Gamer dad gets a reprieve

One mom realizes that her husband is a better partner in parenting when he has a chance to geek out with his pre-baby interests. 

Jack Dempsey for Ubisoft/Invision/AP/FILE
In this file photo, actor Jesse Heiman plays Tom Clancy's Splinter Cell Blacklist in the Players' Lounge hosted by Aisha Tyler and Ubisoft's Watch Dogs during the 2013 Comic-Con International Convention.

When I see my husband doing it, I smile. I feel happy – grateful, even, that he’s taking some time out for himself after spending so much time and energy on my daughter and me. When I gave it to him for our anniversary last year, his eyes lit up. “Awesome! How did you know?” he said gleefully when he unwrapped it. 

What is “it,” you ask? A video game. It’s called “Splinter Cell Blacklist.”

One evening while watching TV, the commercial for it came on, and he exclaimed, “That looks so good!” Right away, I hopped on my phone and pre-ordered it from Amazon, since most of my gifts to him are either returned (clothes) or devoured (food) immediately. I had to jump on my chance to give him something he could actually enjoy for at least a few hours. 

See, I try really hard to be a good wife, but it’s not easy sometimes. I do nag him occasionally, though I try to avoid it. And my snoring often wakes him up in the middle of the night. Sometimes, I really botch dinner and call him in a panic, asking if he can pick up a rotisserie chicken on his way home from work.

Through it all, for the most part, he is so patient with my foibles. 

And he’s so good with our daughter, too – looking after her diligently when I’m doing the dishes, getting up to change her diaper in the middle of the night, and constantly coming up with new ways to make her smile. 

So yes, I love to see him turn on the game console, grab that controller, and take some time for what he really enjoys doing by himself. He gets in the zone and lets all stress fade away. It’s completely out of our normal baby-centered home routine of matching little socks, making baby food purees, sleep training, and so on. 

And the game has nothing to do with finish carpentry, which is what he spends the majority of his time doing outside our home. Playing video games is like his thumb-punching version of yoga – it puts his mind at peace and makes him lose all sense of time. 

Doing non-baby activities is so important, though hard to make a priority at times. It feels so indulgent. But making time for frivolous fun benefits our whole family. The happier my husband is, the happier I am, and the baby can feel it too.

Having solo time reminds us who we are outside of our roles as parents and spouses. It helps us keep things in perspective, and keeps our heads on straight. Then we can jump back into family life with renewed vigor and grace. 

Besides, it’s good for our daughter to see us pumped up about something that has absolutely nothing to do with her – helping her realize she’s not the center of the universe. Having other interests besides my child keeps me from slipping into helicopter parenting mode – and I think will help her be more level-headed and less self-centered, knowing that mom and dad do things that don’t involve her. 

As for me, I’ll keep attending my monthly book club meetings, guffawing at “The Tonight Show,” and having friends over for brunch. A little indulgence goes a long way in terms of recharging my batteries – just a simple mid-day chat with a friend puts a smile on my face for the rest of the day. Lingering over our last spoonfuls of ice cream at the end of a long day, I remember that I love my life – all of it, not just the baby-focused parts.

Striking a balance makes my husband a better dad, and me a better mom – it’s a win-win for everyone.

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