How much 'adult' time do you have after having kids?
June 3, 2013 5:00 PM   Subscribe

Are you an adult in a two-parent, dual-income family? Do you have kids of school age? Could you give me an idea of how much "adult" time you have in a normal week? I don't mean just sex, anything that's not kid-dominated would count: date night, beers, whatever. Pop culture makes having kids out to be all-consuming from just about conception until college but I don't have any real-world frame of reference for it so I'm trying to calibrate myself.
posted by whuuuu to Human Relations (44 answers total) 37 users marked this as a favorite
I don't have kids, but my boss is a working mom of school aged kids, and pretty much any "did you see [GROWNUP APPOINTMENT TV SERIES] last night?" type of question gets a "No," with a side of "Like as if I watch any TV show Miley Cyrus isn't in..."
posted by Sara C. at 5:02 PM on June 3, 2013

I don't have kids but I was one.

Here's the thing, you have to be brutal about bedtime. Kids go into their rooms at seven, then eight, depending on age.

From eight on, it's grown up time. You don't come out of your room and bug me. You don't have to sleep, but you can't come out.

That's how you protect yourself. Kids will wear you out if you let them.
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 5:04 PM on June 3, 2013 [39 favorites]

We have from 8pm to bedtime to hang out, watch TV or finish chores, or read, and (obviously) have sex. We trade off one "out with friends" night a week, get a babysitter a couple of times a month, and dump the little ones off with my parents 6-8 times a year, including a 1 week adults-only vacation. It's not a lot of just-us time, but it turns out to be plenty. Not so surprisingly, people tend to enjoy spending time with their kids when they have them. And it's great to miss them when you take time off.
posted by monkihed at 5:08 PM on June 3, 2013 [6 favorites]

Our baby goes to bed at 730, so we have 730 - bedtime. But a lot of that time is taken up doing chores or collapsed on the couch. If you feel you must have copious free time to be happy, you should consider staying childfree!
posted by yarly at 5:09 PM on June 3, 2013 [8 favorites]

Plenty of time in the house after 8pm, but don't get out much anymore.
One night for each of us out each week.
EVERY-once in a long while a day night (need to change that!)
posted by bottlebrushtree at 5:09 PM on June 3, 2013

It's the 11 to 15 year olds that really take up your adult time. They don't have a 'bed time' (you can request they are in their rooms by a certain time on a school night, but it's difficult to MAKE them sleep) and they like parental interaction. Either you have to specify a time/place is off limits (difficult, at best) or leave home for adult time.

But at this age they are fine to be left alone for an evening. Over 15 will not actually want to be with their parents as much.
posted by readery at 5:11 PM on June 3, 2013 [3 favorites]

My friends with kids trade babysitting with other people in order to get alone/grown-up time. We also have a tendency to do grown-up events ("ladies' night") which are kid-friendly, at least for the littlest ones. My guess is that the stay-at-home moms are getting about 25 hours a week of "awake time not focused on children," and the working moms are getting about 10 hours a week of "at home/on the town, and awake, but not focused on children." The dads seem collectively to be between these two levels.

One of the things I think we do badly as a modern society is insisting that when children are present, things be dedicated to their interests. Children are capable of playing on the floor while grown-up conversations are had, so long as you don't train them to need constant entertainment and attention from the adults. Most of my friends with kids expect the kids to be capable of sorting themselves out quite a lot of the time. They certainly do not let Miley Cyrus, etc., take over the TV during all hours the children are conscious.
posted by SMPA at 5:12 PM on June 3, 2013 [20 favorites]

Not a parent, but have tons of friends who are. I think a lot of it depends on how much help you have; friends and family nearby, babysitters, etc. Most parents have free time after their kids go to bed, but I don't know any who aren't dead tired.
posted by roomthreeseventeen at 5:13 PM on June 3, 2013 [1 favorite]

[Folks, appreciate you wanting to be helpful but OP is looking for answers from folks with kids or people who have a decent idea of what kid-having is like for this specific case. thanks.]
posted by jessamyn (staff) at 5:25 PM on June 3, 2013 [5 favorites]

I have about an hour in the evening after the kids go to bed. We cosleep with our youngest.
posted by KokuRyu at 5:25 PM on June 3, 2013

My daughter is 9. Because of mismatched work schedules I go to bed 2 hours before my wife and my daughter is usually still awake at that time. We get six-12 hours a week of non kid time on average I'd guess but lots of that time is single time. Together adult time is much less.
posted by Mitheral at 5:28 PM on June 3, 2013

Couple hours every night. Hard and fast bedtime is key.

We have a network of sitters, our kids are old enough that we trade sleepovers with other families for full nights off, and we have family close enough to send them off for a weekend now and then or longer during the summer.

Since they were school aged, it's been pretty great, in terms of adult time.
posted by padraigin at 5:29 PM on June 3, 2013

Pop culture makes having kids out to be all-consuming from just about conception until college but I don't have any real-world frame of reference for it so I'm trying to calibrate myself.

Child raising can be all consuming at times. No way around that.

That said, I'm an easy going guy, and I was a complete nazi about bedtimes. Those couple of hours after he went to bed were mine, mine, mine.

That only lasted until he was about 10 or so. After that age, kids don't really require a lot of adult input or supervision - compared to say, 4-5. So, things got a bit easier once he hit his tweens. Of course, his behavior and attitude once puberty set in helped me understand why some species eat their young - but it wasn't terribly time consuming.
posted by Pogo_Fuzzybutt at 5:30 PM on June 3, 2013 [10 favorites]

We have 19 and 12 y.o. kids, a freshman in college and 6th grader. Starting from when the older was in about 5th grade, we felt comfortable leaving them at home while we grabbed a quick dinner or a glass of wine for a grown-up chat. Now that the older one is away at school, we can leave the younger by himself for several hours without concern. When they were 17 and 10, we left them overnight (for one night) to go about three hours away to see a concert, but I wouldn't have been comfortable being away longer or doing it very often.

At their ages, they are very self-sufficient and don't necessarily want to be in our space, although we are all kind of homebodies so we do spend a lot of time together. The point upthread about bedtimes getting later and later was a tough adjustment. I like being the last one to go to bed so I can putter around the house and have quiet time, and it was incredibly frustrating to try to stay up later than a teenager (I eventually gave up). Re sex, we all usually sleep with our doors open, so we had to come to terms with the fact that THEY KNOW what we're up to if our door is closed.

Kids are kind of all-consuming, but they're also really fun to be around. The time really does fly and at the risk of being sentimental, I miss the hell out of the one who is halfway out of the nest - so I treasure the time we've had together rather than wishing I'd been somewhere else.
posted by Sweetie Darling at 5:30 PM on June 3, 2013 [2 favorites]

Couple hours every night. Hard and fast bedtime is key.

This. Put the kids to bed at the same time every night. This is not only useful for your own sanity, but theirs as well. As they age up, they don't have to sleep right away -- they can read in their rooms. But 8 p.m., boom, bedtime.

Make this a routine and your life will be much, much easier.
posted by Cool Papa Bell at 5:34 PM on June 3, 2013 [4 favorites]

Yeah I've had two kids (now almost adult) and raised four. You have to prioritize time; bedtimes are important as mentioned above, but getting adult time seems to be the province of those parents with resources (like nannies), I didn't and it's hard!
I made bed-time rules for sure and when they are in school (finally!) you have a few hours to be yourself.
When you have kids they take up the entire landscape! But I think it's ok to save some for yourself. I was pretty frank with my kids about mommy needing time that wasn't "about" them but about me. Even little kids can "get" that. As long as their needs are met, making them aware that other people have needs/things they want to do is a good thing.
You do have to carve it out (time-wise) in a literal way.

Now, my adult kids are awesome, and my minor kids also know to reserve for themselves what they need. I think/hope.
posted by bebrave! at 5:34 PM on June 3, 2013 [1 favorite]

did you see [GROWNUP APPOINTMENT TV SERIES] last night?

You also need to just divorce yourself from the idea that "appointment TV" exists for you at all. The DVR was invented for a reason and you're it.
posted by Cool Papa Bell at 5:35 PM on June 3, 2013 [8 favorites]

We've got a 5 year old and mismatched work schedules, so we have about 15-20 minutes total of alone time together from Monday thru Friday. On weekends, we have from 8:30 pm through bedtime together. We try to do as little housekeeping as possible on the weekends so that those 2 nights are debauched evenings of booze/ sex/ Grownup movies / whatever.

Once a month or so we get a babysitter or grandparent and my husband leaves work early so we can have a Friday night date night outside of the house.
posted by waterisfinite at 5:37 PM on June 3, 2013 [1 favorite]

two toddlers. agreed with others above: hard and fast bedtime is key. my kids are in bed at 8 sharp (hence me sitting on my chair and reading the webs). as far as date nights etal: the only limit is expense, I'd say.

finally: I don't think kids have to be all consuming even in the daytime. I usually take the kids all weekend, and I'll regularly pop over to a friend's house and have grownup chats and some drinks. you just have to be ok with the kids going a little lord of the flies; as long as you are, you don't have to be in servitude to them and can have regular adult activities. albeit as they take turns trying to open the bleach bottle or whatever they do when I'm not looking.
posted by jpe at 5:40 PM on June 3, 2013 [5 favorites]

Also: It depends on your career / job / the kind of work you do. For us (2 professionals, one 4.5 year old) there's always a bit more work to do that came home from the office, so this magical after-8pm-it's-all-grownup-time thing that others are talking about is the time when we finish up those powerpoints, polish another draft of a document, reply to some emails, etc.
posted by secretseasons at 5:42 PM on June 3, 2013

I'm a full time single mother of three and my life is nothing like anything on t.v. My parents take my kids one night a week for a sleep over, which is my guaranteed adult time. Having 3 kids means that they can entertain each other so I get to read or pursue other interests when we are all home. None of them are in scheduled activities so we kind of knock around on our own. Family life is what the adult chooses it to be.
posted by myselfasme at 5:44 PM on June 3, 2013 [8 favorites]

When our kids were small, we were vigilant about bedtimes. Depending on the age of the kids, they'd be in bed by 7 or 8 or 9 and then we'd have from X time until we went to bed to hang out. Nights out were not infrequent on the weekends.

Now that they're older (16 and 13), we spend much more time together in the evening as a family. It's fun, though! We watch DVRd episodes of stuff (The Daily Show, Psych, The Colbert Report, etc.) or we talk or play board games. I expect some of that to drop off when the 16-year-old finally gets his license, and the 13-year-old is super-social and super-busy. We spend a fair amount of time running her from place to place.

We have and always have had lots and lots of time together, out of the house, away from the kids because we have always made it a priority. I do not subscribe to the theory that one should never leave one's children or have a life outside of them. They leave eventually (if you've taught them how to) and it'll just be the two of us again. We never wanted to be frightened of that.
posted by cooker girl at 5:46 PM on June 3, 2013 [4 favorites]

I don't even have time to answer this post!! jk. I think the thing is, you have time, but it's never all at once, and it is never when you want it or plan it. You may have things perfectly planned out for you to have 2 hours of free time on a given day at a given time, and then boom, one of them gets a fever or has extra homework to get done or can't find one of his/her shoes, and your entire plan gets thrown off kilter. Time to yourself is much harder to get when they are tiny, because if little ones aren't eating, they are pooping, and if they aren't pooping, they need a nap, and if they aren't napping, they are screaming bloody murder. Rinse and repeat endlessly. It gets better gradually as they get older. Although, it really depends on how much you make it a priority - you can get lots of free time if you pay lots for babysitters or have lots of patient local relatives.

(I have three kids 5-14 yrs. As I am typing this, a kid's TV show is blaring on the TV, invading my thought processes.)
posted by molasses at 5:51 PM on June 3, 2013 [1 favorite]

On weekdays, kid is asleep anywhere between 6.30 and 9 depending on whether her teachers have been successful at preventing a nap. So we have from then until bedtime. Weekends, she never naps, so we have long weekend evenings together. One date night every other week or so, maybe every 3 weeks. Husband has one or two nights out by himself a week, and I have usually one, sometimes none. Husband has a lot more need for social outings than me so it works out well - I get alone time when he's out and kid is sleeping, which I value very highly.
posted by gaspode at 6:00 PM on June 3, 2013

We get a couple of hours every night. Our kids are fun most of the time. They enjoying going to museums and festivals, hitting the bike trail, or going hiking -- so we do stuff like that on weekends. We also live in a very social neighborhood, so we can kick back on the patio and have drinks with our neighbors after they are in bed on weekends.

My kids would much rather do active stuff than sit in front of the TV, but sometimes I'll switch on a kids' show and encourage them to watch it just so that I can vacuum or fold laundry without "help."

Also, our backyard swing set was the best purchase ever.
posted by Ostara at 6:11 PM on June 3, 2013

Bedtime (asleep) + five minutes is wine o'clock in my house. She is two and full on
posted by goo at 6:20 PM on June 3, 2013 [3 favorites]

If you feel you must have copious free time to be happy, you should consider staying childfree!

That's a bit patronizing. In my huge extended family, right here in the US, kids are absolutely not the focal point of all activities. Parties go late, activities go late, there is lots of running around, and none of it involves traditional 'kiddy' stuff. The parents who do get quite consumed with child-culture, and planning around their desires moment-by-moment, are absolutely the outliers. Part of that is because the extended family is so large and active that there are plenty of trusted eyes, but no one is paying particular attention. Much of the time, the kids hang out with each other, and the adults hang out with each other, pretty much any time that doesn't involve being ferried around in a car. Furthermore, everyone is thriving, doing well in school, getting great jobs, and finding cool partners. Just because US culture and capitalism make it practically impossible to achieve this, doesn't mean that it is impossible/selfish/ludicrous.
posted by thegreatfleecircus at 6:29 PM on June 3, 2013 [13 favorites]

[Stop the childfree derail and other namecalling now, please.]
posted by jessamyn (staff) at 6:38 PM on June 3, 2013 [4 favorites]

My husband and I work roughly the same hours (9-5 ish) and have 2 kids aged 8 and 10. After their bedtime (9 pm) is always free time -- but we get other time as well. A couple times a weeks I go to the gym for an hour (say from 7-8). Or he runs out to get errands done. Both parents don't always have to be home at the same time! At this age, our kids spend a lot of the evening doing things independently: homework, showers, computer time, Lego, whatever. We are around but not necessarily involved. Usually I use that time to do chores so that post 9pm is truly "free" time, but sometimes I'll just do my own thing while the kids are puttering around. And no, the tv is not dominated by the kids. We watch the news, sometimes we watch shows together, and sometimes we let the kids watch what they want. There's a healthy balance. We rarely feel that we don't have enough adult time.
posted by yawper at 7:00 PM on June 3, 2013 [2 favorites]

It seems to me that this must have a thousand variables. How many kids do you have, and do they like spending kid time together? If one kid or multiple that don't like to hang out, how good are they about entertaining themselves? To what extent are you prepared to be a rigid enforcer of bedtime and an overall prioritizer of adult time? To what extent are you likely to buy into the modern parenting aesthetic that says parents should spend every available second having "quality time" interaction with their kids?

I have known parents on every side of this spectrum. Some of my closest friends give their kids a strict bedtime and insist that they entertain themselves unless it is a family activity (of which there are plenty). When Mrs. slkinsey and I visit these friends for an evening of drinks and dinner, the kids keep to themselves and engage in their own activities until it is time to say goodnight. These frinds prioritize getting a weekly sitter for date night. Other equally close friends of mine have effectively given over every waking moment to their children. The kids don't have a bedtime, and interact generally interact with the parents rather than entertaining themselves. When we visit them (or when they visit us) for an evening of drinks and dinner the kids are continually present and demanding attention or requiring superintendence. They rarely get out for a night together, and when they do they frequently call home to check in or say goodnight to the kids.

I offer the foregoing not to praise or criticize either couple, but to show how radically this equation can differ depending on the nature and circumstances of the parents and children.
posted by slkinsey at 8:07 PM on June 3, 2013 [4 favorites]

Every weeknight my parents had half an hour to an hour before dinner. My dad would come home from work and we'd all go dad-crazy, then after 15 minutes or so they would send all of us into another room or the backyard and sit and talk and/or have a glass of wine. Then my mom would go finish dinner prep and my dad would come play ball or whatever. I can remember being as young as three and that IF IT WAS NOT BLEEDING, YOU DID NOT DISTURB THEM. My mom used to try to time one of the baby's naps for cocktail hour, or the older siblings would have to watch the younger.

My husband and I usually have kid-free time from 8 to 10 at night, we have preschoolers. The older one usually takes 30 or 40 minutes to fall asleep now that it's summer and light so late, but he knows he has to stay in his room and read books to himself. He has a fun nightlight.
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 8:09 PM on June 3, 2013 [1 favorite]

A question I feel qualified to answer!

Because, well, I have kids, I guess.

Obviously, there are many, many variables. The personality of the kids, the type of work, the support system you have, on and on.

But... this might help with an answer.

You asked about school-age kids, so let's stick with that.

Age 4-7ish. Kids need constant supervision during this time, so if they aren't actually asleep, at school, or otherwise monitored, you have zero time. That's where the bedtime that other other parental troopers have mentioned comes into play. In bed by 7:00 at early ages and gradually latening the rigorously enforced bedtime will allow you some amount of grown-up time that gradually decreases as they grow-up. HOWEVER, as they get older there will be sporadic chunks of time that grow more frequent where they spend time with Grandma, go to that trusted friend's house and so on. These occasions are random and infrequent. Do not rely on them, or you will become insane and spastic.

Age 8-12
They trick you now. You think they are upstairs watching the Rugrats movie, but you are wrong., Junior has been underneath the coffee table watching you pick your nose the whole time. HOWEVER, if you tempt them with IChat/FaceTime/Minecraft during this time AND they have friends, you might actually forget that you had children.

This is good.

Age 13---------

As the children realize more and more how much they justifiably resent you, they will drift away. You can anticipate 5-7 hours of adult time at this stage, but at some point you will no longer exist in their eyes, and they will mock you.
posted by nedpwolf at 8:19 PM on June 3, 2013 [4 favorites]

I have twins who are almost 5. In addition to the bedtime consistency (which gives us a few hours of web surfing and catching up on the DVR), adult time has gotten better since the kids were (a) reliably potty-trained and (b) capable of separating from us without meltdowns (preschool helped with this). Now we are able to take advantage of free childcare (at the gym, Wegmans, Ikea, etc.) as well as special "Parents' Night Out" events at the county rec center.

We live in a "new urban" type development in which the houses are close together and close to the street, and there are sidewalks on both sides of the streets. Late afternoon / early evening for the past month or so has meant posses of children out playing, riding bikes and scooters, running through sprinklers, etc. There isn't total freedom, but everyone knows each other and there are always several parents out so there is an understanding - if you need to run back inside and start dinner, someone has an eye on your kid. Our kids are just now old enough for this "modified free range" play, and it's made a huge improvement in my sanity.
posted by candyland at 3:33 AM on June 4, 2013

One thing to watch out for is whether or not you and your spouse are on the same page with regards to the amount of adult time you want.

My ex and I had completely different expectations about this - I wanted more adult time, she wanted very little.
posted by The Blue Olly at 6:47 AM on June 4, 2013 [2 favorites]

I do have kids of school age.

As others have pointed out there are many variables.

How much local help you have is key. I have friends whose parents take their kid(s) overnight once a week. Others get a sitter one evening a week. Adult siblings with cousins can be great.

Bedtimes - well parenting style and the specific children have a lot to do with how this works. So many posts above make it seem so easy to "set bedtime at 8" and when generally when I talk to other parents this is not necessarily the case.

My anecdote: My children don't need much sleep and they are up until 10 or even later most nights and the younger is rarely asleep earlier let's say between 9:30 and 10. They are both in elementary school. So sure I could somehow manufacture that they get to bed at 8 but they'd be up at 5:30 AM (and so would I). I can't make them sleep longer than they need and I don't like the idea of them spending time staring at the ceiling trying to fall asleep for hours. So they like to be with me, in the room with me wherever I am at this age, therefore, I'm not watching any adult television or even the news as I don't want them to watch it.

I think most of the above posts are actually describing more alone time than you actually get. Examples: on weekends kids don't sleep in, most parents stay to watch most evening activities that kids have (soccer, swimming) or are at least doing drop-off and pick-up, add a million other child-related activities doctor, dentist, buying the red-white-blue Memorial Day program T-shirt. Many parents have child-related activities most nights of the week. At the end you may be too tired for adult activities.

So, children are all-consuming for at the least one caretaker/parent at a time. This could be negotiated and shared among multiple adults which would leave more adult-time for some.
posted by RoadScholar at 6:50 AM on June 4, 2013

Our kids are a little younger (toddler and infant), and we're constantly short of time. Because we both work and both spend a lot of time with the kids, other things have to give. Chores don't get done all that reliably, bills don't always get paid on time, etc. But the big thing is that yeah, we don't get a lot of alone time. The moment the kids go to sleep my partner follows suit, and I try to catch up on all the work that I've fallen behind on.

It's kind of brutal at times, but it's not as bleak as it sounds. Adult time isn't the same thing as alone time. We've started to get good at having multiple conversations running at once... toddler and I am having an argument over whether Thomas is a better tank engine than Percy (I'm firmly in the pro-Percy camp), but in between the foot stomping my wife and I are having a discussion about the relative merits of orthodox hypothesis testing and Bayesian analysis. It's tricky to pull off when the toddler decides that only his conversation is allowed, but usually I can convince him to take turns and let mum and dad talk for a bit, on the condition that I return to the Percy/Thomas discussion. As long as I don't break my promises, he seems to be quite civilised about letting us talk.

In the end, tricks like this mean that we do manage to get a reasonable amount of adult time, but it's almost never in kid-free blocks. Instead, we just do adult stuff around them. Sure, there's a few adult things that don't work that way (sex, watching Deadwood), but most of the things that we actually care about (nerdy conversation, beer) we can do around the kids. Just not quite so single-mindedly as we used to, and usually while trying to negotiate a peace treaty with what appears to be a tiny little hurricane wrapped in a t-shirt.
posted by mixing at 6:51 AM on June 4, 2013 [1 favorite]

We have a 2.5-year-old. The first year, I had literally no adult free time, I was either commuting, at work, or with the kid (we coslept, so when he went to bed, I went to bed). When we moved him to his own bed he could sleep by himself (shortly after his first birthday) I got my evenings back. Since then, he goes to bed around 8:30 and we get to do whatever we want after that: read, watch a movie, soak in the hot tub, drink wine, surt the net, etc. On weekends, sometimes we stay up too late because we want more adult time (though that can backfire, it seems the later we stay up, the earlier he wakes up the next morning, ugh).

We also sometimes do babysitter/adult night out (though I honestly almost prefer just staying home and hanging out after he's asleep because I'm not always looking at the clock). My husband is the SAHP and he occasionally (maybe every 6 months or so) goes away for the weekend to get a chunk of adult-only time. He also likes to get up early, so he has some time in the morning to himself before the kid wakes up.

We have also trained him to be able to entertain himself, so we can get dinner ready, get chores done, etc. without too much trouble. Often he is done eating dinner before we are, so we have a rule that he has to go entertain himself until mommy and daddy are done eating, which makes mealtimes so much nicer.

So... no huge chunks of adult-only time, but enough every evening to stay sane. And he's fun to be around, so it's not like it's a huge drain to hang with him. We do occasionally get pangs of OMG, I just want to be left alone, when that happens we just ask the other parent to take over for a little while so we can go off alone for a bit and recharge.
posted by rabbitrabbit at 7:59 AM on June 4, 2013

Two kids here: 8p bedtime for them, and we stay up till 1030-1130 depending on the evening and the events of the next day. On weekends and after busy days, we'll put them in at 730 and enjoy the time to ourselves. We don't do date nights all that often, maybe once a month by ourselves and once a month hanging with friends, but that's mostly because we are cheap jerks who don't like to spend money so we usually just end up chilling at home with a cup of tea/wine/beer and a movie. We are kind of strict about parent time even when the kids are with us all weekend, i.e. we take them to the park for a while or an activity where they can do their own thing and we can talk ourselves a little. It's really easy to have kids take over your alone time with your spouse but they don't NEED to be the center of attention all the time so it really comes down to being a little bit guarded about making sure we set aside that bit for our marriage.
posted by takoukla at 8:49 AM on June 4, 2013

We have a soon-to-be five year old, so just about to wrap up preschool and enter school school. We both work from home, so can take an occasional full day off together while he's in school, but setting that aside the only predictable chunks of grownup time are after his bedtime or two hours of "quiet time" in the afternoon.

Quiet time used to be nap time -- he stopped sleeping through it more than a year ago, and instead plays quietly in his room (he is aware that this is as much for our benefit as for his.) He knows bedtime is at eight and he's not allowed to wake us up until seven even though he generally wakes up much earlier. (Before he was able to read a clock we bought one for his room we could set to light up green at a specified time so he'd know when it was okay to come and get us. Best. Invention. Ever.)

We had a babysitter we used once or twice until she moved away, and occasionally would drop him off with Grandma while we went off to dinner; lately we've started trading sleepover nights with a friend whose son is a similar age. It takes some adjustment to have to plan your outings days or weeks in advance; you can't just decide to go out to a movie because you happen to feel like going to a movie.

For the first three or four years if they're awake and in the house, you pretty much do have to be paying attention to them at all times. It's really only within the last year or so that ours has become able to entertain himself for sustained periods -- he'll get absorbed in his blocks or his legos or in, like, carrying things from one room to another for his own mysterious purposes for an hour or so -- of course this isn't predictable, you can't plan any work or outings around it, but it can be a chance to have a conversation that doesn't revolve around superheroes or dinosaurs for a change.

It is pretty all-consuming. You get used to it, and it's mostly enjoyable, but, yeah, everything changes. I'm honestly a little concerned about the impending switch to kindergarden, because our work days will have to end earlier in the day (preschool runs until five).
posted by ook at 8:58 AM on June 4, 2013

Two kids, 7 and 2.5. I think it's really important to have time for yourself. My wife and I do stuff together, but, I often take for myself. I wish she would more, but, doesn't very often. So, I sometimes help find her stuff to do with friends.

Like others have said, bedtime should be strict. 8:30 to whenever I feel like going to sleep is my time. I'll frequently go to a friends, go out with some friends, work on a project, whatever. I also try to make the most of my lunch breaks. I'll go for a bike ride, go shopping, whatever.

On weekends, if I want to ski, climb, whatever, I'll usually get started at the crack of dawn so I'm home by 11 or so and have the rest of the day to do family stuff. I'll typically only do that one morning per weekend. The other day I'll ski with my son and we got my daughter going out.

I will typically book one big solo adventure every year. A big hike, river trip, ski trip, whatever. This keeps me sane and helps me remember the other things that are important to me.

I feel like I've got a good balance.
posted by trbrts at 10:23 AM on June 4, 2013

We have three kids, ages 5 through 11. For the first few years we had a fair amount of free time, but as they get older and they accumulate more and more activities, it's dwindling. In our case, we tend to use certain TV shows as "mom and dad" time - Breaking Bad and Top of the Lake were two recent ones. We scope out the hour or two for those, and don't feel bad about sending the kids downstairs for an hour to play Xbox or watch junk kids' TV.
posted by jbickers at 10:28 AM on June 4, 2013

If you have family nearby and/or neurotypical children, going out without the kids is no big deal. If, like me, you don't have family nearby and don't have neurotypical children, you're going to go out much less and have much less time to be an adult. So... uh... try to have family nearby and/or NT children, that's my advice.

Mr Corpse interacts with other adults at work, I meet friends for coffee while our kids are in school. As far as time together, like so many people above we have a strict bedtime for the kids.
posted by The corpse in the library at 12:16 PM on June 4, 2013

Single parent of a baby here. Plenty of adult time. Also, the quality of time shifts - I used to have so much time that I ended up procrastinating and wasting a lot of it with "but I don't want to do the dishes!" self-talk. Now that that time is more precious, dishes only take two minutes, as they should. And the time with the kid is mostly delightful and happymaking, more so than the things that previously filled much of my "adult time".
posted by judith at 7:20 AM on June 5, 2013 [1 favorite]

Also, the quality of time shifts

So true! I used to spend hours getting ready in the morning and was always tired even if I slept in because I'd stay up late for no good reason. Now I get myself ready in like 10 minutes and am still tired, but for a very good reason! And although it is tough to drag myself out of bed to fetch the baby at 6:15, I get to see his tiny little grin first thing in the morning too.
posted by yarly at 1:15 PM on June 5, 2013 [1 favorite]

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