Care and Feeding

Can I Be Annoyed That My Wife Uses All Her Precious Kid-Free Time on Her Phone?

Shouldn’t she be catching up on sleep?

Woman smiling while looking at her phone.
Photo illustration by Slate. Photo by Getty Images Plus.

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Dear Care and Feeding,

I’m the father of a 3-year-old. Neither my wife nor I ever get enough sleep, especially since the pandemic disrupted our schedule. When our daughter wakes us up in the morning, I try to quietly get her out of the bedroom so my wife can keep sleeping. More often than not, however, she’ll spend this time on her phone, emailing, texting, and reading news and social media posts. This bugs me. The way I look at it, if one of us can get a little extra sleep, that helps us both. I’m willing to handle the morning routine solo to make that happen. I’m not, however, willing to do it so my wife can get caught up on her work and social life while I fall further behind on mine.

But a gift’s a gift—if I give the gift of time, I’m not supposed to say how it gets used, right? Do I have a right to be annoyed here?

—Rather Be Snoozing

Dear RBS,

How equitable is the division of labor in your household in general? Is it the case that your wife typically handles the lion’s share of the child-wrangling during the workday, or are you both equally responsible for keeping your daughter safe and occupied? Is it that this early morning lounging-in-bed moment is the only personal time afforded to either of you on a regular basis?

If it is the case that you are carrying half or more of the load around the house (which now includes working to keep the lights on) and feel burnt out, then you may want to consider asking her to take turns with the morning routine at least one to two times a week. You could also consider allowing her to do bedtime duty on her own so that you can catch up on Facebook posts and texts yourself then.

However, if waking up early is something you’re doing to help out because your wife typically takes on more parenting and/or household duties than you do, or if the two of you have agreed that you are best suited to do the morning routine, then you may need to just advert your gaze while she scrolls. It isn’t fair for you to decide that she’s only deserving of the extra time in bed if she uses it as you see fit, and an hour of quiet online time may be more useful to your wife than an extra hour of sleep.

Unless you are working your fingers down to the bone while your wife glides through quarantine (which definitely doesn’t sound like the case), it’s pretty dope that your daughter gets to see you perform nurturing tasks while her mother rests. What you have described is the inverse of what a lot of relationships look like—and not just in the morning. You don’t have to pay a penance on behalf of all the dads who don’t pull their parenting weight, but unless you are being taken advantage or being denied any personal time of your own, it just sort of sounds like you all are in the rarefied situation in which a mom can get a little extra rest. That’s not necessarily a bad thing.

—Jamilah