Give each party one night off

I was listening to the How to Money podcast in the camp pick-up line the other day (I do this a lot — I like Matt and Joel’s chemistry, and that they’re two young dads who talk about issues of work and life, not unlike Best of Both Worlds, albeit usually through the lens of money!).

One of their guests, Andy Hill, was speaking about his various side hustles, and Joel and Matt asked how he found time for these amid his family duties. Hill mentioned that he and his wife had decided that each of them would get two nights a week to do their own thing. On the nights he covered, she could walk out of the house at 7 p.m. or so (she’s mostly home with the kids during the day) and do whatever she felt she didn’t have time for during the rest of her life. Likewise, he got two nights as well, which he often used for his side projects (like his podcast).

While two nights a week might not work for many families, this is a version of a practice I’ve long suggested for helping people maintain their sanity: give each parent one night off per week. It can be easy to decide that you “can’t” do X, Y, or Z after having children, but this is often not true. It might not work to take an hour long class at the gym every single work night, but if you have one you particularly love, it’s quite reasonable to go to that Thursday boot camp. Likewise, it’s probably not fair for someone to go on a 2-hour bike ride with a group every single week night, but once a week? Why not?

By trading off, with each person getting one week night off per week, each of you can keep up with at least one time-specific interest outside work and family. And that can make life feel more rich and full.

Now, there are caveats to this. Both partners need to have relatively predictable jobs, and jobs that don’t generally involve a ton of evening activities or travel. Party A might be willing to commit to covering a night for Party B, but if Party B is constantly working late on short notice, or might be out of town 2-3 nights per week (in which case, Party A might note, Party B is already off from kid duties multiple nights), this can lead to resentment.

This is why we’ve never done the trade-off. My husband generally is around some non-zero number of weeknights per week, but he does travel for work, and not necessarily on the same nights every week. So we’ve taken another approach: arranging for regular childcare. Back in NYC, we always had a sitter come on Tuesday nights so I could go to choir. Here in PA, Thursday is now choir night, and so we have later coverage that night. This can work too. Or you could arrange for childcare and both take the same night off. It’s more expensive, but perhaps more efficient.

Do you give each parent one night “off”? What do each of you do with the time?

In other news: Jasper has more box office predictions for this weekend. The Lion King will take the first place spot with $94.5 million in domestic sales (down 51 percent from its opening weekend take). Once Upon a Time in Hollywood will open to $45 million, and take second place. Spider-Man: Far From Home will take in $11.5 million (down 46 percent) and Toy Story 4 will hit $10 million (down 36 percent). Crawl will hit $3.6 million in order to round out the top five.

He also predicts that Aladdin and Spider-Man: Far From Home will both pass $1 billion total worldwide revenue this weekend. Tune in next week as we check his predictive powers….

9 thoughts on “Give each party one night off

  1. I like this approach. We’ve done this before for one-off events, but I especially like the idea of just putting it on the schedule. I always think that I should find a hobby and then make the time, but actually making the time to find a hobby is far better approach!
    Really, though, I wanted to comment to say how much I enjoy these box office predictions. I used to love looking at the box office results as a kid!

    1. @Jeanna – we are all box office all the time around here… he really gets into it! I’ve tried suggesting expanding the interest in lists and historical records to other things — record sales, baseball stats — but movies seems to really hit the sweet spot.

  2. We kind of do this, although it’s not totally necessary right now because our 16-month old goes to bed at 6:30 (he barely naps at daycare so is EXHAUSTED). We spend most of the evenings together but I have book club once a month and my husband will go to the driving range once a week after our son is in bed. We are both usually home for dinner/bedtime routines as dinner time is not my favorite time of the day (our son who eats well at school is so picky at home and being overtired at dinner time does not help!). So it’s not a fun time to solo parent.

    My husband likes to golf but that takes up a huge chunk of time on the weekend so I try to have him golf when we are doing something fun, like this weekend I’m going to the zoo with another friend and her kids so I told my husband to book a tee time during our zoo excursion.

    Thanks for introducing me to “How to Money.” I’ve started listening since you were interviewed. I really like their dynamic!

  3. Currently we split it up by AM/PM parent–my husband is a night owl and I’m a morning person. With the caveat that I currently only have one baby who is an excellent sleeper, this is working well for us at the moment. I get up early and have some time to do things around the house, then deal with the baby when she wakes up. My husband handles dinner and bedtime. I work Wednesday evenings, so he was going to have to do at least one evening anyway–since I’m up with the baby every morning he does evenings. I go to bed early (so I can get up early–I’m much more productive in the morning than the evening), so if he wants to go out he’ll just give me the monitor (again, we are very lucky to have a good sleeper who rarely wakes up). After she goes down for the night he has time to relax. If I want to be out of the house on an evening besides Wednesday, I check with my husband, but usually it’s fine–I went to a friend’s Arbonne party on Tuesday night. Getting out of the house is also good if you tend to gate keep or your spouse has learned helplessness issues; it’s nice knowing that I’m the AM parent because it reminds me to keep my mouth shut at night, unless it’s a safety issue, and being completely on his own one night a week has made my husband a more confident parent.

    This works for the moment and feels fair to me–I like to go to bed early (I love your quote that “going to bed early is how grown ups sleep in”) and get up early, so I don’t feel put out that I never get to sleep in. Sometimes on weekends I like to sleep in until the baby wakes up, and so I do. I’m sure it will change as she grows and if/when we have another, but I’ll enjoy this set up while it lasts.

  4. Yes! We roughly do the 2 nights off/parent in our family of 4. I tend to use mine for German lessons on Tuesday nights and a social thing (monthly dinner group, meet a friend for a play, etc) one other night. My husband typically uses his nights to catch a Masters swim practice after work, or to work later. We don’t always use them, but it’s a great method for acknowledging that I * do * have discretionary time/brain power for high quality leisure. Because we each get up to 2 nights without any pushback, there’s way less score keeping.

  5. I think paid childcare helps with the resentment issue when schedules are unequal (as they often are). At this point in time, I am the one doing a lot of travel for work. When I am home, I happily cover my husband’s weekend triathlon training sessions. But next week’s work travel involves a weekend away so I’ve booked Saturday and Sunday sitters to cover his running and bike riding time.

    1. @Natalie – you are a good wife! You might talk with your colleagues about whether they make similar arrangements for their partners, and if not, suggest they do it!

  6. Another riff on the “night off” concept: the overnight (or weekend) home alone. DH and I both value quiet time to be alone in our own space. This weekend he took the kids to the beach for one last trip before they go back to school (on Monday!). Last weekend the kids and I drove to visit my brother’s family for the weekend. This is a wonderful way to reset and do pretty much whatever makes one’s heart happy (home improvement projects, reading, video games, etc) with no physical or psychic demands from anyone else.

    1. @Amy – it can be a real treat to be home alone! Around all your stuff but with no expectations from other people. I like this riff on the concept.

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