Before we had children my husband Daniel and I had very different schedules.
He’s a homebody who loves to have a weekend ahead with no plans at all. I love to be out with friends, doing things. He’s spontaneous, I operate better with a routine.
On weekends I would go and do a dance class while he stayed at home playing his guitar. We would come back together in the afternoon or evening, go for a swim, see a movie.
All very easy; before kids.
And then we had a baby, and our concept of time (and what we did with it) changed radically.
There are some people who have a baby and continue to do everything in their lives as they did before. Their babies come with them to restaurants and away for the weekend.
We were not one of those couples. Having a baby knocked us for six. I felt tethered to our flat, unable to leave her for even an hour.
Becoming parents changed what we expected from ourselves, and each other
Daniel and I have always had a very egalitarian relationship. At different points of our careers, he has earned more than me, and I have earned more than him. He cooks almost all the time. I look after the money side of things.
But you can’t deny the physical changes wrought by having a baby. Firstly, I had been through nine months of my body moving to accommodate our child, all my nutrients feeding into growing her little body. Once she was out in the world, that relationship continued as I breastfed her. Night waking and feeding fell to me because I was the only one who could do it.
By default, I had become the primary carer, which also meant that I was needed- constantly. I felt like I couldn’t leave the house and would be awash with jealousy when Daniel would just pop out to the shops.
We hadn’t planned things this way, it’s just what happened. And so, what we expected of ourselves in our relationship, and from each other, changed.
Time became a commodity that was jealously guarded
After the initial weeks of her life flowed into months and years, the idea of what time meant started to solidify.
If Daniel had a night out with friends, I was owed time out with my friends. Likewise, if I went to a yoga class or a coffee with friends. Every minute and hour was measured out and weighed against each other.
And each outing was tinged with a hint of guilt. Firstly, that I was leaving my husband alone with a demanding baby, and secondly that I was leaving my baby at all.
But I have always been a social being, I need my friends and my activities in my life as much as my family and my home.
Asking for permission makes the feminist in me feel slightly sick
I can’t even remember if before children I even told Daniel what I was doing. If I did it was never with the thought that it would upset him or cause problems in our relationship.
Now it feels like everything I want to do, from yoga to seeing a friend, needs to be run by him first.
He probably feels the same way.
It doesn’t sit comfortably with me. When I have time to reflect it makes me writhe with the underlying element of control that it implies.
We’ve fallen into a pattern that is necessary but unhealthy, and there are better ways to do it.
If time is a commodity, it’s time to start giving it to each other
Perhaps the first step is accepting that we both need different things to keep our cup full. I still like to be busy, he still likes to be at home.
The next step, I’m guessing, is to see time as a gift we can give, instead of a jewel to be hoarded.
I know that Daniel and I are not the only ones who keep a tally on time spent outside the family home.
If you’re finding that you’re measuring time outside of the family home in minutes and hours, maybe it’s time you switched the way you look at it too.
When you’re raising a child together you both need equal downtime. Being conscious of this and offering it to each other with love can make a huge difference to how you feel about each other.
Then you can stop asking permission and get on with living your life.