Listen Up, Dads: 1 Sure Fire Way to Negotiate Self Time - Justin Lioi, LCSW - Brooklyn, NY

self_timeLife just gets upended when there’s a new baby. Think of all the transitions you’ve had in your life. New partner, new job, new home…anytime there’s something new, even great, exciting new things, what gets lost is self time. Time for just you.

Many fathers I work with are psyched to be more present for their son or daughter than their dads were. They’re reading (or writing!) dad blogs, they’re going to Meet Ups with their child. Some are staying home, some are working less hours, or finding ways to balance it all.

These are the same guys who had such a hard time carving out 45 minutes a week for therapy–how would they ever find time to reconnect with some of the stuff they did pre-Junior? Remember

  • Wednesday night softball in the park
  • Lazily browsing through a record store
  • Spending an hour at the gym
  • Poker night

These are the self time activities that fly out the window when a child arrives. In many ways, that’s rightfully so. Your priorities have changed and someone needs you to be attuned 24/7.

Still, if you’re lucky enough to have some support–whether a co-parent, grandparent, good friend, etc–it’s ok to reconnect with that old self every once in a while. As a matter of fact, it’s important for your kid to grow up seeing that you prioritize you. You’ll be teaching a valuable lesson that being a martyr is not a requirement for being an adult.

So if you do have someone you trust, try this out:

Exercise for Finding Self Time:

Next time you’re on the subway take out your smart phone and open up the Notes app.

Jot down the 5 things you miss the most pre-fatherhood. You can see above for some ideas, but you probably have your own.

Take the one at the top of this list and spend a few moments imagining you were on your way
there. It’s a little weird, but I’m asking you to reconnect with that feeling. There’s a reason it
popped into your head first.

Flip to a new screen and write down the 5 things the person you’re co-parenting with hates the
most. Is there anything there that you would be willing to do double duty on for a chance to have
some time on your own? Is this a possible negotiation? Remember we’re only talking an hour or
so here.

If the issue is not about either of you carrying more of the parenting weight than the other, than
this may be a good way for you to model for your child–and your partner–that finding time for
yourself re-energizes you to be there for them.

Would love to hear your results in the comments if you give this a go. Having trouble getting it together to do this? Feeling overwhelmed or overshadowed by your co-parent? Please get in touch with me and we can find what’s stopping you from being the dad and man you want to be.

Justin Lioi, LCSW is a men’s mental health and relationship expert based in Brooklyn, NY (and online throughout New York State and internationally.) He received his degree from New York University and has been working with men and their families for over 10 years. Justin is on the Board of the National Association of Social Workers and writes a weekly column for the Good Men Project called Unmasking Masculinity. He can be found on local and national podcasts talking about assertiveness, anger, self-compassion, all with the goal of becoming the man you want to be. He works with all men but has a particular focus on providing counseling for fathers (and guys hoping to become dads!)