I'm the last person who should be giving out advice to parents.
I'm THAT dad who lets his kids wear their pajamas to the café. I believe the TV is a legitimate form of babysitter. And I've been known to display glimpses, (albeit, controlled) of Damir Dokic type behavior when my children are on the sporting field.
Where I've had some success is in what I have dubbed, the Husband-Wife balance. The principle is the same as work-life balance, but this is trickier. What follows is very much a male perspective, but I'm sure it works both ways.
I first became aware of this issue when I took over the running of my local sports club. I'm the poor guy that has the gig of hassling blokes to turn up to training.
'Hey Wazza, you coming to training tonight'?
'Not sure mate, let me see if I can get the old leave pass'.
The "old" leave pass. The fact he used the expression "old" leave pass suggested to me he actually believed that all blokes were subject to this process.
A "leave pass," strikes me as more a form of employment than a marriage, where the employee is required to ask his boss for permission every time he dare step outside the office.
But it got worse. Another bloke served this up...
"Sorry, I need to get 'permission from the handicapper.'"
Handicapper? This didn't fill me with a great deal of hope for this chaps playing future. If you are referring to your partner as the handicapper, you are really saying the every action in your life is subject to some form of penalty or condition from "the handicapper."
By far the most common excuse I heard was;
"Sorry, I've used up all my credits."
Credits? This is really code for, I had a few chances a while back, and I stuffed up. I won't be leaving the house alone again. Ever.
My standard response to all the above was pretty much along the lines of;
"Yeah cool, I understand mate."
Truth was, I didn't understand. It baffled me. What I really wanted to say was...
"Are you honestly telling me that for one night a week, Mum and the kids cannot survive without your help?"
Is this really how things should run?
Have we become so bound by mutual responsibility and a sense of obligation that it now requires both parents to change a nappy?
Does it really take the two of you to attend a friend's first birthday, when one of you has a golf game, a lunch or a sporting event you are busting to attend?
Does it really take two to put dinner out for the kids?
I don't question for a second that it makes these chores easier, but that's not the point. The problem, is that this reliance on each other becomes so entrenched, you end up with less and less time for yourself.
My wife and I have learned, through trial and error, that the only way out of this trap is that on certain nights of the week, or even just a night, ONE of you must just SUCK IT UP.
Regardless of whether you have two kids or four, for these agreed nights ONE of you does the bathing, the feeding and the putting to bed. There's no guilt laid on, no snide remarks directed at the partner who has the night off.
Sure, if the kids are on a bender you could be looking at a few hours of hell. But think of the rewards on the nights you then have off to do as you please.
No more leave passes, no more needing to get permission from the handicapper. No more ridiculous negotiation just to go and do something you love.
Admittedly, it's tough at first. Like with any new system, you are constantly tested by the old ways. I can almost guarantee that the first time you try it, the baby will start crying the moment you head out the door.
The urge to go back inside and help will be a force almost impossible to ignore. But ignore is what you must do if you are serious about establishing a better husband-wife balance.