Carolyn Hax: Husband takes his ‘me time’ but balks at dishing it out


Adapted from an online discussion.

Dear Carolyn: My husband has a very demanding job. I stay home with our three very young kids and do some work from home as well. We somewhat split chores as far as meals and dishes, etc., although I do all the major cleaning, shopping, laundry and the bulk of the child care.

Several times per week, he’ll “ask” whether he can go play his favorite sport with his friends. This nearly always means it has already been planned (sometimes by him) and he’s letting me know. This generally means I get to bring all the kids to one child’s practice, or get all three in bed by myself — all things I do regularly anyway because of his work schedule, but things that are much easier with his help. I call these games “me time” for him, and he calls it “exercise,” so it’s something he “has to do to stay healthy.” (Eye roll.)

My problem is that it is never, ever reciprocated. Any two-hour time frame with my friends requires weeks of planning. He says he can’t take the time to give me that kind of break because he’s working, “helping” at home and fitting in family time, and I should just hire a babysitter for any free time I want.

That was close to impossible during the pandemic, costs money and frequently gets canceled at the last minute.

I think he’s so selfish, and he thinks I should “just work harder to find solutions to what I want.” Any insight, please?

Unreciprocated: You want your life partner to want you to feel supported. Say so. Don’t let that get lost in the power Olympics.

And insist: He gets X hours to himself, you get X hours to yourself, every week, on the books. Each of you hires a sitter for this time unless the other one volunteers to cover at home.

Or you have this out in counseling.

Or he admits out loud that he sees his needs vs. yours for friend time as a higher priority, and you then proceed where this knowledge takes you.

Now is always the best time for a financial security check, by the way — especially for parents who have left the workforce behind.

Re: Me time: You don’t say that your household cannot afford a sitter. You say it costs money. I grew up in those circumstances: My stay-at-home mother resented my dad, who worked 60-plus hours a week, not coming home so she could attend PTA or whatever. I remember hearing him endlessly say: “Look, I can’t do that. Just get a sitter.” But she refused on principle, because she insisted that this is what a good dad would do.

And he wasn’t an absent dad. He was a soccer coach, at all games and practices, home for dinner at 7 every night and tucked us in at bedtime, but he was clear that he couldn’t get home early more nights than for soccer, where he often coached in a suit, because he so wanted to be engaged. Mom’s stand was because she wanted him to prove he cared about her stuff, at the cost of professional consequences.

It has been more than 30 years, and she still insists that other people are responsible for her happiness.

If this is about principle — as in, why can’t he be as flexible as you are — and not about the cost of sitters, then pick a new hill to die on. Hire a sitter. Get your “me time.”

Anonymous: That still responsible line — ouf. So much said in so few words. Thank you.

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