Dude time: Why dads need to play together too

Posted in Family.

 The other week, my husband got together with his old band mates and reignited their bond. It’s been a long time since he’s spent time with these old pals, or any guy mates for that matter. 

Parallel play

They played music together and in his own words, “got stupid in the studio recording”. But they had fun. He came home buzzing, much like I do after having a great chat with a dear friend. He was sparkly and it made me happy to see the worn-out father of my children feeling energised again.

But it also made me realise something, and it’s something that I think will help any mum who has ever felt frustrated with her partner pursuing ‘dude time’ away from home … Men play together like toddlers!

You know how toddlers play side-by-side? They don’t really engage with each other so much as they ‘do stuff’ together? One toddler is driving a dump truck around the yard, so the other toddler finds one and copies him. One tot is playing with play dough, so the other sits beside her, with her own little ball to squish. They are playing alongside each other, rather than with each other.

Well, I’ve come to realise that grown men are a bit the same and it serves an important purpose.

Men like to play    

My man is a music man, that’s his thing and so catching up with his old band mates for a jam IS his jam. In fact, almost every dad I know has his own ‘thing’.

My friend’s husband is a runner and so has a group of guys he goes running with. Another friend’s partner is a surfer and regularly meets the boys at the beach to catch a wave. My brother-in-law is a golfer, and just came back from a weekend away hitting balls into holes with his old school mates. 

The thing about the thing your man may be into, is that guys like to have it to facilitate conversation with each other. They may not need it to be friends, but they prefer to have it when they hang out. They like to ‘play’ as they laugh and chat. In that sense, they are like two-year-olds, only some of them actually have two-year-olds as well these days.

Musicians. Guys playing instruments

It’s harder for guys to maintain friendships post-kids

When kids come along and sap up any of their free time, guys often find it hard to maintain their old friendships. The days of ducking out for a jam are few and far between, in the case of my hubby.

Babies and young kids don’t make it easy for either parent to have their own time to do anything. But the difference, I believe, between mums and dads when it comes to friends is that mums are better at making new friends as we enter new chapters in our lives. When we become mums we join a mother’s group or make friends with the other mum we keep bumping into at the park. We collect friends as well as keeping in touch with our long time faves.  

Guys though (and I know this is a sweeping generalisation), don’t seem to do this as much, or as easily. They don’t just chat to one another like we do over a coffee, or catch up at a playground with their kids. If they aren’t doing ‘the thing’ with their friends, then they don’t seem to see them as much.

Guys need friends too

Pondering all of this, I’ve realised my man might be feeling a bit lonely. He needs to get together and play music with his old mates more often, to reconnect and feel like himself. He’s happier for it and as a result we are happier. When each parent feels fulfilled on an individual level, they are better together and better as parents. 

So the next time my husband asks me if I mind him going into his friend’s studio to muck around and do his thing, I’ll know he needs this – as much as I need my weekly mother’s group catch ups or mum dates, or as much as my toddler needs to play.

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