I realize this doesn’t apply to everyone (and is absolutely a first-world problem), but I suspect many of the busy career-oriented dads reading this blog have more money than time at their disposal. Luckily the one can be traded for the other- there are many ways to buy yourself time. This time can then be better spent on being a great dad than on housely tasks that sap your (and/or your wife’s) energy. Here are a few examples of things we can do to buy time. Your mileage may vary, and I’d love to get your ideas in the comments section.
Before Nick started crawling, we never realized how quickly our floors and carpets became disgusting. After a few crazed weeks of constant sweeping, mopping and vacuuming, we broke down and hired Merry Maids (I’m happy customer, this is NOT a paid endorsement). Immediately, we had the peace of mind that our floors would be professionally cleaned every so often, and all we needed to do was maintain this cleanliness with a quick sweep-and-swifter each day. So much time saved.
Even better is that we know that, every two weeks, our showers, toilets, countertops, sinks, rugs, etc. all get thoroughly cleaned. This has saved us so much time and psychic energy. Who has the time after work, parenting, and getting the boy to sleep to spend an hour scrubbing the bathroom? It was seriously sapping morale to know that housework was never fully done. It has saved us so much time and emotional energy to have professionals clean the house every other week.
The best thing is cleaning services are comparatively inexpensive. For most of us, cutting back on a few other things is enough to swing the expense
I’m not a cook, and the only item on my “future wife wishlist” that Amy did not far exceed is “enjoys cooking”. So, in our house, time spent preparing a big multi-ingredient meal is work. However, we’re kinda into healthy eating and are not the kind of people who are happy to eat microwaved frozen chemical chunks with some foodstuff mixed in. We’re also not made of money, so frequent eating out or ordering in is a stretch.
Instead, we often buy good prepared food (fish, chicken, etc.) from a local natural food store (Old World Market– again I’m happy customer, this is NOT a paid endorsement) and the weekly Nyack Farmers Market. This costs more than cooking ourselves but far less than eating out (and healthier and yummier, too). A quick salad or some easy side-dish is within our cooking capabilities, and together, these make for good meals. The best part is, we’re not stuck in a kitchen and can spend extra time playing with Nick or helping with his homework.
To pay for the cleaning service and prepared foods, we only have to cut back a little on some other expenses. Well worth it to us.
I’m cheating here; I don’t have a lawn service, although I hear they are not particularly expensive. Instead I have a small lawn.
When Amy and I were house-hunting several years back, we got some great advice to avoid buying more house/property than we felt comfortable with. After all, your stuff should work for you, not the other way around. To me, raking, mowing, gardening, etc. are chores rather than relaxing or invigorating activities. As a result, one of the things I looked for in a house was a back yard big enough for a kid to play in but small enough to easily maintain. Luckily, we found a house that fit the bill (it helped that, in the NYC suburbs, big lawns almost always come with a house and a property tax bill too expensive for us anyway).
I don’t have to put much more than a ½ hour weekly mow to relatively small front and back lawns (and I split ownership of a small mower with a neighbor- the Beer Fire guy- with a similar lawn), raking is just one November afternoon, and watering is not something we need to do where we live. I don’t stress much about occasional weeds and the clover and mint that is slowly replacing sections of grass. Best of all, I can play Frisbee or baseball or light-sabers with Nick in the yard instead of spending my time maintaining it (Nick is not quite old enough to make mowing, raking, shoveling etc. true father-son activities).
If you have a larger property, I hear basic landscaping services aren’t very expensive. It may be worth it to free up the time.
Anyway, these are three ways dads may be able to use money to buy ourselves more time to be an active parent. What do you do to buy time? Let’s discuss in the comments section.