While I'm away, readers nominate some letter-writers who stayed in mind.
Sept. 1, 2006
Adapted from a live discussion.
Question: I recently became a father and am having problems adapting to my new lifestyle. I'm 27 and my wife is 24. Ever since we've been married, we constantly argue over my "bad" habits of going to see my friends after I get out of work.
My wife stays at home and cares for our daughter while I work all day. For me, an hour or two of hanging out is refreshing and what I need after a long day before I can go home and begin my responsibilities of being a father.
My wife doesn't seem to agree. She feels jealous because my friends are the first people I want to see when I get off work. I feel like I work a 12-hour day when I come straight home, because I have to cook (she can't cook) and give her a break from caring for our baby. I understand she's also working by caring for our child, but gimme a break! I can't go out to the mall or go shopping when I work, or take two naps during my workday!
Is there anything I can do to make her understand I need me-time besides arguing and making us resent each other?
Answer: Oh my goodness.
After nine or so hours away from your family at work, you then spend another hour or two away from your family? Because it's "refreshing"?
I am going to resist screaming and tearing my hair out because you're here, I have your attention, and you're asking, and I don't want to scare you away. But - dude.
You're not single anymore, and you're not childless anymore, and so you are no longer at the top of your list of people whose needs you must tend to. This is a fundamental truth that you need to accept, right now.
At the top of the list is your little girl. She needs a daddy on weekdays as badly as she needs one on weekends. When you are out of the house for 10, 11, 12 hours, she does not have a daddy on weekdays.
Next on the list is your wife's name, right next to yours. She needs your companionship, your attention, your support. She doesn't need a husband who needs a couple of belts with his buddies just to face coming home to her. And she doesn't need to have her life dismissed as easier than yours, when she is "on" 24 hours a day with the baby, and likely isolated as hell.
Yes, you need your time, too. Once a week with your friends. And she needs a night off, too, once a week with her friends.
And if any of this isn't penetrating - actually, even if it is - please arrange, this weekend, to take care of your daughter, solo, for at least 10 hours straight. Then write back to me and report what it was like.