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My Friends' Approaches To Balance Baffle Me

Photograph by Twenty20

Let's say you have a friend, one of your best friends. You want to plan a night out with her, but when you suggest a specific date, she has to say no. Her husband is going out that night. It is his turn. You don't understand, so she explains. She went out twice last week, so now he gets to go out twice, too.

This confounds you, but you move on.

You meet up with another friend to set up a little happy hour after work one night. She says she would love to do it, but she has to check to see if her husband can babysit the kids. You puzzle this for a moment.

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You work. Your husband works. You hire a babysitter to watch your kids for date nights. Naturally you would want to check in to make sure he doesn't have to work late, but why would your husband "babysit" his own kids?

Isn't that just called being a dad and hanging out with them?

Does any of this sound familiar? Do you have a friend who struggles with this unequal sharing of time off from parenthood?

We all talk about sharing chores and dirty diapers, but what about the thing we really need: Time to get away from our kids, reconnect with our friends, blow off some steam and just be.

It's healthy, it's fun, but does it really have to be such a chore? No.

Long before we had children, my husband and I were sharing our lives equally. We went out together, we took time apart to go out with friends for the night. We lived our lives, and we were happy. When our boys came along, this dynamic obviously shifted a bit. But, for the most part, we still share the "job" of parenthood. We give each other the space we need to get a break.

After quitting my corporate job to go full-time freelance, being at home with my sons and trying to work was painful. Nothing got done around the house. I found myself working nights, so I would miss out on time with my friends and even my husband. My husband pushed me to just get out. I felt bad, but I had to remember: this was a break from his norm. He got to play with his kids and not sit at his desk. A break from my norm was to leave.

There is no, "Well, you got to go out last night, so I get to go out with my buddies tonight." No, we give each other the time we need. When my husband just needs to let loose, I don't begrudge him going to play soccer after work or grabbing a beer at a bar with the guys. I encourage it. He needs a break from his every day too.

The next time you or your spouse start playing the "Let's keep it equal" game, remember: You each need something different and have different types of days. Just because mom is home with the kids, doesn't mean she is sitting around eating cookies while the kids scrub the house. She is on every second and doesn't have the luxury of sitting at a quiet desk and chatting with co-workers.

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Give her the space she needs to relax and be a better mom and wife, even if that means she gets a weekend away with friends, and you have to watch your kids all by yourself. And moms, let's remember that our men, whether they work in an office or freelance at home while on kid duty, also need a break.

Support each other with wiggle room for imbalance instead of a stringent scorecard.

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