Equally Shared Parenting - Half the Work ... All the Fun

Equal 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 for you.

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, read the 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 parent 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:

  1. 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 negotiated 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.
  2. If Dad wants to sleep in till 10am on a Saturday, Mom might choose to play 9 holes of golf sometime.
  3. 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.

The 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 to 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
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 know 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 hard. 

Now, get out there and have some fun!

©Copyright 2008 Marc and Amy Vachon

  Home · What is Equally Shared Parenting? · How It Works · ESP: The Book · Equality Blog · In the News · Toolbox · Real Life Stories · Resources · Contact Marc and Amy

All Contents ©2006-10 Marc and Amy Vachon