Before parenting, time used to be such a simple thing.
You woke up at, say, 7am, and you had 16 or 17 hours ahead of you with which to do as you pleased. If you had a job, a good 8-12h of that would be devoted to work. But that still left you 4 or 5 hours a day to devote to yourself and, at a stretch depending on how selfish you were (fairly selfish, I’d wager), your partner. Simple.
Then you have kids and you realise that time is not that simple. You discover there are more kinds of time than there is time to get anything done. It’s bewildering. There’s Family Time, Couple Time, Work Time, One-on-One Child Time (x2 if you have 2 kids), Parent Network Time, Kids’ Party Time, Getting out of the House Time, Drop-Off Time, Pick-Up Time, Tea Time, Bath Time, Story Time and Bed Time to name but a few.
These are times you never even knew existed as you lay on the sofa in your own filth watching Sopranos Box Sets for 48 hours straight.
Critically, all of these new times leave precious little time for the one kind of time that used to take up at least 40% of your time – Me Time. AKA Time Out. AKA Time with the Big Man. Indeed, there’s so little time for this nowadays that, when it happens, it’s so unexpected that you do absolutely nothing with it. There is, of course, an argument to say that, when you spend your life picking shit up, wiping arses, sprinting to make ‘Pick-Up’ and being woken up every 20 minutes, doing nothing comes as a welcome relief.
But there are, nevertheless, ways of making ‘doing nothing’ more pleasurable, more constructive and more memorable.
In my short (6 year) experience of fatherhood, here are three ways to improve the quality of your Me Time:
Maximise Anticipation – from the second your partner says “I’m out Friday night, you’re on your own, there’s the rest of last night’s salad in the fridge”, start planning (whilst suppressing your glee at a night in complete charge of the remote and your diet). There’s a school of neuroscience that says the anticipation of something is often more pleasurable than the reality (we all probably have a few ex-girlfriends who’d agree with that sentiment). So revel in the tantric planning. Like a pro golfer visualizing his next shot, picture your evening and plan for food, booze and televisual perfection. Go about it as a Bride goes about a wedding. Fantasise, visualise then realise.
Eat like a Beast – immediately throw the salad in the bin (when your partner is looking the other way) and ponder takeaway options. There are few occasions nowadays where you are allowed to eat like no one’s looking. I urge you to go full-on bone-chewing, marrow-dribbling, wine guzzling Henry VIII. Once, on a rare occasion when my wife was away with the kids for 3 nights, I managed a Holy Hattrick of Pizza, Chinese and Indian on 3 consecutive nights. I’m not suggesting you try this at home (the guilt lasted for more than a week, the indigestion for two) but one night won’t do any harm and there’s no one monitoring your table manners, calorie intake or over-ordering.
Testosterone OD – depending on the length of your partner’s absence, you have minimum 4h, maximum a whole night (or more) to fully recharge your Testosterone levels in preparation for the endless episodes of Strictly, responsible alcohol consumption and lists of household chores that await you on their return. Stock the fridge with your favourite beer, slouch on the sofa in your tatty boxers, find some Schwarzenegger, Van Damme or Bond on the TV and feed off it all like a Vampire feeds off blood. Treat the evening like a long haul flight in Business (don’t lie, you have more booze and food courses than a Gordon Ramsay tasting menu and watch more films than Mark Kermode) and extract every last ounce of value from the experience.
Before you know it, you’ll hear the keys in the door and your Me Time will be at an end – but at least if you do these 3 things, you’ll know you’ve made the most of it.