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Dear Care and Feeding,
My wife is not very supportive of my Guys Night. I have been married to my wife for four years. We also have a 3-year-old son. Since before we got married, I have attended Guys Night every Tuesday from 5:00 to 10:00 p.m. In the beginning, my wife encouraged me to go because I benefited from “guy time.” After we had our son, I took a few months off from Guys Night to bond with my son and help my wife as much as needed. Once my paternity leave was over, I started going back to Guys Night, and at first everything was fine. Then, out of the blue, she started asking me to leave early or skip it all together. I would also get guilt trips about how I don’t love her enough to stay home. She will use whatever reason she can think of to try and prevent me from going. It has gotten to the point that I can’t even enjoy Guys Night because I feel guilty about going and am worried about how she might feel. I have tried to work out a happy middle ground to no avail. I have even tried to get her to have a Girls Night with her friends, but she would rather stay at home with our son. I just don’t feel like her lack of a social life should kill my social life. It’s starting to cause resentment on both sides, and I am running out of ideas.
— Guys Night in Orlando
Dear Guys Night,
First of all, you were not “helping [your] wife” when you stayed home from Guys Night for a few months; you were parenting your child. Second, it’s not as though infants suddenly become easy once maternity/paternity leaves are over. Caring for a first baby who’s only a few months old is not a chill time for most parents, and it sounds like your wife might be feeling a bit anxious or overwhelmed. (Which is so common!) If she wasn’t controlling or against you hanging out with friends before, what’s going on is probably the result of something new she’s feeling or experiencing now that you have a kid.
You need to talk with her about this in moments when you’re not already arguing about Guys Night. Have a real conversation (not a conflict) and listen to how she’s really feeling and why. If something bigger is going on, like postpartum anxiety and/or depression, you want her to feel safe telling you that, and that’s tough for her to do if you’re fighting. It could just be that she feels most of the child care is her responsibility, most of the time, so she can’t go out and see friends every week as you do, and that’s why she resents you going. Or maybe this new-family time is really important to her and she just wants you around so you can all be together. I don’t know the reason she doesn’t want you to go, but it kinda sounds like you don’t, either, and you need to find out in order to resolve this.
If her concerns are mostly practical—she wants another pair of hands for bath and bedtime or whatever your baby’s evening routine is—then there really should be some middle ground, as you say. Instead of a standing night with your friends, maybe, just for a while, it could be more of a game-day decision; you’d go when you could, and stay home when that’s needed. Or you could, yes, go and leave early sometimes, not stay the whole five hours every single time. I don’t think these are unreasonable compromises, nor do I think they’d have to last forever, just like I don’t think your wife will refrain from going out and seeing her friends and doing other things forever. You’re both still in a pretty intense phase of parenting right now, and it will not always feel just like this. (Readers who insist that having a baby changed absolutely nothing for you, and you didn’t drop a single ball or activity or miss a night out with friends, even during the newborn phase: great; I am so happy for you; I am also not talking to you.)
Friendship is very important, and does not become less so just because we are parents, so I really hope you can still find ways to spend time with your friends. If you miss a few nights with them, try to find other ways to maintain those connections, 1:1 and with the whole group. Maybe lunch or the baby’s naptime is an easier time to get away and hang out. Maybe you can do something with some of them on a weekend instead. We are better people and parents when we can retain our other interests and relationships—you should get to spend time with friends and be your whole self, even as you prioritize your family.
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