Finding Free Time as a New Dad

Things have changed for dads since my parents where doing things. It used to be that dad got home from work and sat down and watched tv, or went out to the garage to tinker with a project, or did whatever it was he liked to do to wind down from his day at work. I know the dads of yesteryear did much more than this, they too had household charge, albeit not of the same variety as a modern dad. There was plenty of hard work as a dad back then as there is today, but I really believe things have changed a lot since those days.

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I think modern dads do something more like this:

I return from work worn out and ready to relax. When I get in the door she has been with the kids all day and looks like she’s going to freak out. I take over with the kids so she can get a few minutes of quiet time to herself to wind down.
Watching the kids ends up being a constant battle up until dinner time. She will take the kids back and I will make dinner for the family. When I’m doing making dinner I’ll releive her so she can eat.
The rest of the night is spent taking turns between things like dishes and feeding the baby and trying to get a 3 year old to go to sleep.
By the time the kids are in bed (actually asleep) and the house is picked up we retire to our room to attempt to spend some time together. We’ll plan to watch TV or a movie, or just hang out, or whatever we can do as grown ups. This never really happens though. At least one of us, and often both of us, will end up falling asleep out of sheer exhaustion within 15 to 20 minutes of the kids going to sleep.

I know other families have different routines, but I think there is a key change in how things work now days. Instead of coming home and relaxing, coming home is where your day really gets started.

Modern fathers are much more involved in the raising and taking care of their children than dads of yesteryear. This is not to say there weren’t some rock star dads out there (my father was one of them), but I do believe it’s much more common now.

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The modern dad is expected to take a 100% interest in their child’s life at all times, whereas it was common for a dad of the past to be expected to focus mostly on working and providing for his family while the mom took care of the children day and night.

There’s a different kind of stress on a dad these days. I think a lot of dads want to have a hobby, or interest, or thing , but they feel that making their own time away from Mom and the kids is something that will be frowned upon in the eyes of others

. There is a high expectation out there for us, and more and more of us are stepping up to the plate to fulfill this expectations, and many are far exceeding them.

At some point though, you do need to be your own person. You really can’t be in kid mode all the time, or you’ll lose your *$%& man!

So when do I get this “free time”?

First things first. I definitely do not have this figured out yet. I feel like I’m lost in a jungle thing to grab at branches that may take me to a place where there’s some time to work on a project, or just sit in silence, or read a book, or whatever it is I want to do.

I will share what I’ve figured out so far, and keep writing about it as I learn more.

Stop sleeping so much

This is the part where you get mad at me and use some choice words that equate to me not knowing bull honkey about sleep because you don’t get any. I get you, I really do. I just soldier on through it.

It sounds crazy, but I know I’m not the only one doing this. I have read about multiple people in discussion forums and on reddit that employ a philosophy of sleeping less in order to get time back.

It’s not healthy, obviously, but it’s working for me.

  1. Wake up early — I mean really early, like way before the kids. I shoot for 4AM (and actually wake up at 4:30–5). It may not seem like it, but your brain is operating at peak performance after sleeping so you can tackle intellectual tasks, and things that require great motor skill, with relative ease during the early hours.
  2. Stay up late — Staying up late is easier, sometimes, but depending on what it is you are aiming to do it may not be very beneficial. You’re brain is tired at the end of the day and you’re not on your best game for intellectual things, things that require great motor skills, etc.
  3. Wake up in the middle of the night and go back to bed — This has gained me many hours of time I can use to write, work on creative projects, or get much needed work done. I will wake up at about 2:30 or 3:00am and plug away at stuff until I feel tired again, then I go back to sleep until my normal time. I find having some sleep before I get started on something always makes me better at it than if I was sleep deprived beforehand. This is sort of cheating, but it has worked. Many times it’s not planned, but I make it work if I wake up during the night.

This whole thing is a work in progress. And I imagine the progress will be slow.

As I learn more ways to get time back for myself and my hobbies I will be writing about it. There’s a lot more to talk about and I’m hoping to open a discussion to help with ideas in this area.

Originally published at andrewcbecker.com on December 31, 2015.

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