worked out. If she reaches out, great, but I’m not expecting things to change.

          • Gaby

            I had a similar situation in college with a friend who had a lot of responsibility for her younger siblings. Yeah, I know that it’s probably much more overwhelming than I can imagine even at my most empathetic, but friendship does require at least a LITTLE self-awareness. Not finding one day for you out of over 1000 days speaks pretty loudly.

          • Cellistec

            True–and as someone who volunteers with children regularly, is CPR/first aid certified, and has logged dozens of hours of training classes for childcare, getting passed over for taking care of a friend’s kids stings. It’s like, come on, they can go to grandma’s next time…gimme a chance.

          • rg223

            Not totally responding to you with this, but to throw something else into the discussion…

            If you are a friend and offer too babysit, I’m going to want to pay you. ESPECIALLY if you are a babysitter and get paid for it. I’ve been on both sides (been awkwardly paid for babysitting a friend’s kid and awkwardly paying someone), and it’s never felt totally comfortable. So sometimes I just want to skip the awkwardness and have the grandparents watch them, and we can get together and hang out as friends with or without the baby (which is nice because it’s not awkard, and I get to spend time with you instead of just dumping my child on you and peacing out). Not saying that’s a factor in all situations, but it’s come up often for me and my husband.

          • zana

            Take friend out for coffee? Give them a boozy/whatever gift?

          • AP

            Yes, this is what our friends did after we watched their kid for their anniversary. They brought us back treats from New Orleans. It was totally unnecessary, but really thoughtful and lovely.

          • zana

            Yeah, it really feels like the gift is the way around it.
            We usually buy a small souvenir for our friends who check in on our cat while we’re on vacation. And if we can’t find a souvenir, I’m an avid home-canner and back-up home preserves make a lovely small gift, too.

          • accidental_diva

            I dog sit and really not being at my house (yea rebuilding credit=living at my parents) is gift enough (along with the “open any bottle of wine”)

          • Cellistec

            I was going to make a comparison to dog-sitting, because we leave our dog-sitting friends a bottle of wine or some fancy chocolates rather than paying them, but I know lots of parents would bend me over a barrel for comparing children to pets. So I appreciate that you went there anyway. ;)

          • rg223

            I’ve done this, and it does take away some of the awkwardness. Except then I feel guilty that I haven’t done enough to repay them. I carry a lot of guilt around getting free childcare from my friends.

          • zana

            They’re adults. If it’s a burden, they’ll say no!

          • Amy March

            Get over it? Honestly though. This is a you issue, don’t let it get in the way of friends being friendly!

          • Dana

            Some of your commentary, which is usually thought provoking and interesting is lost in your bluntness. Telling anyone to just get over something, as its their issue doesn’t add much to a discussion and reads as quite condescending and dismissive. Or mean.

          • Another Meg

            If they’re offering it, don’t worry. Like, really. Don’t worry. If they didn’t want to, they wouldn’t offer.

          • rg223

            Wellllll the scenario everyone else is talking about, where a friend offers to babysit while I do X, has never happened to me. I had one friend say a blanket “I’ll visit and give you a break!”, which never happened because of conflicting schedules (and I would not have paid her for that). My situations are more like, I call a friend freaking out because I need someone to watch my son from 7:30am to 9am on a Tuesday, can she do it? Which IS a burden. I probably wouldn’t pay her, I’d buy her breakfast or something… but the realities of childcare are usually not as simple as the ideal scenario that people are evaluating my comment on.

          • Another Meg

            That context makes a lot of sense. If I filled in in a pinch for childcare, I wouldn’t turn down coffee or whatever. But it feels a lot like any other time I bail out a friend in a pinch (flat tire, cat care, what have you) – I’m doing it because you are my friend and you need help and I want to/can help you out. The acknowlegement of the coffee is what’s important, not the price tag.

          • Amy March

            Well yeah, that’s completely different than what I suggested, which is accepting an offer of a favor. It’s the scenario we’ve all been discussing!

          • rg223

            Hmm, I didn’t see it as being SO completely different, I just saw it as being a more complicated scenario – again, this is why my comfort level of using friends as babysitters is not high: there’s just do much gray area.

          • Cellistec

            Oh wow, I hadn’t thought about that. I’d feel weird taking money…but not, say, a bottle of wine. That could be a good solution. And I admit that given a choice, I’d rather someone else babysit so I can hang out with my friends sans kids. But if a friend needs a break and I’m closer by than the grandparents, by all means, dump em on me and peace out.

          • rg223

            Yeah, anytime I leave my son with a friend, I am jealous that he gets to spend time with them! My in-laws… not so much ;)

          • Violet

            Huh. So as the parents, what would work here? Pre-emptively saying, “So, thanks for babysitting! How can we show our appreciation? Wine, coffee, cold hard cash? All of the above?”

          • Abby

            If a friend/family member has offered to babysit, it’s because they love you and want to know and love your kiddo too. It’s not a transactional thing, and it hurts to treat it transactionally. However, especially since most babysitting is not all sunshine and rainbows and snuggles as acknowledged in this thread, and sometimes/often involves some level of crankiness and pooping that you would otherwise be paying someone to handle, I (childless adult who is actually damn good at diaper-changing and bedtime and calming screaming babies) very much appreciate it when the parents cook or take me out to dinner, hang out and share a bottle of wine, or any other combo of token gesture + adult friend time together (even/especially with kiddo along for the ride).

          • Violet

            This is a very reasonable expectation, thanks! I squirm at the idea of trying to pay friends for a favor! I wouldn’t want to be paid for a favor! But spending some quality time together as part of the situation is a win-win all around.

          • emmers

            When I babysat for my friends, I felt like payment enough was them leaving dinner for me. Just my $0.02. I can totally see how this would be awkward! I would offer and be very explicit that it was for free, but I can see how it would be confusing if it’s unclear.

          • Kalë

            Yes, I agree! As a younger-side-of-30 year old, I have a handful of mom friends that don’t have the support or $ for much childcare (like, beyond necessary daycare while they work). If I’m offering to watch your kid, and you’re my friend, I DON’T want you to awkwardly pay me. It’s nice to offer, I guess, because everyone is different, but for me personally, I’m not doin’ it as a job – I’m doin’ it because I know you’re broke-ish, and I love you, and I want to give you a few hours to yourself, without having to spend anything on childcare, and because I love squishy babies and wild toddlers.YMMV, of course, but I think many new/youngish moms will find the same is true of their buds, too.

          • Abby

            100% agreed. And also, to pull this back to the original post, right now in my pre-parent career-focused period of my life, the me-time I need the most involves ignoring my cell phone and distracting myself from my very demanding job. You know what’s a perfect way to do that? Babysitting my friends’/family’s kids. If letting me do that lets my parent-friends go out and get their own much-needed me-time, that’s a win-win.

          • rg223

            Yeah, I sometimes pay for dinner for the friend, and call it even, which is fine if they are just coming over for a couple hours. But if it’s a full work day, and one of your actual jobs is being a nanny… just paying for meals doesn’t feel reciprocal enough for me.

          • rg223

            I’ve also had situations where, for example, my friend has offered to do it for free, but she’s coming at a mealtime, and her work commitment ran over so she had to spend 30+ dollars on an Uber to get to my place on time, and at that point it’s like, no, I’m not going to make you spend around $50 to watch my child for free. I guess paying to make up for THAT doesn’t necessarily count as paying HER… but when it happened, my husband and I had a long talk afterwards being like “Should we have given her more money?” And I feel guilty.

          • Amy March

            I would be appalled for a friend to pay me for babysitting. I offered you a favor. All I expect in return is a thank you.

          • rg223

            Yeah but like… I insist. This is probably where the awkwardness comes from. But I think I have done it for too long as a job to see it as something that doesn’t need payment. Because realistically, I would be paying someone else to do it if they weren’t there (aside from family, although I’ve paid family too at times).

          • Amy March

            But, like, dont? I really think it’s rude and offensive. Would you offer to pay a friend every single other time they offered a favor? If I brought a meal around would you hand me a $20? If you insisted on paying me I’d feel like you were telling me I’m too poor to give you my time voluntarily. It would be extremely upsetting.

          • rg223

            I think babysitting is different though – to me it’s actual labor, not a favor and social niceity. And I do pay my friends for labor. I paid my friend for making the centerpieces for my wedding, though she gave me the “friends and family discount,” and it was the same situation when my best friend babysat for me. I think you being offended by a friend offering money is proof towards my original point that friends babysitting is complicated and sometimes people would rather avoid it.

        • NolaJael

          I think this attitude, which I’ve seen in my own friends, is part of the symptom of a lot of us being isolated from kids as a society. If you saw your friends every day pouring juice and bouncing babies (and changing diapers and wiping spit up) you’d know they are competent. But since a lot of new parents feel like they are figuring things out from scratch, they think others don’t know anything either. I see it as a vicious cycle.

          • K.

            It’s totally a vicious cycle! There’s also weird pressure on women to be parenting experts right form the get-go. Uh, I’ve literally held two babies in the past 7 years. I’ve never, ever changed a diaper. Seriously, ever. I’m not suddenly going to be filled with magical wisdom and knowledge when my daughter gets here! The research I’m doing beforehand will hopefully help, but I’m sure I’ll still be overwhelmed when actually faced with a tiny human who is completely dependent on my husband and me.

            While I’m not fearful of my parenting abilities because I’m a generally competent person and I’m committed to being the best parent I can be, I also know have a lot to learn. And I hope I can be open to help when I need it even if the person offering the help isn’t an expert either. it’s not just the village elders (so to speak) who make a difference!

            [Hormones can be a killer though in the first few months from what I hear and might make all this ^ harder than my more rational brain is letting it seem now. One of my most typically level-headed friends snot-sobbed on the ground apologizing over and over to her 8 week old son once because he got diaper rash. It gets real.]

        • penguin

          If you wanted, you could start by having a friend who offers to watch your kid hang out with you and the kid for an hour or two one day. They can get to know your kid, and what it takes to watch them (if they need that). Then you might feel more comfortable leaving your kid with them at some point.

      • Amy March

        Snuggling your babies is not a burden, it is a reward! Especially your baby she’s adorbs.

        • JC

          ^ Truth on all counts.

      • Jenny

        I think for me, part of it was also the unreliable nature of babies. maybe you want to come so I can go do something and we say ok from 2-3, but then at 2 he wants to breastfeed, and because he’s a slow and finicky eater it takes FOR EV ER. It was easier to be a flaky new mom in front of my family. I also just want to acknowledge that it can be really emotionally hard to leave your new kiddo, I didn’t particularly want to because I only had 6 weeks at home with my kid.

    • Gaby

      We have a lot of single male friends and I have already been considering how I can have our future babies around them often enough so that they can also feel comfortable with babysitting for an hour or two here and there. We already benefit so much from living near each other and I want to continue that resource for when an errand or an “I need a coffee shop break” emergency comes up once we’re parents. I know attitudes will change once we’re actually parents, but I do hope we hold on to accepting and asking for help.

  • Cellistec

    We set a precedent for this early on, using the lens of introversion and recharging, which makes alone time feel like a healthy thing for our marriage. I’m an introvert and my husband is an extrovert, and after we moved in together, he figured out that upon getting home from work, I’m a minor ogre if I don’t take an hour to eat dinner and not talk to anyone. Almost 7 years later, every evening he still says “enjoy your decompression time, honey” and we put on our respective headphones for an hour so I can recharge and be ready to interact with him again. My husband also goes camping by himself a few days each month (and most of each week during his summer break), so I get ample alone time then without feeling guilty about neglecting him. It works amazingly well for us. I do expect my alone time to evaporate once we have kids, though.

    • stephanie

      I have TOTALLY found that after shifting to working in an office this year (for the first time ever), I totally need 45-60 minutes after I get home to just BE. Sometimes I read, sometimes I catch up on politics, but I really prefer to not talk that much until I’m like… all the way there. For what it’s worth, we have one kid and this is also when he does his TV time for the day (it works out suuuper nicely!).

      • emilyg25

        I used to think I wanted a really short commute, but 5 minutes wasn’t enough time between my office and my door. 20 minutes is much better for me–that’s my zone time.

    • ruth

      Cellistec, I think you are my internet twin! I was just posting something similar below :) I agree that for those of us who are introverts this time alone is essential. And my hubby and I too worry about how we’re going to maintain this balance one we have kids

    • Mer

      I am so with you here. My fiance and I have been together for 4 years but just started living together about 7 weeks ago. Yesterday I got home from work and when I sat down at the kitchen table to eat dinner fiance comes over, moves a chair right next to mine, and then starts touching and talking to me. In my most polite voice possible (which even though I try is not super polite) I said “Can I please have some alone time?” but was thinking “Get the eff off of me I will cut you now stop talking.”

      It’s a process… this learning to live together thing.

  • Coco

    Oh man I would love some alone time. We have a one year old and both work full time. I love spending time with our son in the evenings but it’s so busy feeding, bathing and getting in bed. And since he wakes up super early there’s basically 1.5 hours after he goes to bed before I have to go to bed… My partner is pretty good about giving me time where he can so I’m unsure about asking for more. He is tired too. It’s hard to know when to accept and when to ask for more…

    • Antonia

      This is us, exactly — two parents who work full time and a 16-month-old daughter. And my husband does A LOT — shops for groceries, tackles laundry, handles all the outdoor stuff (shoveling snow, scooping poop), and does the majority of the cooking. No real advice, except to say I feel ya.

    • stephanie

      I know this is kind of a frustrating thing to hear/read at this point (or it was for me!), but it really does get easier as your kid gets older. My kid just turned 8, so right now I’m able to write from the perspective of someone who has years of having a kid who can be trusted to handle a lot of his own shit under her belt. I mean, obviously if you guys have more kids then this period will be prolonged, but at some point they really do start to be able to handle doing parts of life on their own, and it really does free up your time. This is absolutely NOT a post I would have written when my son was 1 and I had 3 jobs and my husband had 2 and we barely saw each other and were contemplating divorce because we didn’t have to tools, vocabulary, and know-how to communicate to each other what we needed.

      • Gaby

        This is what continues my never ending internal debate on how many kids we should have. On the one hand I think multiple siblings is ideal, on the other hand more kids means more years handling little ones who take away so much independence… and sanity.

        • K.

          I’m currently pregnant and if someone forced me to make the decision right now, I would be one and done for exactly your latter reasons (plus finances, plus a rough pregnancy, etc). However, in reality, my husband and I are tabling even considering the conversation until she’s at least 12 months old.

          I think there are some people who know how many kids they want and never waver from it…I envy that! For me though, I need at least the experience (and not just the anticipation of the experience) of actually having ONE kid before I can even begin to wrap my head around more.

          • Gaby

            I think that’s what we’ll have to do too! I just get frustrated because I think we had both agreed early on that two kids would be perfect… but now the closer I get to being ready to be a mom the more I’m like… “They’ll only have ONE sibling each?!?”

          • AP

            “For me though, I need at least the experience (and not just the anticipation of the experience) of actually having ONE kid before I can even begin to wrap my head around more.”

            YEP. Me too.

          • Mary Jo TC

            That’s why I got stabby when someone asked my sister, pregnant with her first kid, whether/when she’d have a second and third! GIVE HER A MINUTE!

          • AP

            Omg, I can’t.

          • Catherine McK

            Ugh! While still in the delivery room after my second son was born, the nurse asked me if we were going to try for “our girl”

          • CMT

            WTF people?!

          • BSM

            Ugh, same. In theory, we like the idea of more than one (having siblings seems nice when you’re young [for playing] and as an adult [as your parents age], our kid won’t have any cousins around their age, etc.), but we gotta see how this first one goes before making any decisions.

            The finances alone, good lord…

          • Gaby

            Ah yes, I’ve totally been spacing the financial costs when I’ve reflected on this emotionally haha. Oops.

        • Coco

          Exactly! I find having a kid so fulfilling on some deep level I can’t really describe, and I love the idea of a big family… but yes, independence and sanity… and sleep.

    • emilyg25

      I get my alone time on weekends. My husband wakes up with our son and they go for a walk or go to Home Depot to sit on the tractors or to the diner. I get to sleep in or get up and enjoy my coffee in silence.

    • Em943

      I hear you. I actually took today off work since I wasn’t feeling well but it has been amazing to be home alone without my husband or kid. We have a pretty good system where I take the kiddo to the gym with me on Saturday mornings (they have a gym daycare) so both my husband and I get to have some alone time. I still miss being alone in the house though, and haven’t yet figured out how to deal with that, since he’s much more of a homebody.

      • Coco

        Yes I was just thinking this. I think I’ve had like 20 minutes of alone time at the house since our baby was born! One day when my husband took him for a nap drive. No wonder I miss it.

      • JLily

        I don’t have kids so I’m not sure this works the same, but sometimes I tell my husband to take one of the (cute, but hyper and therefore sometimes annoying) dogs with him if he is running an errand. Its not generally a lot of time, but can be a nice break at the house with just me. Also, dogs love to stick their heads out the window and smell things. Maybe kids do too? Idk.

    • Kara E

      Sounds like a good partnership. When my kiddo was that age, my “alone time” was sometimes asking to trade off on dishes (which my husband normally handles) so that I didn’t have to have anyone touch me for a little while. At that point in our lives, my husband (who naps ok, I didn’t) would also give me a weekend morning to sleep in while he took her on some sort of morning adventure/ made breakfast/ did fun things. He would catch in a nap sometime in the afternoon while I ran errands or took care of stuff that needed to be taken care of – totally made our sanity. Maybe at this point, it’s more a matter of finding short blocks of time for each other than “demanding” time. Like I did all (almost) the bedtime stuff last night because my husband REALLY wanted to watch the game — I told him to tag out for the night (which we both sometimes need to do). If it happened all the time, we’d probably have issues, but we both have a decent understanding of what needs to get done and by when and generally work together until it is. You’ll get through it and someday get more sleep. Hang in there!

      • Coco

        This sounds pretty much like what we do. It’s nice to hear an outside perspective that we’re taking a good approach. Thank you :)

  • Mrrpaderp

    Great topic. It’s hard to ask for alone time and it can be even harder to enforce it. As in, if your SO is cooking dinner while you’re reading a book, he’s not really giving you a break if he’s constantly asking what temperature the oven should be, or what were the ingredients to that recipe again, or can you tell me if the meat is done? If I have to stage manage dinner, you’re not actually taking that chore off my plate (so to speak). And that’s with an adult, I can’t imagine what it’s like with kids. Physical separation can make that boundary more clear.

    • stephanie

      OMG this makes me forever grateful that my husband knows how to cook, but also? Husbands can google! When I cook I am the one who is like HOW DO YOU DO THIS THING but I just.. ask my phone or my laptop, so my husband can continue doing whatever he’s doing (aka watching Star Wars).

      • Amy March

        Turns out they have whole books that explain how to cook!

        • Cellistec

          Turns out some husbands never learned to read a recipe. And they can be taught now, sure, but…ain’t nobody got time for that.

          • Amy March

            Nonsense. They are written in English. They don’t know how to read a recipe like I “don’t know how” to follow the instructions on the copier to clear a paper jam.

          • Cellistec

            As someone who’s been reading recipes for 20 years and still gets tripped up by them (I was supposed to make and chill the crust in advance for 3 hours? Wait, did I just put in baking powder or baking soda?), I’m sympathetic to him. I know it’s about small steps: make mac and cheese from the box and then we’ll move onto spaghetti sauce from scratch. But the larger problem is that he has almost no sense of smell and very little sense of taste, so we just like different flavors. When he “cooks” (meaning makes a sandwich with lunchmeat and strawberry jam), I want nothing to do with it. But at least he does make his own meals, so I’m only cooking for myself, and I can’t complain about slaving away in the kitchen for him.

          • Amy March

            Oh yeah I mean sensory processing issues are a whole other kettle of fish with strawberry jam than not being able to follow directions in a recipe.

          • Katharine Parker

            Recipes can be confusing though–I remember a bit in one of Laurie Colwin’s essays about the idea that “if you can read, you can cook,” and finding that her husband was stumped by a recipe that said, “add water to cover.” Cooking, even with a recipe, even with step by step photos and videos, takes practice, but you do (should?) get better the more you do it. You develop those skills.

          • westofhere

            For example, you have to learn that the recipe won’t tell you how much of ingredients to add, because that’s listed in the “ingredients” portion of the recipe And to read the whole recipe so you know whether you need to be doing some things before you can even start the recipe (butter, room temperature, carrots, already chopped). You also have to know what the words mean (“finely dice,” “simmer,” “reduced,” etc.) I didn’t realize until I started cooking with my husband that “how recipes work” is not just something you know. None of these are excuses for not learning, but recipe reading is a skill, not something that is just intuitively known.

          • AP

            Oh how I miss the days of Home Ec classes. This is exactly what they’re for. Life skills, y’all.

          • There are so many things I wish we were taught in school.. How to sew, do a budget, managing a household, etc.

          • cml

            Literally anything that would help me survive out in the world, really…anything at all…

          • When i was watching My Drunk Kitchen a while back, in one of the early episodes Hannah is confused by the instruction ‘cream together’ and assumes it’s a typo for ‘cram’. That brought home to me how much scope there is for confusion in recipes. To me, cream clearly means mix until it has a creamy consistency, but to her it was an ingredient that didn’t belong in that step so had to be a mistake.

          • sage

            I agree certain cooking terms aren’t intuitive (“dice”, “simmer”, “reduce”) if you haven’t cooked with recipes much. I recently explained to my fiance that the reason he thought it was so hard to cook rice was because a “saucepan” is not a pan (like frying pan), but rather a small pot.

            HOWEVER, there are cookbooks (Betty Crocker has a beginner’s cookbook for instance) that give detailed definitions of each of these terms with pictures and instructions to go along with them. Also there is google… every time I have had to look up a cooking term there are a bunch of people who have already asked (and answered) my question. And I really only started learning to cook in my mid-twenties.

          • Her Lindsayship

            So many people in my office seem to have that particular brand of selective illiteracy…

          • BSM

            Thinking of proposing I get a 1% bonus every time someone in my office asks me for printer help at my next performance review. Then my husband could stop working and deal with all the childcare/house stuff.

          • Eenie

            I have stopped fixing the printer unless I need to print something. And even then I let someone else do it if the issue is affecting someone else too. But it’s not in my job description to fix printers, it’s more of just the general being a good coworker to people with shared spaces and equipment.

          • BSM

            Like, I don’t know how to fix the printer. I turn it on and off, or uninstall and reinstall it from my computer, and that usually does the trick. That’s it.

          • zana

            Blue Apron posts their recipes online and has very clear instructions. Photos for each step-by-step. There’s also lots of simplified/beginner cookbooks out there. Some targeted to men, some more inclusive.

          • PAJane aka Awesome Tits

            And you don’t have to sign up for Blue Apron to access their recipe library!

          • penguin

            That’s good to know! I assumed you would.

          • PAJane aka Awesome Tits

            If you try them, keep in mind that they’ll tell you to add salt and pepper at each step. This is to build layers of flavor, but if you add as much pepper as you normally would once, at each step, you end up with a fish stew that’s too peppery to eat. Just…so you know.

          • zana

            OH GAWD, YES.
            Just…only add a bit of salt/pepper in the beginning and more at the end if it needs it. Those salt/pepper adding instructions were clearly meant to trip up the beginners.

          • Gaby

            budgetbytes.com is my cooking bible both because of the affordable prices but also because everything is broken down with step-by-step photos too. Her top 10 recipes for college students is probably a good place to start for beginners: https://www.budgetbytes.com/2014/08/top-10-recipes-for-college-students/

          • tggsm

            I don’t know how my husband and I would feed ourselves if we didn’t have Budget Bytes. Big fan!

          • Colleen

            Blue Apron all the way. It seriously changed my life (and my marriage). I’m not exaggerating. Not even a little bit.

          • anon

            SAME! Changed my marriage in such a positive way!

          • cml

            But it’s literally…reading. haha
            I was never expressly taught to read a recipe either so there are some things I still don’t know how to do or what a certain word or abbreviation means, but that’s why God invented the Google machine. (Google, thee I love)

        • BSM

          I want to upvote this a million times.

          There are so many resources out there to help guide you as you learn to cook (books, websites, magazines, blogs, TV shows, YouTube videos, etc.). It might not be *delicious* or *perfect* the first many times a novice cook prepares something, but it’s not. that. hard.

      • anon

        Yes! Asking google instead of me is one of my future goals. Right now we are working on the importance of being able to plan and cook meals–starting with one meal a week on non-travel weeks. He keeps saying that he doesn’t know how to make things, and I tell him that he can read to figure out a recipe. (I’m actually perfectly willing to answer questions right now if it will start the cooking transition but really, if you can read you can cook. And part of learning to cook is making unfortunate mistakes that you have to eat anyway because you don’t have other food in the house).

        If you can read/follow directions, you can cook! (Another current battle I am having)

        Ugh, my husband also thinks he can cook, but really knows how to make sausages. That is the meal he makes. Although this weekend he did branch out and make chili, which is a food I really dislike, but I am fine with eating things I don’t like in the name of progress/cook gets to choose food within reason, which is why I cook meat with bones in it, because I prefer those. If he wants boneless chicken, he can cook.

        • nutbrownrose

          I made an example of “Even if it sucks, you should really eat that,” tonight, and I’m advanced enough at cooking that I can sometimes adjust recipes to suit me. It happens.
          It’s usually still edible (Sauted zoodles and fried eggs, for the record. Too watery on the plate).

    • CMT

      I have a temporary roommate right now who is otherwise a very excellent roommate, but he asks me cooking questions a lot. Like, seriously? How did you manage to feed yourself before you moved in here?

      • stephanie

        These are moments when I would have to REALLY resist passively aggressively texting them “http://www.letmegooglethatforyou.com”

    • Gaby

      Cooking is kind of an alone-time fun activity for me most of the time, but on weeks I do get behind on other things and ask my husband to cook, I usually do it on the day I’ll be visiting my parents. That way he can text me if he really needs to but he also has google and Gordon Ramsey videos to help. I am guilty of hovering and making suggestions when he cooks anyway, so it’s for the best for us both that I’m not nearby.

      • Ashlah

        As the partner who doesn’t know how/is learning how to cook, I can confirm that I learn more and feel more accomplished when I have opportunities to try without my husband around. As much as I appreciate his help (and I do!), it’s good for me to not rely on him for an answer.

        • Gaby

          I feel guilty that I don’t let him do it more often! I mean, he never asks, but he does get such a confidence boost and always posts photos or sends them to me when he cooks haha. It’s very endearing. I do try to be on my best behavior when we do Blue Apron meals together though.

      • lamarsh

        Yeah, my partner has learned to cook while dating me, and he prefers if I am not hovering around and trying to speed up the process. Once I let go, I actually quite enjoyed taking a night or two off from cooking each week.

        • Gaby

          This is why I like to do Blue Apron together sometimes. I work on not hovering but can also help him grow as a cook with little things like “Oh look, we misread that step and made a mistake, but that’s okay we can adapt the recipe in x way to make it work.”

        • Em

          Hahahaha my fiancé is one of these people too! He tells me I am ‘backseat cooking’ and actually much prefers it if I’m in another room or working while he cooks.

    • NolaJael

      YES

    • PAJane aka Awesome Tits

      If your partner isn’t a great cook, maybe you accept a trade-off and they make a skillet meal from the frozen meal isle, because it’s simple to do and relatively tasty. It may be (in general, not directed at you), that if the priority is for one party to complete a task that is not to their skill set so that the other party can be completely free of it, you make a compromise on how that task gets done.

      • zana

        Broiled porkchops and a salad aren’t the worst meal, either. It’s just hard when you don’t know how to cook to know what’s easiest to cook, I think.

        • PAJane aka Awesome Tits

          It’s true! Cooking is a learned skill. That’s why I opted for “frozen skillet meal” as an example. The steps are 1) add water and contents of bag to skillet, 2) stir once or twice over 10 minutes until hot.

          • zana

            Broiled porkchops are phase 2, I suppose: Turn oven temperature to TBD. Stick ‘chops on foil on cookie sheet. Slather some Italian dressing on the meat. Cook for TBD. Serve.

          • PAJane aka Awesome Tits

            See also: Dump chicken breasts and BBQ sauce in a crock pot, walk away.Related: I’m totally craving pork chops now.

          • Violet

            It’s the sign of an expert when the complicated seems easy. It’s called “chunking,” and it means you’re enough of an expert that what looks to other people like multiple steps is only a few to you. I don’t really cook, so this is mystifying to me. Do I wash the chicken first? Cut it? Is there a temperature setting on the crockpot? How much BBQ sauce, enough to cover all the chicken? To coat the bottom of the crock pot? How long do I leave it all cooking? (Not real questions, as I don’t own a crock pot, but you get the gist.)

          • zana

            Ah, the good ‘ole expert blindspot.
            I’ve been watching the great British Bake Off or whatever, and their “technical challenges” where they’re given a minimal recipe (includes phrases like, “prepare custard” as the only directions for making custard) are a nice illustration of this, too.

          • Violet

            I am AHMAZED by those challenges.

          • zana

            I’m a pretty solidly intermediate baker and those challenges blow my mind. But…I also have enough of a background to know that I, too, could know how to make a custard from memory if I regularly baked British desserts, lol

          • PAJane aka Awesome Tits

            Ok, but I’m guessing you can also type “chicken bbq crock pot” into Google? Point being, you don’t need to be a master chef to figure out how to put together a literal 2-ingredient meal, and if that’s what it takes to give your partner much-needed time off from cooking, it’s the least you can do.See also: frozen skillet meal, as previously mentioned.

          • Violet

            Oh, I’m totally with you. I agree starting basic is the best way to go. I just mean that to a novice, even the simple things are going to be harder, just because it’s still new. Not saying you don’t force yourself to learn, but yeah. Even though it’s nbd to you, you would actually totally impress me with your two-ingredient meal!

          • PAJane aka Awesome Tits

            My original point was that if I ask you to take care of dinner without my input, and what I normally do would be too complicated for you to comfortably do, you go ahead and do something simpler so that I don’t have to participate in the process. I’ll happily accept [insert whatever you consider simple here] because you took care of making dinner.

          • Violet

            Gotcha, gotcha. Yes, patience while people are learning means accepting a more minimal meal without compliant. And it means learner not trying to take on a souffle on day one.

          • AP

            I’d happily eat a frozen pizza that I did not have to plan, purchase, or heat up myself. Add a salad and I’m in heaven.

          • PAJane aka Awesome Tits

            Salad comes in a bag, pre-chopped! With a perfectly measured little baggie of croutons!

          • BSM

            We eat this meal a few times a month. Frozen pizza and easy salad is a classic in our house!

          • jem

            Yesssss or just like– decide on pizza, call the pizza place and go pick it up. There– you made dinner.

          • Alexa

            Yes! This is what we refer to in my house as “Make there be food.”

            It has lead us to an over-reliance on delivery food, which isn’t ideal, but at least it embraces the “your turn, your decision” aspect of things.

          • Alyssa

            Yes — my Fiance is the cook and while I can make a few basic dishes, sometimes what he wants and considers “easy” still leaves me with a lot of questions (he’s one of those cooks that is better without a recipe). So when it’s my turn I typically set up a “build your own taco/salad/stir fry” station in the kitchen, and it works out just fine.

          • jem

            YES TO GOOGLE. Like, women don’t have a monopoly on Google. If you ask me what temp for the porkchops, I’m going to have to look it up because it’s not seared into my brain. So… if dinner is your responsibility tonight, so is googling the recipe (same goes for opening the cupboards to locate the pan)

          • Amy March

            Also just never wash chicken. You’re just spreading salmonella around.

          • Violet

            Thanks- I *swear* I heard that somewhere…

        • savannnah

          This. My fiance is paralysised by his unknowns when it comes to cooking. He completely forgets that the internet exists and assumes everyone else just knows how to cook by insect instincts or something. Its very frustrating and doesn’t lead to me be a good teacher but I’l be damned if I’m the default cook for the rest of my life.

          • CMT

            Oh man, men assuming that women know [whatever skill] by instinct really makes me angry. (Not directed at your fiance in particular, I just know this is definitely usually a gendered thing.) No, we weren’t born knowing how to cook or buy Christmas presents or clean the bathroom or whatever! They’re skills *anybody* could learn if they wanted to and they did the work.

      • Cellistec

        How did I forget that Trader Joe’s frozen entrees exist? Those would be a perfect primer to cooking for Mr. Cellistec. It’s all about building confidence at this point.

        • Lawyerette510

          Also to build confidence, blue apron makes all their recipes available online, and they are pretty straight forward and assume very little knowledge. Mr. Lawyerette really increased his comfort with cooking by using How to Cook Everything by Mark Bittman. I think had How to Cook Everything Fast been out, that would have been a great one too.

      • Katharine Parker

        “if the priority is for one party to complete a task that is not to their skill set so that the other party can be completely free of it, you make a compromise on how that task gets done.” Yes. If you don’t want to do something, you have to accept how the other person does it.

        You also don’t have to split every task 50/50–I cook more than my partner, because I enjoy cooking. He cleans the kitchen more and grocery shops more. Sometimes being in charge of dinner means picking up ready-made stuff at the grocery store and heating it up at home–flexibility is key.

    • flashphase

      THIS DRIVES ME NUTS!!!! I often say, “I don’t care if dinner is bad as long as it’s done and I don’t have to answer any questions about it.”

    • Ros

      This just clarified, like, 90% of my frustration with my “relaxation” time while Husband makes dinner. Thanks for pinpointing my issue! Now to fix it…

  • ruth

    This is such an important conversation – thank you for posting Stephanie! When my husband and I started dating, I fiercely advocated for daily time alone, because, as an introvert, I know I go nuts without it. There was a bit of a learning curve, mostly I think because my husband grew up in a large, loud, boisterous family and never got much time alone himself, but we worked it out once I let him know how essential alone time is for my well being (also, he’s learned that he actually needs / enjoys some time alone too.) We have a pretty good system currently as a married couple who both work, but I am terrified of this hard earned balance unraveling once we have kids. Right now I’m essentially working 2 jobs – a full time day job, plus I’m a published author. I plan to quit the day job once we have kids, because the idea of working full time, plus writing 1-2 novels a year due to my contracted deadlines with HarperCollins, while also being the parent of an infant, gives me anxiety hives. I’m lucky in that my husband has a professional skillset that could support us if I quit my day job (my day job alone would not be able to support us.) But I fear that the type of job he may need to take in order to support us on one income will be one of those super high stress, 24/7, zero flexibility jobs, and then we’d fall into these very prescribed roles of male = provider, female=caregiver, which is not what either of us ever wanted. Even if we could afford childcare, I want to make sure that my husband spend enough time with our children that he feels confident in being their caregiver (I think a lot of men internalize messages that they are not as good of nurturers, and that’s some b.s. that has to be unlearned.) I don’t know what the answer is to questions like this. I just hope that because it’s something that has always been important to us, we’ll figure out how to make it work even when circumstances change.

    • Mary Jo TC

      The family of origin issue has made an impact on alone time for us too. I come from that “large, loud, boisterous family” and he had a single mom and one brother. We’re both introverts, but him more extremely so. He needs more alone time than I do. It has been an issue for us when his alone time comes at a cost of our ‘couple time,’ which I need more of than he does, and then I feel distant from him. Having kids has chipped away further into our ‘couple time.’ That’s something I didn’t think about needing to protect, but it’s important, for me anyway.
      Also, working full time plus writing publishable novels? You’re a bad ass.

      • ruth

        Awww thanks Mary Jo! I don’t often feel like a bad ass (more of a mad woman?) so that’s really sweet to hear :) I think because I’m surrounded by author colleagues who often make me feel like a slacker (like an author friend of mine who publishes 4 books a year while working full time as a lawyer) it skewed my perception of “normal” lol. But I think it may be a larger problem in society, particularly for women, to feel like we have to be superwoman all the time (I don’t think men feel as guilty for not being superman.) Personally, I’m totally impressed that you regularly use your crockpot (mine is gathering dust in the basement) as someone who completely sucks at domestic stuff, I think YOU are a badass! And yes, ‘couple time’ is so important! I don’t know how we’ll fare with kids, but it’s something that’s come up for us recently because my parents are unfortunately going through a really ugly divorce right now and my mom has been staying in our guestroom a lot. She’s in such an understandably emotionally needy place that its demanded a lot of time and energy from us. Recently we cancelled a date night to attend to some of here needs, and then found ourselves getting really resentful. We realized that chipping away at couple time ultimately serves no one, and so we’re really determined to make ‘us’ a priority, even during this stressful time. While what happened to my parents’ marriage is complicated, I think one part of it is they rarely ever did anything fun together (or fun alone for that matter.) Writing has taught me how essential play is for creativity, and I’m learning its essential for a relationship too. Good luck! Wishing you both “alone time” and “couple time”! Internet hugs!

        • penguin

          “(I don’t think men feel as guilty for not being superman.)”

          I think a lot of mediocre white guys do think they’re superman :)

          • Jess

            Thiiiiiis. They don’t feel guilty because they think they’re doing great! They’re doing everything expected of them! (which is basically nothing)

          • anon for their privacy

            Based on conversations with my 3 millennial brothers, who ARE supermen (seriously, they amaze me), not all of them think that. Or perhaps, the more awesome they are, the less they believe it.

          • penguin

            Of course not all men think that. Although in your example, it doesn’t sound like your brothers are mediocre.

    • Cellistec

      Hey, internet twin! ;) I have the same fear about one partner having to work 24/7 to support the family, and how that shifts everyone’s roles. Except in our case, the roles would be reversed: I’d likely be working long hours to make bank while my husband is the primary parent to our future kids. He doesn’t have any bad habits to unlearn and will be an amazing dad, but I’m afraid that I’ll have to choose between alone time and kid time. There’s probably no way to tackle this problem other than to deal with it as it happens, which luckily is a few years off for us still.

    • Gaby

      I so relate to this! My job is accommodating about annual and sick leave, but they also offer the option to switch to part time work with benefits and some new moms here have made that switch. I like knowing that it is an option for me, but I also resent the idea of falling into those prescribed roles. My husband is actually the “good cop” with our pets and is very nurturing and caring (I’m the only one that reprimands bad behavior), and I think he deserves the opportunity to be that kind of father in the future as well.

  • PurplePeopleEater

    Ahhh. Primary breadwinner and mom here. My husband loves video games and goes out 1-2 times a week… but he is also primary caregiver and house cleaner/laundry-doer/emotional laborer. And he gives me flowers pretty regularly to boot. And he’s NOT unemployed. He’s an adjunct professor/research associate. I think my husband’s time management skills are kind of stellar, but funnily enough, it was ME who was slow to recognize the importance of HIS alone time, and it was HE who had to demand and argue for it. Now I try to recognize everything he does by fully supporting his nights off/DnD habit/videogaming — which he is usually careful about timing for when our kid is already asleep. And added bonus is this also becomes my alone time. SO as someone who clearly should have known better and yet still managed to screw it up, keep at it, keep asking for it. Hopefully, one day, it clicks for your partners as it did for me!

    • stephanie

      I feel this! I’m also lately encouraging my husband to get out and do LIFE on his own a little bit. He has a (part-time) job, but also home schools our kid, is the one who does doctor’s appointments, grocery shops, cleans, and makes most of the meals. He’s started slowly, by learning Tagalog on Mango (a lot of his patients are Filipino) for a little while after I get home. It seems niiiice.

    • AP

      Sometimes when my husband is being a grouch or whatever, it’s because he needs to go to the gym or for a run. I’m usually the one who notices, and I’ll straight up push him out the door. Gives me a break, he comes back happy, win-win. Also it’s completely reciprocal, and something I’m hoping we can keep up after kids.

    • rg223

      Yeah, I am more on the side of “I take my alone time and have to support you in taking yours” too. Though my husband has not-great time management, which is why his “me time” gets pushed to the wayside (he puts it behind all other priorities).

  • Ashlah

    My co-worker recently complained about her husband taking alone time, and I responded, “Well, you should too!” She feels guilty not spending any and all available free time with her kids (she generally feels guilty as a working mom), and gets upset that her husband doesn’t feel the same way. To her, he’s being selfish and doesn’t care about the kids. They’re on complete opposite ends of the spectrum when it comes to what’s reasonable, and I think that can be a hard chasm to bridge. I try to get her to advocate for herself, but how do you get that message through to someone who seems to be against alone time altogether, even if she obviously needs it and envies it from her husband?

    • AP

      I experienced this with a close family member. She’s a SAHM of 3 kids and military wife. When her kids were small, I asked her to go to lunch or something, and she refused to leave her kids with their dad for a few hours, saying that it was “her job” to be with them and leaving them was like abandoning her job. I never learned if this was her own guilt/pressure or if this came from him (I think a little of both.) But there was no “advocating for herself” because she didn’t want it or think it was important. Now that her kids are older, she doesn’t have a problem leaving them with him for a few hours, but never overnight and never with anyone other than family. It’s baffling to me…and as someone looking to get pregnant this year, it freaks me out.

      • Jess

        This is a very different perspective from ones I’m familiar with. If it makes you feel better, I think this is an attitude you can choose not to have. It may take effort to overcome protective mother hormones, or to talk back to expectations from family, but it seems to be very doable if you know ahead of time that you want to value independence.

        • AP

          Yeah, I think you’re right, especially about talking back to attitudes from family. It’s weird, SAHM is the gold-standard for women in my family, and women who “have” to work (like my single mom) are pitied. So there’s definitely the idea in my family that motherhood should be enough. It’s changing a little with each generation, plus I know my mom and husband will have my back.

      • Ashlah

        Right there with you, and it’s something my husband and I have talked about a lot. I’m sure the emotional part of it becomes harder when there’s an actual kid around, but right now I know I don’t want to become a parent who feels the need to martyr myself to consider myself a good mom. I know that alone time, adult time, is necessary for me to be a happy person, and being a happy person will make me a better parent. I don’t want to feel guilty about that, or at least not guilty enough to forgo it at the expense of my mental health and happiness. For you and I, I think it’s good that it’s something we’re already thinking about and putting real value on.

        • Mary Jo TC

          I like that approach, and it’s one I try to stick to myself, though imperfectly. So far, I feel like I have been able to avoid lingering guilty feelings. When the guilt comes up, I remember all the things you said here and dismiss it as BS. Put your own oxygen mask on first, etc. Just wanted to chime in and say it’s possible to be a good parent without constant guilt!

        • rg223

          Seconding this from the other side – I felt guilty about taking “me time” away from my kid early on, but the more I do it, the less troubled I am – because I come back refreshed and ready to play with him in a way I wouldn’t be if I had just spent 4 hours with him.

        • NolaJael

          I think a good reframing is to remember that you’re modeling good behaviors for your kids. My parents had friends and hobbies growing up and I was always really proud of them. They were socially engaged adults who were fun, curious, took classes, went to book clubs, camping, and men’s retreats…all kinds of “self-care” stuff that I now realize was good for our whole family.

      • ruth

        My perspective on this issue is currently being influenced by watching my mom deal with the same issue at the other end of life: my mom was a SAHM in the extreme when I was growing up – her whole life revolved around being a wife and a mother. And now in her 60’s she and my dad are getting a divorce; her kid is all grown up with a demanding career and living out of state and no longer “needs” her in that childlike way – and she is having a real identity crisis. She is so emotionally distraught, and part of it is of course the divorce, but I think part of it is that she doesn’t know who she is outside of these roles. While not everyone is going to get divorced, the kids will eventually grow up, and I worry about women whose whole sense of self is tied to mothering – because it’s not actually a lifetime job – it’s a job that, as one happily empty nested mom in her 60’s recently told me, you’re supposed to work yourself out of. I was raised that being a SAHM was the gold standard too (obviously) but while I may chose to stay home for a period of time while our future children are young, watching my mom’s struggle has made me realize I really want/need to invest in my career as an author, in my passions and avocations, in my friendships, etc… because that’s not only an investment in my life now, it’s an investment for my future. The traditionally feminine life can be a very fragile foundation

        • NolaJael

          “I worry about women whose whole sense of self is tied to mothering – because it’s not actually a lifetime job…” THIS.

          • Violet

            Thinking about my MIL. Not gonna say why…. ; )

          • penguin

            Same…

        • AP

          This whole comment is so important.

        • JLily

          I know so many women like this. My own mom was a SAHM for a while when my brother and sister and I were young, but I think she always made herself and her needs/wants/ambitions a priority too. The difference in confidence as a 50-something and relationships with their prospective adult children is just staggering.

  • Gaby

    This has been on my mind lately and I’ve been thinking a lot about how glad I am that I’ve waited to have kids because of these dynamics. I am still figuring out what self care rituals are best for me and how to balance my work load so that it stops bleeding into my personal time. My husband and I both get our personal time regularly because we can be pretty introverted and I think we’ll be able to give each other our own little space each week once we’re parents, but I’m also definitely planning to get my own parents involved so that we can both get a break. Another thing that concerns me is that his current job only offers about one third of the sick and vacation leave that mine does. I know we need to have conversations about whether or not it will be worth it to keep a job that would limit me to be the one that has to call out whenever a child is sick, or if he should find another job that will probably be less pay but more family friendly before we start our family.

    • Ashlah

      First-in-line for sick kid has been on my mind too because I see women all-too-often become the default parent at the detriment of their jobs/careers/relationships. My husband actually works a fairly flexible job with understanding bosses, but we’re putting the baby in daycare right down the street from my work, which is completely across town from his job and our home. I mentioned to him that the downside of that convenience for me is that I’ll always be responsible for picking up the sick kid from daycare in the middle of the day (in addition to daily transportation). It made me feel a lot better that he immediately offered realistic solutions to help it feel more egalitarian. In your case, I wonder if he would be able to take unpaid time? And how that would compare financially to a job where he gets more paid time, but is paid less overall? It’s definitely a hard balance to strike, and I wish more employers offered greater flexibility for all of their employees.

      • Gaby

        I already got a dose of this when we bought our house a couple years ago and I was the one that had to be home any time we had a handyman coming in for repairs in the first few months. It was fine because it was only two months in total but it did make me aware of the possible issue in the future. We haven’t really had the discussion yet because we thought he would be applying for other jobs soon until recently when his management changed. He finds his job more satisfying and challenging again right now, which is good but does make that conversation a priority again. I work very close to home so I suspect there will always be a slight imbalance there just as with you, but I think you bring up great points on other solutions. APW has such a way of posting articles at just the right time.

        • Ashlah

          That’s an interesting point, actually, because he’s the one who always has to be at home for those sorts of appointments,since he works so close to home, so I should be sure to recognize and appreciate that in the context of these discussions.

      • BSM

        So psyched my husband will have to be on the front lines when it comes to kid emergencies. Both our jobs are really flexible in that we’re free to work from home a few times a month, but I’ve got a 45 minute commute by public transportation, and he’s a 10 minute drive away.

      • NolaJael

        My dad had a flexible schedule growing up (small work place, salaried) and he always picked us up when we were sick. I had horrible cramps in middle and high school and would call up my dad with my female problems and he pick me up in less than 30 minutes! Feminist dads rock.

      • Violet

        When I voiced this concern (about this kind of thing defaulting to the woman in a hetero-parenting situation) to my husband, he was like, “You have clients and I don’t. Why would you cancel clients and lose money for the household when I could just go get the kid?” Whew!

    • JLily

      I am in a similar boat with the workload/”me-time” and what to do with it balance. My husband is planning to negotiate for more time off during his next review, partly because he was given an extra large raise last time, and partly because we/he really need him to be able to take more time if needed. Maybe yours could ask for that at his current job?

  • Kara

    I’ll preface this by saying we don’t have any kids, nor do we plan to. We both work outside the home. I’m highly introverted, while my husband tends to lean to the extrovert side. We also have 5 cats, 2 giant dogs, and a relatively new foster dog (we have a house to hold our “zoo”.)

    We figured out pretty early on in our marriage we both needed outlets for our alone time. My husband prefers to do martial arts (does this a few times a week for a few hours), and I prefer to sit quietly reading or watching tv. I’m part of a great book club that meets once a month, but as an introvert, I need that time alone.

    Sometimes, we even spend our time alone…together. He’ll play video games, and I’ll read. We might be in separate rooms or just separate couches, but we both get what we need. He tends to do more of the vacuuming and poop duty while I do dishes and more cooking (we do our own laundry, but either one of us will handle the sheets and towels). So chores aren’t a time consuming issue, which is a relief.

    I guess all this is to say, you can find what works for you. Try to fight the guilt you may feel, you need the time to be yourself, in any fashion you need.

    • Cellistec

      Yup, fighting the guilt is everything. And such an uphill battle.

    • PAJane aka Awesome Tits

      We have a similar setup. We’re both introverted and both require downtime, but I need more social/activity time than he does. He works a physically demanding job, whereas mine is more mentally demanding. In lieu of children we have a couple cats. There are several nights a week I’m out of the house for knitting, or girl scouts, or whatever, and we have one night a week we meet up with another couple for some shared social time. He does at least as much housework as I do (I suspect he may be a titch OCD), and appreciates when I’m not around because then he can do a lot of the cleaning to his own standards. When we’re home, we’re often in the same room, being alone together — each on his own computer, or with a book, or watching TV. (We’ve also realized that when he travels to another part of the house, I often gravitate towards him, even if I’m not directly interacting with him. His general company is important to me.) We talk pretty regularly about what we need, but because we need similar things just to different degrees, it works out pretty well. I don’t remember ever feeling guilty about taking time to do what I need to do, but for anyone who does, I would encourage them to remember that you need to put on your own oxygen mask before assisting others.

    • westofhere

      I really really love the phrase “outlets for our alone time.” Much more than my least favorite term, which is “hobbies.” If I need some alone time, it’s probably so I can sit in my bed and cuddle with my cat while I read a book. That is just as valid as someone saying they need to go for a run to chill out.

  • JC

    Stephanie, this is so timely. Thank you so much. We spent the first two years of our relationship doing long distance, so time together was TOGETHER TIME. All the togetherness. Now that we live together and see each other every day and don’t have to worry about what time one of us is leaving at the end of the weekend, it’s hard to get out of the habit of seeing all time as together time. He is much better about it than I am (this is partly due to his hobbies, which are more established than mine). I feel a smidgen of guilt if we could be hanging out together, but I’m choosing to do something else. But I want to establish really good boundaries around this now, so that we can be healthy for the long haul, when kids are involved, etc. I did recently request half an hour alone when I come home and his friends are at our house (happily received as a great suggestion), and I’m being more intentional with my time when I’m home alone or when we don’t have explicit plans together. (If he is not home right now, why am I watching basketball? I more than meet my basketball quota in life. Last Sunday, I chose to watch Coyote Ugly. Basketball, and my relationship, was in no way let down by this choice.)

    • penguin

      Love that movie.

      • JC

        Amen.

  • Elizabeth

    Oh, I’ve definitely been feeling the need for alone time lately. The main factor behind it (since we don’t have kids at present) is that my job is baselined at 40 hours with opportunity to be more than 40 but not less, and my partner’s is baselined at 38 hours with opportunity to be less than 38 but not more. For me I’ve found there’s something that seems to add to the feel of exhaustion of spending a week leaving the apartment before my partner (I start work at 7, they start at 8) and getting home after them.

    I need to find a better way to claim alone time during the week when that happens, because usually that happens because work is hectic (or I’m at least spending more time doing it) but I’m still trying to maintain all the norms of home life. (Actually, related to that, I think I’m going to have a conversation with my partner about having them cook those days — I currently do 90% of the meal planning & cooking because without me asking them to they just don’t think of it — because it would really help to come home and realize that that was taken care of.)

    Thank you for bringing up this idea that wanting that aloneness is valid, and not a failure on the individual’s part. (I spent all day at work, shouldn’t I want to be with my partner etc?)

    • flashphase

      yes, the meal planning and cooking is SO TOUGH! It makes me feel healthier and it saves us money, but if I’m not being instructive about it or if I’m not around, he will eat out all the time or eat PB&J and that’s not what works for me.

  • Victwa

    I think it helped that both my husband and I are ultra-runners. So the idea of daily running time (i.e., alone time) is a given. We both need/want it. The conversation is often, “When are you going running? Can you take the dog?” not a “I’d like to go for a run today”– it’s assumed that both people want this time to themselves and because we’re both better humans when we’ve had enough exercise for the day, we juggle work/kid pickup/dropoff/cooking with this time in mind. Also, because we have his older two kids 50% of the time (and ours full time), I’m quite clear that he should be the primary parent/one spending the most time doing parenting stuff when the older kids are here. This is the one silver lining of step-parenting. It is hard (although I have definitely met women who managed to do this) to take over the lion’s share of parenting/household running when they’re not your kids. At least, it’s very clear for me in a way that might have gotten muddled with my own child. Your children= your time to parent like a mo-fo. My time to go for a longer run. Or hang out with a friend.

  • savannnah

    My fiance and I are just starting to figure out all of this. Part of our challenge is that we both travel a lot for work- I am gone 1-2 weeks per month and he is gone 3-4 weeks. We both come back on weekends most of the time although if we have a west coast flight we often leave on Sundays. We have no friends where we live and often travel on the weekends we are around to see them in Boston, NY, DC etc. This month we actually have 2 weeks in a row and 2 weekends with no travel and no plans and its been lovely but its also been stressful! We’ve been living together for 2 years but we probably have not lived together for more an 3 consecutive weeks (ex. we discovered our 3.5 week honeymoon will be the longest time we’ve spent together) and we are good at weekends and good at living in each others spaces without the other one, I’ll do his laundry when hes got 2 back to back trips and he’ll go grocery shopping for me. But we haven’t yet figured out how to just be for longer periods of time.

    • Jess

      Solidarity in high travel. We’re also trying to figure out how I can stop pushing back against togetherness when I just got home and know one of us is leaving again shortly (in the “I can’t miss you again if I don’t let myself get used to you being here” sense).

      I tend to have a “announce don’t ask” personality, so when I need my space, I take it. But I am also a Quality Time person. Learning to balance togetherness because it’s the only chance we have and need for my own stuff is a challenge!

  • Violet

    Still not a parent, so not sure how this will change in future. But “decompression time” has always been key for me, so my partner had to learn to accept it very early on. I think it’s pretty healthy for all individuals to have at least some time alone from time to time (whether they consider themselves “introverts” or not). You need that down time to let the thoughts just float around. Be yourself, not yourself in relation to another. To be intentional, or to wander. I’m a kinder, more creative, interesting partner when I’ve had time to myself. It’s just better for everyone. I know it was hard for my partner to learn to accept this for a while, but I feel zero guilt about it. He even learned that sometimes he needs decompression time, too (just way less than me). In another thread we were talking about sleeping on arguments, and I feel like alone time is very similar to sleep. It might seem like nothing important is happening, but lots of important things happen during these periods. People’s needs as to the amount vary, but everyone needs some, and you can’t be a full person without it.

  • K.

    I’ve been a hardcore introvert my whole life. One of my family’s favorite Young K. stories is remembering playing dolls with me when I was maybe 3-4 years old and I would suddenly stop, look at them very intently, and say, “Okay, I’m going to go play by myself now bye.” And immediately run to my room, close the door, and sing to myself for about 2 hours before I’d come back all smiles, like nothing even happened. So, uh, alone time is pretty important to me!

    So I’m sort of the opposite – I’ve always been and still am VERY good at making time for myself, but I need to make sure I don’t bulldoze my husband in pursuit of it.

    I married an introvert (truest sense of the word: needs alone time to recharge) but with waaaaaay more social needs than me. Even though being around too many people depletes his energy in the short term, he needs frequent social interaction outside of me to stave off depressive funks. Whereas I hang out with my friends when there’s something fun to do, but if I go two weeks without seeing them, I’m usually still happy as a clam, doing my own thing. I also have to have reminders in my phone that say “Have you talked to [Best Friend] this month?? CALL HER.”

    This difference in needs has always been something we’ve tried to balance and will become even more crucial after I give birth this summer. I’m hyper aware that it’s very likely that I’ll be much more able to put down my boundaries about alone time (as I’ve said, I’ve been a champ at it for longer than I can remember!) and dismiss his need for social interaction as “too much” during the trying newborn phase, which isn’t fair to him. I anticipate growing pains around it, but luckily it’s not the first time we’ve dealt with it. I’ve learned to mellow on my Introvert Power! agenda and be flexible, and he’s definitely learned that my need and preference for way more alone time than his introvert experience doesn’t mean I’m antisocial or depressed.

    But it can be tough, even for two introverts, to figure out how to serve each other’s needs in a loving way, especially through big changes.

    • Cellistec

      Amen to this from a fellow introvert. Have you checked out the love languages book? It was a game changer for us in terms of balancing our needs and abilities.

      • K.

        Yes, we really like it! It helped me realize that I need to actually TELL my husband how great I think he is, rather than just snuggling him all the time. And it helped him realize that my snuggles aren’t just for warmth, ha.

        I know it sometimes gets criticized in the comments here as being too structured and unyielding, but I think if you use it to help understand preferences and as a jumping point for discussion, it can be a really solid grounding tool.

    • Caitlyn

      When baby comes – give yourself permission to hide when people come to meet baby or visit. Husband can play host and get the social interactions he’ll probably desperately need (too much time without other adults will make you crazy). BUT you don’t have to!! My husband’s brother just had their first and we don’t know his partner well at all, but when we go to visit – I tell her very firmly that she is totally allowed to take a break if she’d like and not play host for us. And she does! And even though it means I’m not really getting to know her better (for now) – it makes me feel like she really trusts our relationship and knows that we’re beyond “playing nice” and that we’re going to be around for the rest of her baby’s life so it’s okay to recharge and she can get to know us later. I can’t tell you how happy it makes me to feel like she is comfortable enough with us to do this!

      • K.

        Ooh, yes, this is actually a big part of it! Because obviously he can always go out without me to meet friends even when I’m feeling like my third play-video-games-and-read-a-book night in a row, but he actually *much* prefers to have friends over at our place because, well, he’s an introverted homebody and it makes him feel like he’s more in control. And that’s where I used to get more…testy. I’m better about it now and way more flexible.

        But I definitely anticipate him wanting his whole family and dude friends to come over often and bond with the baby, and I’ll want to pull my hair out and cry if I can’t retreat a bit to go sing to myself (ha). So this is really helpful!

    • Jane

      This is me. I used to ask my mom if it was time for my friends to go home yet, even when we were having fun and getting along great. Even now I feel a sense of panic if I realize a social situation is getting prolonged beyond my control and I have no escape plan.

      I may have to steal your phone alerts idea.

      Good luck with the baby!!!

    • Essssss

      Love your childhood story! Mine was how after I opened presents at my birthday party every year, I’d sneak off with whatever new book I got and would be found hiding under the stairs reading while my friends were still playing at the birthday party.

  • Pingback: Are You Demanding Time for Yourself in Your Marriage? | Wedding Adviser()

  • Her Lindsayship

    My fiancé worked from home until a few months ago, and it has been a huge adjustment. His hours are much longer than they used to be (and you know, not spent at home). When this change first hit, I would spend the three hours between when I got home and when he got home doing household stuff or wedding stuff. I wasn’t used to being alone and it made me restless, so I wanted to be productive. I soon grew resentful of how much extra work I was doing, but he wasn’t able to reduce his hours, so… I just stopped doing the extra work. I watched Orphan Black (amazing btw), started reading more, sometimes I work out or call my mom. Sometimes I cook or do wedding-related stuff, but only if I think it will make me happy. Otherwise I’m forcing myself to stop worrying about being productive during that time. Just because he spends more time at work than I do shouldn’t mean I automatically take care of things that we used to share responsibility for.

    Now we’re working on a routine that keeps things feeling more equal. We might eat a little more takeout now, but I’ve joined my local ACLU branch! And our home might be a little messier, but I’m way more at peace than I was a couple months ago. (*Note: my situation is quite privileged, I’m not so naive as to say that everyone’s problems could be solved if they just stopped cooking as much. But I felt my experience fit well with Stephanie’s message about making time for yourself.)

    • NolaJael

      Yes. We’re the opposite, but the dynamic of one person at home is still hard to navigate. I work an 8-5 job, my husband freelanced and we would alternate who cooks/shops by week. Then my husband moved from an at-home job to an office job and declared that “we’ll have to change how we do dinner since I’ll have less time.” By less time he meant the same amount of time I’ve always had and made it work. I was not impressed. We had to have a discussion about that.

      • Her Lindsayship

        I think we’re not the opposite? – my fiancé worked from home previously, but I didn’t and still don’t. But I relate to that story! My fiancé was a little whiny at the beginning about not getting as much sleep as he used to, and kept saying we needed to go to sleep earlier (me: “um, *you* need to go to sleep earlier then?”). He was still sleeping later than me every morning.

      • Eh

        Good for putting your foot down. Since I am the one home at supper time (my husband works evenings) I always cooked supper. Then we had a baby and I said something needs to give. He now makes one slow cooker meal a week and cooks on his days off. I make supper on my days off (we have different days off) and we eat left overs the other days (since my daughter demands supper at 5pm). We have a list of meals we like that are easy to make so that helps. There are ways to make things work.

    • Eenie

      Oh this is so strange. I think we’re in the flip side of stuff? I was unemployed and doing 90% of the daily household workload and then I took a job with a long commute with the understanding that it meant my husband would need to pick up more than 50% of our weekday housework. And if/when we have a child, be the primary caregiver, one on call for daycare, and do the majority of drop offs and pick-ups. We shifted a lot of the tasks to the weekend, and boy do I bust my ass getting shit done then, but when I get home I put my dishes in the dishwasher and clothes in the hamper. That’s it in terms of contributing to the household.

      I think this different from your situation because it was something we discussed beforehand, and it was a huge part of me accepting this job – he would pick up the majority of weekday tasks.

      • Her Lindsayship

        Really would’ve been a much smoother transition for us if we had thought it out and discussed it in advance too. Good on you guys. :) We’ve learned from this one though, so next time one of us is looking at a big change in routine we’ll know to talk it through!

  • Shirley Schmidt

    Oh god, alone time (we even call it “alone time” though my favourite is “antisocial bastard time”). It is SO IMPORTANT in my relationship. We moved in with each other after 9 months of dating AND moved somewhere where we didn’t know anyone AND where we worked together and next to each other and I swear the only reason we didn’t kill each other was the fact that we quickly recognised that both of us need alone time daily. Now we work at the same firm but not together and see each other almost constantly and yeah, still important!
    It is a strong indicator of my partner’s feminist tendencies that he fully understands and supports this and that is also why I want to have children with him. Because I trust him to know that I need time to be me and that I have no qualms about asking for it.
    Also in favour of “alone time together”. I come from a single-child household where it is perfectly acceptable for each member to be reading a separate book in the same room and sometimes that is a great thing.

    • emilyg25

      “Alone time together” is the best! My parents read in the living room pretty much every single night, each on their own couch. It’s lovely.

      • AP

        #goals

    • Reading parties! I come from a large family and we do that too–sometimes there will be 4 or 5 of us cousins sitting reading different books together and it’s one of my favorite ways to spend time with them.

      • NolaJael

        My dad’s family naps in the same room if we’re all around for a weekend or holiday. My grandparents have a huge living room with plush furniture and people will just crash everywhere mid-afternoon, a cousin or two on the couch, grandpa in a chair, my dad on the floor. It’s weirdly lovely? Like together, but resting.

    • Kara E

      Yup. And I sometimes go hang out on the couch with my husband while he watches “his” shows and I have a book.

  • Anon for this

    I have a somewhat ridiculous situation, that I already know is ridiculous, but is related to alone time? My husband falls asleep on the couch. Almost every night, sometime between 10 and 11. I would personally like to go to bed at 10-1030, but I’ve somehow ended up with the task of waking him up and getting him to bed every night? And I really hate it and would like to stop doing it and just go to bed, but I can’t quite do that, because (1) I don’t see my husband all that much so seeing him late at night is the best time theoretically and (2) it turns into a fight and (3) I feel guilty about it because he does a lot of stuff to make up for my executive functioning issues. I also have a flexible job so I COULD theoretically just catch up on sleep by sleeping in later and going to work later, but I like coming home when it’s light out.

    The real answer to this solution is that my husband should acknowledge that he needs to go to bed earlier, and that his excuse that he wouldn’t get enough stuff done if he went to bed at 1030 is a fake excuse because obviously he isn’t doing anything, anyway, just sleeping on the couch.

    (Also maybe how to get the TV not to be on at all times? I know that’s how it is in his house, but it’s so annoying, and I can hear it even in the bedroom–we only have 2 rooms so alone time in separate rooms doesn’t even work as much).

    • Amy March

      Omg yes you can. He is an adult man. Turn the TV off, go to bed, leave him to be cold and stiff and uncomfortable. Seeing him late at night might be good in theory but it’s obviously not in reality so stop chasing it.

      • NolaJael

        Yep. Once or twice is cute. Every night is a bad habit.

    • penguin

      His house? Do you guys not live together, or do you mean his house growing up?

      • anon for this

        His parents

        • BSM

          Just ask him to not have it on all the time? Like, if he’s not watching something and it’s bugging you, ask if you can turn it off.

    • Violet

      ??? Just tell him turn down service is ending, starting yesterday.

    • Anon for this

      I guess follow up is that I do really rely on him for some basic tasks/reminders that I should theoretically be able to complete as an adult and am incapable of remembering to do on a regular basis. Things like eat or take a shower or remember go to sleep. Theoretically I am an adult and should be able to do that. Practically, the year I lived on my own, I ran into a lot of difficulty and often wouldn’t remember to eat or shower for long periods of time and slept in irregular chunks. So I am a little wary of the “you’re an adult, you should be able to handle this, stop immediately approach” and looking for more of a “let’s find a way to approach this as a team” solution (although I definitely do need to take a stronger stance, as well).

      • Violet

        I understand you wanting to be sympathetic, but everyone is different. Just because you sometimes struggle in this area doesn’t mean he necessarily does. Is he saying he needs help with it? Or are you just projecting your own struggles onto him? And in his case, worst-case scenario is… he sleeps on the couch until he figures it out or realizes he needs help. Which, i the scheme of things, isn’t really that bad. I sleep on the couch intentionally sometimes, just for a change or to feel snugged in. This is totally something he can figure out on his own without negative consequences.

        • anon for this

          He does genuinely struggle with sleeping/waking up on time (to a point, I am certain that he exaggerates a little) but also the deal we made to avoid his horrible alarm clock that wakes me up beyond a chance of falling back asleep again and shakes the bed and puts me in a bad mood for hours is that I get to elbow him when his alarm goes off, since he won’t wake up to phone alarms alone (he brings his horrible alarm with him when he travels for work/uses when I am out of town). So the main issue is that if he falls asleep on the couch, his alarms won’t wake him up, but they will still wake me up (because I’m a light sleeper) and I will have to listen to alarms ringing indefinitely in the living room which will also drive me crazy.

          • Katharine Parker

            Have you thought about an alarm that simulates sunrise? I have one that lights up gradually, mimicking the colors of sunrise, over half an hour, so that when it’s time to wake up I’m almost always already awake. I love it, and it’s really helped me get up on time. It also has a radio, so I get my morning NPR.

            It may be a good way for your husband to start encouraging his body to wake up earlier?

          • NolaJael

            Yep. Same.

          • AP

            I realize this is an expensive suggestion, but a fitness tracker/watch like an Apple Watch could really help. When my husband started getting up an hour or so before me in the mornings, his alarm drove me NUTS. So for his combo bday/Christmas present (both are in December) I got him an Apple Watch. Total game-changer, since it vibrates to wake him up but doesn’t disturb me at all. I’m sure there are less expensive vibrating alarm options as well.

          • anon

            haha my mom really wants to get him one of those, because she is worried that he doesn’t walk around enough at work. This would be another benefit! If she brings it up again this year I might go for it!

          • AP

            I had been resisting getting him one because of the cost, but he’d wanted it for a while. The moment he mentioned the vibrating alarm, I was sold. Totally worth it!

          • Cellistec

            Yup, before I lost my Fitbit the vibrating alarm was one of my favorite tools. And it’s cheaper than an Apple watch, if that helps.

          • JR

            I’m interested in this method, but when does he charge it?

          • AP

            He generally charges it when he gets home from work around dinner time, when he knows he’ll just be chilling around the house before bed. Takes 1-2 hrs to charge, I think. Then he puts it back on as we’re getting in bed!

          • Elizabeth

            I have a fitbit, and I charge it when I take a shower/bath. If I charge it every day that’s usually for long enough to keep up with my usage.

          • Violet

            I’m no stranger to the alarm clock annoyance. My partner is a snoozer, and it’s just not cool to hit the snooze button multiple times when your partner is sleeping. We finally agreed on a plan where his alarm is outside the bedroom, with our door open. When it goes off, he gets up to turn it off, and can then fall back asleep on the couch and snooze to his heart’s content (having closed bedroom door behind him). I know that’s not your precise situation, but all by way of agreeing this stuff is hard, and talking about it and problem-solving is the only way it’s gonna get better. You got this!

          • Ashlah

            Man, that is a serious commitment to snoozing on his part! I weaned myself off snoozing and now get up at the first alarm, but even when I planned my alarm time for optimal snoozes, I couldn’t imagine doing that. The reason I snoozed is so I wouldn’t have to get out of bed!

            Since I get up first, this is usually a non-issue for us, but occasionally when I’ve had a poor night’s sleep, I’ll decide to sleep in instead of run. My husband’s alarm habit is to just leave the radio on for 40 minutes while he lies in bed half-awake, starting ten minutes after my usual alarm. I cannot sleep through that, so I have to make him turn it off when I’m there. I don’t get that one either! If you’re going to lie awake in bed, why not just get up? But since I’m usually not in bed then, I suppose he can do what he wants with his mornings!

          • Violet

            Haha, I used to sit up in bed and drink my water for ten minutes before getting out of bed. Until I realized it was my worst part of the day, sitting there thinking about getting out of bed and getting my day started. So now I hop out! But I am anti-snooze. Snoozing’s the worst. Waking up is already so hard, why do it multiple times!? My partner says I’m focusing on the wrong part– it’s the falling back asleep over and over that feels good. But so not worth the torture, in my book!

          • My bed is so cozy! That’s why I lie in bed after I hit snooze… and my alarm clock is across the room, I just consciously choose to get back into my bed because my bed is soft and safe and it means I don’t have to face the world yet. And really, my bed is the best and soft and warm and snuggly and it’s the most snuggly in the morning when it’s all warm from sleeping, so I am just appreciating it/listening to NPR from the most comfortable place in my apartment.

            But, my alarm goes off after my husband has left for work and I have to regularly stay late at work for science-timing reasons (and late review sessions to teach) as well as talk-to-my-boss-who-is-not-a-morning-person reason, so there is no point in getting up super early/at least in getting to work super early. And if I have to actually get up early for something/before the other person in the room, then I can (and do) get up no problem, no snoozes. Snoozes are a luxury for filling in alone time.

      • Cellistec

        I understand the self-sufficiency struggles, and the challenge of living with someone who may need the TV on to fall asleep (one of my exes was that way and it drove me nuts). Do you have A TV with a built-in timer that can be programmed to turn off at a certain time? If you can agree to set it for, say, 10pm, that introduces an element of friction to falling asleep on the couch (assuming the TV is necessary for him to nod off) that might make it easier for him to go to bed.

        • Violet

          When I got through stressful periods, I find it easier to fall asleep with a show playing. I will put on something I’ve seen before, then put the computer screen to black so I’m listening with eyes closed. Plus earbuds in if partner’s in bed with me. That way, when I do fall asleep, it’s a really easy transition to get the electronic aspect fully off.

          • Ashlah

            Husband has developed the habit of watching TV while we’re going to sleep, and he has said that it helps him quiet the anxiety in his head so he’s better able to fall asleep. Otherwise, he has a hard time shutting off his brain.

            I’m a light sleeper, so it’s not my favorite, but he’s abides my request to turn the volume waaay down (we’ve discussed headphones too) and always sets a sleep timer so I don’t have to reach over to shut it off at 2 AM. I keep meaning to adjust the settings to make the screen dimmer too, which I think would help even more.

          • Violet

            Agree with your husband, it basically turns my brain away from whatever I can’t get off my mind, but if I’ve seen it before, is not so stimulating as to keep me awake. In addition to the screen dimness, make sure to turn off any keyboard backlighting, too. Otherwise every time he makes a minor volume adjustment, clicks to the next episode, whatever, it lights up. I used to fall asleep like this allllll the time, but weaned myself off at some point post-college. During really stressful times, death of a loved one, etc., it’s a comforting practice I fall back on to get through the hump. But I have to make it as minimally annoying for my partner as possible!!

          • Abby

            My husband is the same, but I need quiet, no-screens time to fall asleep, so he watches/listens on his phone/computer with headphones and I read a book. Seems to be working pretty well, if you decide you need less light pollution in your routine.

    • Jess

      Regarding the TV: This is a good area to learn to use words and assert yourself!

      It’s not super emotionally loaded (hopefully, yet), but you can practice saying, “Hey, when the TV is on while we do X, I can’t focus on how nice it is being together” or “When the TV is on at that volume, I have a hard time reading in the next room. Could you turn it down?”

      Even a simple “Yo, turn off the TV, we’re having dinner” is fine. Not everything has to be approached with sensitivity and care.

      • anon for this

        Yeah, I’ve been working on asking for the TV to turn off when we aren’t actually watching it. u Partially it is just a culture fit on how much tv you should watch between TV is for Movie Nights and Sick Days Only and Watch TV After Work Every Day.

        • Amy March

          Or just take the remote and turn it off? You don’t need permission.

          • anon for this

            Oh, mostly it’s a “Will you turn off the TV for me since you are closer to the remote” ask, not a “can we turn off the TV” ask

          • Anon for this

            But I do honestly appreciate this advice, because it is my house too, so I should probably just turn the stupid thing off more.

          • Violet

            I mean, unless every time before he turns it on, he asks you, I don’t see why every time you turn it off you ask him (unless he’s CLEARLY watching; that’s just rude). It’s a mater of default. He thinks it should be on by default, but that’s no more or less correct than thinking a tv should be off by default. (And I know what you mean by culture; my partner’s family of origin always has their tv on. We don’t own one, so it’s never come up.) I can see having a convo saying, “I’m not sure how we ended up as a default TV on home, but I don’t like it. Can you get on board with a default TV off home? Cause if so, that means I’ll just be turning it off when I see it’s not in use. If you really wanted it on for some reason, feel free to turn it back on.” If he likes it on in the background for company/white noise, can he compromise with having Pandora play in the background instead? Fortunately, I think this is a very workable problem you’ve got here.

          • Jess

            This is 9/10 times my strategy until I decided to make it A Thing and just say “Turn off the TV” but I have a command personality, not an ask personality.

    • Mer

      Many small reminders of “not my problem” have worked wonders for me. Oh you’re falling asleep at 7pm and won’t be able to go to bed at a normal time? Not my problem. Oh you drank an energy drink too late in the day and now it’s 10pm and you’re wired? Not my problem. Oh you didn’t put your laundry away and now it’s all over your side of the bed and I’m already asleep? Not my problem.

      There are times when a team solution is required. But him failing on basic adulting tasks that are well within his capabilities to manage is not my problem.

      • Violet

        My partner finds it funny that I will gladly share the weather report (if I happen to know it; if I don’t, he can look it up), but I REFUSE to tell him what jacket to wear/whether to carry an umbrella, etc. I don’t know why I’ve drawn this line, but one feels like usual partners-helping-each-other-out and the other feels like I’m his mommy. Which, no. Dress yoself.

        • NolaJael

          This was one of our first major fights. “What should I pack?” “Clothes. Clothes to dress yourself to your own taste and preferences.” I cannot/will not help with that.

          • Violet

            Hahahahaaaaa! “What should I pack?” No. Nuh-uh. Sorry, I’m sure it wasn’t funny for you at the time, but holey moley, the stuff people try to get away with…

        • Mer

          Ohhh the dreaded “What should I pack?” question. EVERY TIME I say “whatever you think you need”

          What you need to pack is Not. My. Problem.

          • Jess

            I mean… I ask R this all the time for his-family-based trips because they usually have no set schedule and I have no idea what they intend for the time we’re there. So, it’s either ask to see if he’s heard about a plan in his conversations with his family or pack a weeks worth of everything from work-out clothes to dresses and heels in a giant heavy suitcase. Especially because his family’s expectations for what people look like is based on his sister and they are very fond of the dismissive “Well, don’t you look… comfortable” put-down. So… it’s actually pretty important to me to understand what the dress code expectations are so I feel less judged while I’m surrounded by people I’m already on edge around.

            I also did this for our honeymoon when I have never been on a cruise and he’s done a million and planned that portion so I didn’t know what was appropriate (turns out: I needed “cocktail/formal attire” which I would not have brought to Europe otherwise).

            There are times this question makes sense and times when it’s lazy.

          • Amy March

            Yeah I think the difference is are we having a conversation about the types of things we are doing and what might make sense, versus you choosing not to figure out whether you want short or long sleeves when it’s 65 and partially cloudy.

          • Jess

            This is 100% valid.

            My personal thing like that is I refuse to carry anything you brought and now do not need/are tired of carrying.

          • Emily

            I swear that my most frequent conversation with my husband is his asking if he should wear a jacket and me telling him the temperature.

    • JLily

      I watched my mom do this for years and I refuse to. I hang out on the couch with my husband until I’m tired, and then I tell him when I am going to bed, and that he should come too, but if he wants to sleep on the couch I leave him there! I think it’s important to let your partner idk… continue to live independently in some ways.

    • laddibugg

      What about him setting an alarm on his cell phone for 11?

    • What about him using headphones if you’re not watching it or go to bed?

  • emilyg25

    I have a high need for alone time and being an employee and a wife and a mom and a friend is … a lot. I chose my husband very intentionally because I knew he’d be the kind of partner to jump in a take over when I needed, no questions asked. And it was a big factor in choosing to have only one child. He actually encourages me to take more time to myself. And I love that he has lots of time to develop a one-on-one relationship with our son–I know they’ll both treasure those memories forever. I’ve suffered debilitating depression in the past and my journey to recovery has made me almost militant about self-care. I know what the alternative is, and it ain’t pretty.

  • Suzanne

    I personally have never known anyone with this predicament. I’ve known women who stayed home with young children who met their husbands returning from work at the door, handed over the kids, and said “see ya.”

  • NolaJael

    A similar idea to Stephanie’s post: One of my few dreads about moving to Portland is that my husband will lose the small social circle’s he’s built over the past five years. My husband is an introvert who could happily spend *every single night* at home. But I need him out of the house occasionally, for my own alone time. We’ve finally gotten to a good balance in New Orleans and *poof* we’ll be moving to a city where he knows no one. Again. Sigh.

  • NotMotherTheresa

    My husband is a morning person. I’m a night person. This works wonderfully, because it means alone time is naturally baked into every single day. Every night, he goes to bed at nine, and that gives me at least two glorious hours all to myself! It is fabulous. It is magical. Yes, it kind of cuts into our social lives as a couple (the husband has about as much desire to attend a 9 PM dinner party as I would to get up at 5 AM for the world’s earliest brunch), but that tradeoff is 100% worth it!

  • Eh

    My husband works evenings a lot so I used to get ‘me’ time. Then we had a baby and now being home in the evening means I have responsibilities. It has been hard to get ‘me’ time. It’s something we discuss a lot since my husband is off work when our daughter is in daycare so he gets ‘me’ time (he is supposed to be getting sleep or doing chores, but frequently plays video games or goes to movies). A few weeks ago a friend was visiting from out of town on my husband’s day off so I went out with her and another friend which was really nice and relaxing.

    • Sarah

      This is how it was before we had our daughter, too. I’d be at work and he’d be home and yet the house would still be a mess. I’d complain, but then if he left me for the evening I’d lay around and do nothing too so I tried not to get too bitter.

      • Eh

        The thing is that we agreed to pay for daycare so he had time to do things. I am not saying he can’t have down time but the work does need to get done too. We had to make a decision between paying for someone to clean our house or daycare on his days off. Daycare won out (despite costing more) because he needs sleep (one night he only gets 3 hours sleep before he needs to be up with her) and he could get more work done than just cleaning the house. I do all the laundry and pick up the house and most of the finances and emotional labour all while also caring for our daughter.

        • Is he conscious aware you’re doing this work, or is he still in the magic cleaning fairies place? it might be a good opportunity to break down all of the tasks into their component tasks and look them over together so he can see why you’re feeling overworked. He may be thinking “I do the washing up, she does the laundry” but broken down that’s three tasks (gather dirty dishes, wash dishes, dry dishes) to six tasks (find dirty laundry, load machine, empty machine, hang washing out/load dryer, fold dry clothes, put dry clothes away). Of course, if he gets into a habit of picking up the house, then both of those chores drop the first task, which makes everyone’s life easier.

          • Eh

            A couple months ago I started writing down all the things I wanted to get done on the weekend on a white board and cross them out (no wipe them off) as they get done (and the white board is on our dining room table so he sees it). I started this to keep myself organized, but it has an added benefit. I realized that he knew I was doing work, but he didn’t really understand the amount of work that was getting done while he was at work on the weekend. The whiteboard is full every weekend, and he has commented a couple of times on all the things on the list. He also knows that my work make his work easier. For example, he knows that it’s easier to clean the floors when I have pick up our daughter’s toys (sometimes he just vacuum’s around her toys).

            I don’t necessarily want him to clean more or take on my tasks, I want him to run errands and do things that are easier to do during the week or when he is off. For example, he drives the car 90% of the time, so when the car needs to be cleaned or when the car needs maintenance it should happen on his day off. And when we need to call the bank or an electrician or go to a government service office etc. these things should be done by him on his day off since I’m at work when these places are open. He has his own whiteboard with his tasks on it and they (usually) get done but they take a long time and he needs to be reminded. For example, I asked him to clean out the car before we went on a road trip (so we didn’t have to sit in a car full of garbage and spilled drinks) it finally got done over a month after the trip. He was supposed to pick up firewood from his grandparents house and he never got the arrangements made in a year and a half so they gave it to someone else (and we actually ran out of wood for our fireplace so we needed the wood). He was supposed to cover (with a cage) the fresh air intake because we were getting mice in our house through it and he decided it wasn’t high priority because it was summer and the mice problem was in the fall/winter. Well a squirrel came into our house and I found it dead in our laundry wash sink. These are probably some of the worst examples but these things were on his list and we regularly had conversations about getting these tasks done and they didn’t get done in a timely fashion. I do the emotional labour part and realize that something needs to be done and add it to his list (and explain, if necessary) but it sometimes takes a long time for the thing to get done. He was actually pretty good about getting tasks done this week but he had a conversation about it on the weekend. He is normally good the week after we talk about it, ok the next week and then back to his old habits by the third week. Giving him deadlines sometimes works (e.g., this week we needed the winter tires taken off our car so it got done) but other times it doesn’t (e.g., car being cleaned before road trip). But things without deadlines are hopeless.

          • They say the best way to form good habits is to look for the immediate gratification in them. Going to the gym to meet some arbitrary numerical target is a hard slog. Going to the gym because you get to see your gym buddies is much easier. Cleaning the car before a road trip is too distant, in a way, especially if future him isn’t going to get too mad that past him didn’t do it. When you ask him to do something and he does it immediately, he gets that immediate gratification of making you happy, whereas when you’re not there, and you’re not asking him, there’s no incentive.

            Maybe reframe the conversation into what motivates him, and how he can work that into a chore system that will help him meet deadlines and recognise tasks before you have to point them out to him. To a certain extent, he’ll always want your validation for what he perceives to be tasks he’s doing for you (I’m sure he was perfectly happy in the garbage car!) but part of being an adult is learning to reward ourselves for doing the boring shit too. Has he tried any of those apps that gamify chores, like Habitica? That little bit of external validation might help him get into good habits and take the burden off your shoulders.

          • Eh

            I had never heard of Habitica or anything like that before. I’ll suggest that to him.

            hahaha Future husband was not mad at past husband about having to sit in a car full of garbage (you are right, he didn’t care – he drives in a car full of garbage all the time) but he did have to sit in the car with me for 6 hours each way.

            Since we work opposite shifts it is hard for him to get immediate validation/gratification from me. On his days off we do text through out the day. This week his list included things that were time-sensitive and needed to get done during his days off so it worked well that we were texting because he gave me updates that he did or was doing the tasks so I could thank him within a short time of them being done.

          • Oh, the life rpg apps might be a gamechanger for you guys, then! I know a lot of people they’ve really worked for. For me, I find most of them too RPG-heavy – being rewarded for washing up with the option of buying costumes for a sprite feels like more emotional labour, so it’s offputting. The alternatives are the terribly serious and grown up habit tracking apps, which mean re-entering everything I’ve already done on Glow and MyGarmin and Duolingo on top of marking chores as done, without enough incentive to make the duplication feel worthwhile. Now, if someone came up with motivational app that gave me extra lives on Candy Crush, my house would be sparkling, I’d run five miles a day and my diet would be entirely vegetables.

            I think if validation works for you guys, there’s no harm in keeping up a text conversation so he can tell you what he’s done, but the ultimate goal is for him to feel validated in doing these tasks without your input, because of the emotional labour involved in constantly validating him.

          • Eh

            We talked about Habitica this morning. He is open to trying it out but a little stand offish but he’s been that way every time I have suggested a different model. He hated the chore checklist (despite using cleaning checklists at work) but now he sees that they help (and he realizes that when he doesn’t actually use them he misses things). I think it will also be good because he always has his phone on him and he tends to leave his whiteboard in one spot that he can easily ignore (it’s usually by our front door, and he uses the garage door in winter so he doesn’t get the reminders as much).

          • Amy March

            So you pay for day care and instead of actually doing anything he sits around playing video games and does no chores? Why? Maybe it’s time to revisit that. At least you’d have more cash on hand to outsource things.

          • Eh

            We have revisited the daycare part a few times. He would have to have the same days off every single week. He usually has Mondays and Tuesdays off but he doesn’t always so if he had a different schedule one week I would have to take the day off to watch her or we would have to find someone else (and we don’t have many people who are available during the day nearby since we don’t live near my family and we have a rocky relationship with my in-laws). He also manages a restaurant so he is on-call on his days off so he would have to find someone to watch her if he was called in or I would have to go home (my employer and supervisor are pretty understanding but I’m the primary breadwinner so we can’t compromise my job or chance for advancement). Also, he really needs more sleep. He only gets 3 hours sleep on Sunday night/Monday morning (due to inventory/food ordering/paperwork) before our daughter is up so having her in daycare lets him get some more sleep.

            He usually gets the regular cleaning type chores done before playing video games. (This used to actually be a problem but he is much better now than he was even a year ago.) It’s the errands or one off things that don’t get done in a timely manner. I’m not sure that we can outsource those things as easy as cleaning.

  • Eenie

    I feel like this is my life right now! I went from unemployed (so much alone time) to working full-time with a commute twice as long (or more) as my husband. I haven’t been home alone in weeks.

    I think my husband and I both make sure the other person has their own time. I do a lot to ensure my husband has time set aside to work out during the week (meal prepping, picking up slack, etc). He in turn does last minute tasks on his rest day that I don’t have time to do because I get home too late.

    In addition to small amounts of weekly alone time, I think sometimes you are allowed to call Uncle and get out of responsibilities for a day. My husband did it this Saturday. I did all the errands and chores myself. I happily did it, because I know when I need to call it, he’s right there to keep our household running. That’s been one of the most wonderful things about marriage for us. Not having lived in the same state for quite a while, I forgot how awesome it is to have a partner pick up your slack, and happily do it.

  • Sarah

    My husband and I joke about “me time” as a luxury of privilege, although I do agree that it is important.

    Neither one of us gets much, if any, “me” time. Right now I”m taking a quick mental break at work. My 10 month old is sleeping on me in a carrier. This counts as me time, right? ;) With 2+ jobs, 1 car, 1 baby, and no outsourcing of anything (childcare is prohibitively expensive, and we def. can’t afford housecleaners or landscapers), it’s balls to the wall all day. Our schedule is as follows: We wake up at 6:30 or whenever the baby wakes up, whichever comes first. We tag-team getting out the door – he feeds her a bottle while I shower then I change her and pack lunch while he prepares breakfast. I finish getting ready as he feeds her solid breakfast, then I eat in the car while he drives me to work around 8:30. He drives home and cares for baby (and tries to get work done if she sleeps) while I am at work until about 2 and then drops her and the car off with me and takes an Uber to his job that goes from 3-8. Meanwhile, I work and care for the baby simultaneously until 5, or traffic clears, or I lose patience. Then when I get home I finish the dinner my husband started, eat and feed baby, clean bottles, get her into her PJs and then supervise as she has a bit of play time. Then I pick my husband up from work, keep the baby out of his hair while he eats, then we play with her together because that is the best part of our day. Then when she starts rubbing her eyes around 9pm I give her a bottle while he changes out of work clothes and then he puts her to bed while I do dishes and prepare night bottles. If we’re lucky we watch an hour of Netflix together before we pass out, or maybe one of us finishes up a work project on the computer while the other gets “me” time in the form of staring into the phone, then we pass the eff out and hope she sleeps through the night, and of course we have a system for nigh wake-ups too (which usually involves him, which started because I used to have to pump ever 2-3 hours through the night and which continued because I went back to work first and work more hours outside the home). Oh and on weekends he works like 8-12 hours while I care for baby, grocery shop, clean, etc. If he doesn’t work we go on day trips. Sometimes we fit in a walk or run outside. Most weekends we host friends for dinner. Any free(ish) time we have we usually take as family time, because after all this we still actually like each other and don’t want to become just like ships passing in the night.

    My husband is a feminist, and I think he does a good job of living his values (did you get the part where HE does 90% of the night feedings?). And we try not to keep score in our marriage (what’s the use of keeping track of who does more housework or childcare or whatever when we are both doing our best and vowed to both give 100%, not each give 50%?). If I did keep score, I’d probably say he’s gotten more “me” time since the baby has been born, but he also does stuff that I don’t (like the banking). Once our baby gets older and our financial/job situation mellows out a bit, we’ll have more time to spare and I’ll happily take it for myself. But right now during any down time I have I just wanna snuggle with them.

    • Amy March

      All the cats-with-heart-eyes emojis for this.

  • I think I have an advantage in that J’s mum did a lot of this work with her husband and, by extension, her sons. I spent most of my childhood in an all female family, and a lot of my expectations for a het relationship were shaped by the media. J is currently doing a PhD, and we were talking a while back about what he’d do after. I said something along the lines of how I’m happy that I can take my job anywhere, but I’ll be sad at leaving my office mates, and he questioned why I assumed that where we live will be dictated by the demands of his career rather than mine. And as much as I had been justifying it to myself on the basis that he had been doing all this work to get more qualifications so of course his career was more important, when he questioned me about my assumption I realised it was pure societal sexism. I assumed we’d move because his job was by default more important than mine. Never mind the fact that I’ve been the breadwinner for four years and will probably be so for the rest of our lives. Never mind the fact that his work is likely to be far more flexible and make it easier for him to provide childcare than me. Never mind the fact that we live in a city with three universities, multiple museums and great transport links that would make it easy for him to commute to other museum-and-university heavy cities without us having to move!

    On the flip side, he’s very much someone who doesn’t need personal time, and I think studying is making this worse because he spends so much time at home alone. It feels cruel to demand personal time for myself when it means more alone time for him. I still get time – yoga each week, long hot baths occasionally, the half hour walk each way to work – but to ask to be in a different space from him without ‘justification’ feels like I’m punishing him for being lonely. I hope this will get better over time, as he finishes his PhD, and once there’s a baby to keep him company, but I do worry that we’ll always have a bit of a mismatch.

  • La’Marisa-Andrea

    How I get time for myself: I look over at my husband and say “I’m going out on Saturday afternoon for a few hours.” And then I go. I don’t feel like women need to ask or demand. They just need to state what they want and execute.