You can’t. Well, at least not as much as you had before kids. Disappointed by that? Don’t be! Being a dad is an incredible calling and an amazing gift. However, that doesn’t mean that ALL of your time to yourself is gone.
When my son was born, I quickly realized that large chunks of time during my day were no longer for me to decide how to spend. The days of working out whenever I wanted, spontaneously getting happy hour after work with friends, and going on dates with my wife without having to worry about child care were over.
Here are some of the most important things I’ve learned so far in my short time as a dad. From starting each day off right to reframing my thinking, there are lots of ways to serve your family and have some time to yourself.
Wake Up Early
Workout. Read. Pray. Write. Do whatever you want! It’s been said that the first hour of the morning is the rudder of day and if that is true, I want my first hour to be dictated by me. If the kids are what wake me up, they dictate how I start my day. As much as I love all of my children, I want to prepare for the day ahead on my own terms.
As far as training yourself to be an early riser, check out this video from Jocko Willink. If nothing else, it will give you a good laugh.
Plan Ahead and Schedule
Before I got married, I was notorious for failing to plan ahead and doing everything at the last minute. If you ask my wife, she’ll say that this is still the case, but I feel like I have come a long way since my days of packing for long trips hours before leaving and writing papers right up until the minute they were due. When my son was born, I quickly found out that if certain things don’t get scheduled, they just don’t happen. “I’ll work out sometime tomorrow” was a favorite of mine and it never seemed to happen that way.
Jocko Willink, one of my favorite authors, often says “Discipline Equals Freedom”. It’s a mantra that’s counter-intuitive but makes total sense once you think about it. If I stay stay disciplined and focused in my schedule and to-do list, it allows me to be completely free when I do have time with my family and rare time to myself.
So schedule yourself some “me time” and don’t feel guilty when spending time for yourself. Just make sure to be super intentional with that time and are doing things that you actually want to be doing. Kayla and I don’t have a set schedule to make this happen for each other, but there are times when we will just ask the other for an hour alone on certain days when it’s needed.
On that note, make sure that you are allowing your wife to have her own free time as well, and don’t ever make her feel guilty even if that time is particularly difficult with the kids.
Don’t (Feel Like You Always Need To) Be Efficient
Having kids is not efficient. There is no shortage of books, blog posts, or articles about becoming more efficient. I have even written a few myself on this blog. But when it comes to raising kids into the people we want to help them become, the scientific management approach doesn’t work. Many stressful days since having kids have been because I was worried about not checking enough things off the to-do list, not being “efficient” while my kids were playing.
It’s taken a long time realize that just playing with them and letting the laundry sit in the dryer was the best thing I could do with the precious time I was given. Being efficient is often overrated when it comes to kids.
Be “Powerfully Present” During Time Spent with Your Wife and Kids
You’re not going to have as much time to yourself once you have kids. That’s just an undeniable fact. So one of the most important things you can do for yourself and for your family is to make sure that you value and cherish the time spent with them. Reframe your thinking and remind yourself that your most important and impactful role is that of dad.
Imagine you are on your deathbed – many, many years from now, I pray – and you say “Gosh, I wish I would have spent a little more time working, scrolling through Instagram, and watching reality TV.” How crazy does that sound? Now, before I continue, let me point out that A) I love my job and the people I get to work with, B) I have an Instagram account, and C) I have a slight obsession with sports documentaries and old seasons of Survivor, but choosing those things at the expense of my wife and kids is something that I never want to be guilty of (even though at times, I am guilty).
We get so caught up in our to-do lists, seemingly-urgent work, and guilty pleasures, that we forget that our time here on Earth is finite and that if we really stopped to reflect on what is most important, spending time with family and friends would be at or near the top of everyone’s list. Come back to this whenever it feels like other things seem to be sliding up the priority list.