I received several emails in response to yesterday’s post “Daddy goes out drinking.” One was a funny story about dealing with a blistering hangover during a beach vacation with two young kids earlier this summer. Another was from a dad I met a year ago in Rittenhouse Square who told me that in moments when he needs to forget that he’s a parent he takes his banjo onto the roof of his rowhouse and plays bluegrass.
The letter that has had me thinking all day, though, came from a mom in Maryland. She’s got a nine-month-old daughter and she wrote that she doesn’t yet feel a strong need for a breather from parenting. She does, however, admit that a certain reality TV show has provided a welcome refuge of late, and she tells an scandalous story about a father she knows who tried maybe too hard to be the perfect dad.
I have lots of reasons that I don’t drink very much and with Maisy around one of them is that I don’t have any desire right now to feel like there is something standing between her and me in the way you describe your first night having some wine after Jay was born. For now, all I want is to be close to Maisy. I even feel sad what she misses out on when she is asleep (even though of course I’m grateful for a chance to sit on the couch). I’m sure there will come a time when I’m more comfortable with and maybe even want to have some distance between us, and I’ll find my own way of manifesting that.
I also think it’s important that parents and spouses not try to be too perfect and devoted all the time. There was a professor here who ended up cheating on his wife with an undergraduate research assistant. It was quite a scandal in the department. A colleague had this take on it: He believed that the guy who strayed had been trying too hard to be the perfect dad and husband—never doing anything for himself, never a misstep or a departure from model parenting. Eventually he kind of cracked because he wasn’t being true to himself.
I’m not sure I totally buy the explanation, and it certainly doesn’t excuse his behavior, but I think it’s a valid point that you have to allow yourself to still be a person when you are a parent. If you used to enjoy a night out with friends including a little drinking, you probably shouldn’t totally deprive yourself of that when you are a parent. Maybe you don’t do it as often or as vigorously, but you don’t have to give up those experiences altogether. It’s kind of like how I would probably be a better parent in a way if I hadn’t watched the Bachelorette season finale last night, but I watched it anyway…
When our little apartment starts to feel like a pressure cooker (typically around 6:45pm, when we’re trying to cook dinner and all of us are at our most tired) the best thing I can do is go out for a run. I’ve been running after dark recently-both because it’s cooler outside and because it’s the only time I can reliably get away-and I find that within a couple miles I start to feel the outline of my own skin again: just Kevin, running through the night.
I’m curious about activities and strategies other parents have come up with to restore a little balance in their lives. If you’re inclined to share, drop a line in the comments section.