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I'm transitioning to the father role which is not going great. I'm facing the fact that I have less time now to follow my personal interests like watching soccer games on weekends. My wife is constantly pushing me to

spend more time with the kid

I understand her desires and agreed with them, but the need to totally throw away my own personal space makes me frustrated time and time again. And that leads to conflicts as the things we are forced to do are not enjoyable.

So the question is:

How to discuss with my wife that I really need some time to my interests? How to approach this time inside the family? Is it right to have a schedule for work/personal/family? How to make this schedule to work and align it with wife's and kid's desires? How to organize that inside the family?

All the community tells that the parent should spend time with the kid but does it means the whole time? I don't want to be a bad father. I love my kid and my wife. I understand the need of sacrifices for the family needs. But still, I'm really frustrated. Maybe it is a sign that I didn't grow up. So I need just "eat this situation" inside and keep living with frustration?

Notes on comments:

  • I'm the only working in my family. I am responsible for a certain quality of living which we both want.
  • I'm working 8 hours a day, spending 10 hours in work (time to eat at work and get to the office). I have 2 rest days in a week. So it is pretty much common.
  • She totally doesn't understand my interests in computer games for example (that's my hobby - she thinks it is not appropriate at all). If I will just sit and read a book - she will look at me with complaints and I'm feeling guilty.
  • Well, I initially did not necessarily want a child, but life happens. Now I love her and cannot imagine a world without her.
  • My child is 2 years old and for 2 years I feeling more and more frustration. That's the whole point of my question.
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    Did you want children? What time do they go to sleep? Being a parent is different, and you seem to have failed to adjust. They grow up so fast you may later regret having missed out on a single moment. – Bookeater Aug 28 '17 at 9:03
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    One more concern. You should add how much time you spend with your wife (either alone or with your child). You have said how much time with your child is expected, and time by yourself, but that part is missing. Her complaints may not only be about the child. If you are ignoring her, that is another issue. – user3169 Aug 28 '17 at 17:27
54

Life is about setting priorities, and while it's common for people to say that you should spend "all your time" with your family, the truth is that for many people that just doesn't work. Lots of people need some alone time, and they should take it because otherwise they'll just spend time being frustrated with their family. (Which is, technically, spending time with the kids, but nobody will think back fondly of those days).

It seems you need to have a good talk about how you and your family divide their time. There's a number of things that I feel time should be spent on when you are a family with kids. Some of those probably aren't getting the time they feel they should be given.

  1. Your personal time. You need time for yourself; lots of people can't always be family people. Some people just need to be left alone with a book, or a game, or whatever hobby, to recharge. (Read; introverts.) Other people just occasionally want to work their own interests for their own amusement or betterment.

  2. Family time. You need to spend time together as a family. I think this goes without saying, and this seems to have been identified already.

But there's a few more, which might not have come up much yet:

  1. Time with your partner. This one suffered a lot when I first had kids, because all time would be spent with the kids and not a lot would be just having fun with my partner.

  2. Your partner also needs alone time. One of the more common "Spend more time with the kids!" I got was actually not (primarily) about me spending time with the kids, but rather a hidden cry of "Please give me some time alone as well."

Consider sitting down with your partner and discussing these various needs of time alone and together. You will have to accept that you won't get as much time for yourself as you used to, and neither will your wife, but you should also realize that getting no alone time is likely very bad for your mood.

Then during the discussion, plan out a bit of a schedule. When we first realized these issues, my partner and I would take days of weekend and specify them either as "my kids", "your kids" or "our kids" to signify who was in charge of taking care of the kids and who was allowed to go do whatever they wanted.

Generally this meant that one day each week was "our kids" and we'd take the kids somewhere fun together, and the other was either "my kids" or "your kids" and that parent would take care of them while the other could organize a get together with friends, or just go out for a walk, or watch a movie, or whatever they felt like doing without having to feel guilty.

It really cleared the air for us to have it clear who was doing what that week. There would be no need to feel jealous, or have a conflict where both parents wanted alone-time. It has since grown to be much more organic, but the "spend more time with the kids" complaint has disappeared almost entirely, yet I don't feel like I have less time to do my own thing. I just know when I have time to do my own thing, and when I'm just around to watch my kids grow up and be their parent.

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    Is it possible that OP is experiencing PPND? Paternal Postnatal Depression?. Isn't this a question perfectly fitting for Parenting SE? Can this question about baby blues help? Great answer though... – OldPadawan Aug 28 '17 at 11:08
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    @OldPadawan this question would also be a good fit there, but from the description the OP doesn't sound depressed, just over-stimulated. – Erik Aug 28 '17 at 11:11
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    @Erik You're right. I don't see depression in the OP. It's just that he's only 24 and overwhelmed with the sudden avalanche of responsibilities. I'm older than OP, and I don't know if I'm ready to raise a child. – NVZ Aug 28 '17 at 11:20
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    @Vylix not really. We're flexible enough now that "can we trade days?" is usually enough if I ever REALLY need time for myself, or want to go to some event, or whatever. – Erik Aug 28 '17 at 12:49
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    +1 for the 4th point. It is very easy to confound "I need time away from the kids" with "You need to spend more time with the kids." – Cort Ammon Aug 28 '17 at 23:50
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The tough truth is that you have to change your lifestyle now. To what extent and how - is your decision and depends on the sort of work you do. But you always can to involve your child into your hobbies and make it beneficial for both of you. This way you'll spend more time with your child and keep doing what you like. Think about you and your family, not just you alone and you'll find the solution.

When my sister was about 2, she loved sitting next to me or mother and imitate she is reading, writing, calculating, cooking. And we were playing along: showing her what we do, checking her work and praising what she's done. When I was doing my homework, she used to sit with me and do "hers". When I went to gatherings (I'm lot more elder than her), I took her with me, teaching her how to behave. When I played games on the computer, I gave her a second keyboard and she "played" with me. When my mother was reading a newspaper she would read it out loud and ask my sister questions about what she thinks and disclose her the reasons behind the events. And so on.

Most children will gladly join you in anything. Even if she is a little girl and you are an engineer. The same works with soccer. After she does what you like, you do what she likes. E.g. go for a walk together and play football after you sat hours in front of computer or TV. Good for both of you.

Not just sit there, show your child what YOU like in it, explain the things she doesn't know and may be she'll support you and become your ally. Make your child your hobby and she will reward you later.

P.S. Now I'm an adult, older than you. My parents are old and my sis has graduated from well-known Russian technical university. Do you know what we do? My mom loves playing Dendi with us (she used to hate any sorts of video games when I was a child. Because of the father), so I bought her a new one and while I do everything I let her use the blaster on the 2nd joystick. We have a bycicle rides on weekends with all 4 of us. I bought equipment for everyone. I still play video games with my sis. And now I teach my parents on how to use modern apps and phones. It's our turn to teach and help. That's what the family is for.

  • When I played games on the computer, I gave her a second keyboard and she "played" with me. was that keyboard connected? ;) – Silencer310 Jan 11 '18 at 23:20
  • Computers of that time didn't have 2 ports for keyboards =) – Amberta Feb 5 '18 at 13:02
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As a parent, this does strike me as not sounding like you understand how to give your child the basic needs. Providing food and clothing and lights is not enough. Children need to be loved. They need to know you care about them. They do need to be more important than the things you like to do. It doesn't mean you give up everything. Of course you don't give up everything, or who would sign up for that? You prioritize and work around your family. You don't work your family around your hobbies.

What are your wife's hobbies she does? Do you take the child at the end of the day for a bit so she can take a longer shower or a short walk alone, or maybe have coffee with a friend? When is she getting time away from mothering? If the answer to that is no time, then that is your other issue. Parenting isn't her job. Even if she stays home, her "job" then is while you are gone. Once you are home, you are both on duty. I worked for most of the time I have mothered. Many women do. For a while my husband was at home too. I didn't come home and wander off into my own world and tell him that my job was just too hard that when I got home I can't be involved with him and our kids. What would have happened when we both worked? Just get home and tell the kids to sort themselves out? When I was full time that is 12 hours a day. I purposely set it up to go in early when the kids still slept, so that I could have more awake time with them. Right now I am home and the first thing I do after we greet is check out for a while. He starts dinner and cooks it, I usually take a long shower or bath, I might call my sister or take a little walk or maybe even nap when we had a baby that was up a lot. It's part of our daily routine that I am gone about an hour, sometimes less, sometimes more. It is how I can manage to deal with children all day and be a nice mom and person. After dinner he starts baths if they are needed and I do all the cleanup.

And for yourself, look at it this way. I am being very honest here. If she is taking care of all things in the house (as it sounds like) and then you are not taking care of things when you get home, and if she starts seeing you as "child-like" as you said, she will start acting more like a mother than a wife. I have seen this many times. If that happens, you will really have to work to get back to being partners. No one finds their child appealing romantically. She will distance herself from you as a romantic interest because you will position yourself as more of being seen as another kid to take care of.

If you want a happy family, you have to make adjustments that no longer look like the life of a single person. I have been with my husband 25 years. Overall we have a very good marriage. Part of that is that I hear him when he says he needs something and he hears me. If your spouse tells you something is paining them and you do not take it seriously, you are going to make everyone unhappy.

I know this can be a maturity thing. I also know that games and other things can be addictive. Are you absolutely sure that you are not addicted to the gaming? I have seen it happen many times and it's far more common that most give it credit. http://healthland.time.com/2012/02/16/is-online-gaming-messing-up-your-marriage/

And in case you think I don't understand at all, I game. Sometimes my husband will play, but rarely and I can't recall the last time, maybe years now. When I had kids I had to adjust how I did it. It was never so serious that it created conflict with my spouse, but I made sure it didn't ever take time away from him. This is why I asked about addiction. Maybe it's not that, and it's just your way to avoid family time. When you don't play, do you feel a pull to do it? I've played some pretty involved team games. I do understand a pull to go check in, etc. I just learned after kids I cannot do that really. I can't be responsible for how a game goes for other people. Instead I involve my kids. We play together. If they are too little, I give them a remote that isn't linked and let them feel like they are playing. We play things like Zelda or whatever as they get bigger.

The key to enjoying time with your child(ren) is you taking the responsibility to keep looking to find something that both of you enjoy together. It can be games sometimes. It can be riding a bike with them in a seat on back. It can be walking in nature, or building blanket forts. But it is your job as the parent to figure that out. You have to stop telling yourself it's okay to be detached and uninvolved. You have to make the decision to try. The more you do, the easier it becomes and the more you bond with them. The more you bond with them, the more you naturally enjoy the time together.

You say you love your child. I believe you do. You have to accept that love is in your actions though, not your words. You have to act in a way where she knows she is loved without you ever having to say a thing. And if you want a successful marriage and want to be a great parent, you have to always be open to the idea that you might be wrong. The only difference between good parents and bad ones is the willingness to try to look at yourself objectively, be willing to see where you are wrong, and change. We are all going to be wrong sometimes.

The TL;DR is the bolded parts.

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    This answer sounds very judgemental. I really don't like the tone, even if I agree with much of the content. – Erik Aug 28 '17 at 11:49
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    _ "The only difference between good parents and bad ones is the willingness to try to look at yourself objectively, be willing to see where you are wrong, and change." _ This is another excellent answer from you and it's obvious you really know your subject. I upvote! I think @Erik means to say that it could sound like you are lecturing OP: you are so experienced but OP has just started his 'career' as a parent. But I believe you are brutally frank simply to condense the wisdom of your life experience into something that OP & others can learn faster, so this is a great answer, @ threetimes. – English Student Aug 28 '17 at 12:05
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    This answer is also important for compassionately representing the wife's perspective. – English Student Aug 28 '17 at 12:18
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    "Children need to be loved" implies that OP doesn't love his. The entire 1st chapter is nothing but condescension, I'd drop it entirely. If you are afraid that OP in fact doesn't spend any time with his kid, then ask for clarification in comment to the question. Also the "Once you are home, you are both on duty" is straight road into martyr complex. Home has to be a safe place for both kids and parents. The key is to divide duties in a way that satisfies all 3. The part about gaming is obnoxious. Do you have ANY reason to attack that activity over "watching soccer games"? – Agent_L Aug 28 '17 at 12:19
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    @Vylix addiction is not measured by how you longer perform an activity, but how well you can handle not performing it when something more important comes up. Watching soccer for 2 hours while your kid is graduating points to addiction, playing video-games for 12 hours straight because your kids are spending the night at their grandparents does not. – Erik Aug 28 '17 at 13:04
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Your question doesn't provide much information. I got that you are the working parent and that your wife pressure you to spend more time with your child, but don't how much you already spend with her, or even if she wants you to do specific things or just spending time with here whatever you are doing in particular.

However, you are way more precise about other things that your wife bothers you about. It seems that you married someone who doesn't respect your hobbies. Regardless of the time you spend with your kids, sorting that out with your wife would be beneficial to your relationship. Being married with someone that disdain your alone time solely because they don't have the same hoobies you have is the begining of a dysfunctional relationship.

Regarding your actual question, as I said I cannot assess the situation. I don't understand the judgemental answers since you don't tell much about the time you spedn with your kid.

My best advice would be to understand why your wife says that to you, and to work something out that satisfies the both of you.

Does she want you to spend more time with your daughter because :

  • You (almost) never do it?
  • She wants you look after her so that she has some alone time?
  • She uses it as an excuse to make you spend less time reading or playing video games because she disapproves these activities ?
  • She wants you to fit what she has been taught a father looks like, whithout checking if that's what you want to be as a father ?

The answer can be incredibly different depending on which of these answers is/are the correct one(s), so unless you edit your question and provide more information, it's up to you to figure out what you are in.

However, now that the time of the guesses has come, some clues make me throw some hypothesis :

  • You don't specify for how long you have been together before and after marrying each other, but it looks like you haven't been together for a long time. Given the age of your kid, if I had to throw a guess, I would say she became pregnant not long after you went together and you married soon after.
  • You don't give a lot of information about how she feels or what her reasons are, only things she told you and reaction you have seen her have. Have you asked why she ask you these things ? Have you asked her about her reactions regarding your hoppies ? Your couple seem to have communication issues, which suppose some lack of experience in relationships. One doesn't get better at relationships as time goes, it requires work and dedication and any relationship will fall apart without that. Maybe she is your first (serious) girlfriend.

These are only guesses, I'm not making assertions there. I'm not putting the blame on anyone's shoulders in particular. Maybe she asks you too much, maybe she is reasonable. But I get the feeling that your couple is not well maintained and maybe you share the blame on that.

Can't do more as it currently is, however.

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    It seems that you married someone who doesn't respect your hobbies. - To me it seems that he is not respecting the needs of his child and wife. Like she feels he is not prioritizing his obligations to his family properly. – BACKPFEIFENGESICHT Aug 28 '17 at 15:02
  • @IHatePeople That's why I asserted that the OP lacks information. Whether it is about his current investment in his family or the reasons why his wife reacts that way. Maybe she actually dislikes his hobbies and maybe she finds him spending most of his free time playing or reading without showing much concern regarding what happens to his wife and his daughter. I speculated as much as I could along the few lines he gave in order to provoke a reaction. – ksjohn Aug 28 '17 at 15:04
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    @IHatePeople I actually agree that it sounds as if the wife doesn't respect his hobbies. Everyone needs alone time and the OP and his wife need to sit down and discuss what she thinks parenting should look like and what he thinks parenting should look like and then compromise and combine the two to find what they as a couple want parenting to look like. – BunnyKnitter Aug 28 '17 at 16:20
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    Some people are harping on the OP as being irresponsible and needing to change but I think this is something that needs to be discussed as a couple. Everyone needs hobbies and down time and nothing is inherently wrong with reading, soccer games and video games. Some of my fondest memories as a kid are watching my dad play video games and then later playing along with him. – BunnyKnitter Aug 28 '17 at 16:21
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I think I can provide a different point of view here. The kid's view.

I come from completely broken family. My parents divorced when I was ~20 after more or less 10 years of constant bickering, fighting, arguing and 'silent days' which were more like silent weeks/months. I am ~30 now, and while I more or less recovered from most of the damage and pushed my life forward, my sister is still on psychiatric drugs.

The thing is, this 10 lost years didn't come from nothing. Because economic situation in my home country was horrible in the late '80 and in the '90, salaries of my parents (they both worked for their entire adult life) would be enough to barely survive, but that's it. I mean paying for home, food, bills and very rarely some second-hand clothes would eat what they've earned completely. So, my father in addition to his normal job, took side jobs at renovating. So, when we were kids, he mostly worked or slept, nothing more.

And as much as I admire his stalwart and selfless sacrifice, the extent of this approach was a grave mistake for us all.

Frustration and fatigue are funny things. If You're strong willed, if You're dedicated, if You have a reason, You can take a lot of them. Really lot. Way more than You think You can. But You can never perfectly contain them, they are like helium in a balloon. They bend Your mind and Your personality in subtle ways, barely visible even for very good and very close observers. A little to harsh voice here, a not-so-good choice of words there. Over time, a person loaded with these frustration and fatigue starts damaging his/her relationships and unknowingly spreads those things to people around. They don't destroy the connection the way drugs or alcohol do. They poison them, and through them, the people around You. And then You're all tired of each other, scared that even a single word can ignite a bomb, and frustration and fatigue of constant clashes build up and the vicious cycle becomes nigh-unbreakable.

My father faced a nearly impossible situation and did the best He could, with best intentions. But the result is, me and my sister, we've didn't know our father as kids, because he either wasn't there OR WAS TOO TIRED TO INTERACT. Your situation may not be as dramatic economically, but fatigue is fatigue and if You just take it over time for whatever reason, it WILL destroy You and people around You. The fact that most people need some private time, completely alone or at least focusing on things which regenerate them is that, A FACT. Use google scholar to find proper scientific publications to prove it to Your spouse if You have to, but find balance.

Cut Your private time a bit maybe, but make it good quality time and NEVER let it go completely. Set aside some time for kids, make this time regular, so that they KNOW it will happen again, that they can count on it like on sunrise. And this time too, make it quality time. Be fresh, be happy, be regenerated. They will profit from this thousand times more than from being forced to keep company to a person who is tired and doesn't really want be there - especially since kids are usually very good at seeing through the lies and facades of adults. Try to lure them into Your hobbies when they grow old enough (or maybe bit earlier), it's tricky but doable. My PhD advisor wrote his PhD with his daughter on lap - she was about 3 yo at the time and they both greatly enjoyed this. I got my fascination with science from my father - in one of extremely rare free moments he had, he showed me a block of very fun educational programs on TV when I was a kid. Optimize Your schedule and discipline to waste less time on stuff like shopping and cleaning so that You have more time for important things.

But never, NEVER EVER take the "act like an adult, suck it up" approach and firmly stop any people who try to push You into this, because it brings a disaster of such proportions that if You haven't seen it, You could never predict it. And typical expectations of behaviour in modern western societies don't have much in common with reality and wisdom anyway, so following them is bad in itself.

To bring happiness to Your kids, You have to be happy Yourself.

  • "(...)especially since kids are usually very good at seeing through the lies and facades of adults" and "To bring happiness to Your kids, You have to be happy Yourself." -- crucial points for OP; I upvote. – English Student Aug 31 '17 at 23:43

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