Sharing of Recreation:
Tips and Tricks
Recreation time includes both personally fun activities and spiritually
restorative activities (e.g., simply having time to yourself).
For the purposes of our discussion, it does not include time with your
children - that’s childraising. Nor does it include going to the
dentist or having your
annual physical, unless that’s your thing. It is enjoyable time
Naturally, each parent is free to pursue any activity
during the time when the kids are asleep or away and the immediate
household tasks have been completed; he/she can choose to watch TV,
newspaper, go to bed early, play computer games, complete less
time-sensitive household chores, log more hours for work, or organize
the sock drawer.
Negotiated additional free time is a bit trickier. When a
chooses to negotiate his or her freedom during a time of day when
parental childcare is required, it is assumed that the other partner
will be granted an equivalent allotment of free time for future
use. We don’t propose a strict accounting of hours but rather a
shared recognition that free time is valuable for both partners.
Some examples of negotiation:
- If Dad wants to go to the gym after work 3 days per
week and won’t get home until 7:30pm, that’s a set number of hours of
free time per week (and during the prime dinner hour too!). Mom
may choose to go shopping and have lunch with a friend on the weekend
regularly for a few hours.
- If Dad wants to sleep in till 10am on a Saturday,
Mom might choose to play 9 holes of golf sometime.
- If Mom sings with the choir every Wednesday evening
and leaves the house at 6pm, that’s 2 hours per week of negotiated free
time. Dad might choose to “bank” the time and cash it in to
attend a college reunion out of state for a weekend.
rules of the game
If the recreation domain is to be truly equal between spouses, a few
understandings have to be in place. One crucial element is mutual respect. Another
factor is that there must be a commitment
to follow through
with each other’s plans except in the direst of
circumstances. A third concept involves planning
and advance notice. Within
reason, both parents should give each other ample time to prepare for
their absence so that the spouse can gear up for alone time with the
kids (especially if it is all day or weekend).
Another rule is that you should not have to prepare for
your absence when you head off for fun. Do not precook
meals. Do not leave lists of things to do. Do not call home
just to check on things; call home to say 'hello' and ‘I love you’ and
share your day, but not to make sure the kids are bathed.
When you return from your fun or relaxation, don’t apologize to your
kids. They were in the capable and loving hands of your spouse,
or perhaps a babysitter. They may not know how to say it, but we
believe that they enjoy seeing you happy. This makes their lives
more secure. Furthermore, tell them about your experiences.
Tell them what
you learned, how you felt, who you met, and why it matters. You
may spark a lifelong interest for them, or at least teach them that
recreation is rejuvenating and important.
Couple time allows you both to recharge your batteries and connect
through shared experiences that don’t involve your children or your
chores. Couple time is created in the same way as unrestricted
time because you
don’t need to negotiate it with your spouse. Sometimes, you need
to borrow it from your childraising, household chores or work time in
order to free you both up. It can be purchased through baby
sitters or extended family support, such as for a weekly or monthly
‘date night.’ Or it can
come free in the evenings once the kids are asleep. It is good to
that some evenings will be for the two of you together, rather than for
each of you to go off in your own direction.
Variations on a theme
There are so many ways to work out the recreation time split. The
most important thing is that you actually have a balanced life that
includes this domain. After that, splitting it equally is not so
Now, get out there and have some fun!
©Copyright 2008 Marc and Amy Vachon