Friday evenings, Saturday mornings and Sunday afternoons in our family are the same routine every week: a hastily cooked dinner before darting out of the front door, clutching my car keys, accompanied by a son and some sports equipment. Friday is basketball. Saturday morning is football; Sunday is rugby. There’s usually a birthday party or a sleepover to deposit one of the children at, too. Yes, it’s a juggle. But as I tell myself on an almost weekly basis, it’s not forever.
I do the majority of standing on rain-soaked sidelines, driving to practice sessions and all the kit washing. Yet, I hope (mainly in vain) that my husband will deign to take a turn himself. Every Saturday, I find myself imploring him to take a shift beside one of the pitches or courts.
I’m met with a bad-tempered huff – and a complaint that “my weekends are my own.” What follows is a lecture about how busy his working week is and how he desperately needs to recharge come the weekend. I have stopped pointing out that we both work, and we both provide, but – unlike him – I don’t get the luxury of a Saturday morning spent wafting around, supping coffee in a dressing gown. If it were up to my husband, weekends would be leisurely breakfasts, some reading or TV watching and taking an age to cook a recipe none of the kids would eat.
It’s as though he thinks we can keep living the weekends we had as a couple in their 20s, before swimming lessons and kids’ birthday parties started appearing on the calendar and sleep deprivation became the norm. I know he resents the claims on his perceived “free time” that family life makes. He constantly reiterates the point that he needs a lie-in. Well, my body clock means my eyes ping open at 6am every morning so I have stopped arguing that point, instead pulling on thermals and trudging over a football field with a travel mug of coffee.
For the most part, I keep my mouth closed. My free time evaporated long ago. All week, I field the scouts and cubs meetings, swimming clubs, piano lessons, after-school activities and things like forgotten homework. I work part-time and I can be more involved during the week. But, for me, the weekend should mean sharing the parental load with the two of us taking turns for a shift in noisy sports halls instead of one parent opting out.
Our children are growing up, but they aren’t at the stage where they want to remain horizontal on the sofa all day or disappear with their friends. I think it’s great that they want to engage in sports, but it’s an uphill struggle being the sole enthusiastic parent. Even the keenest mother or father will admit that another February morning, de-icing the windscreen then shivering on a sports field, often in a freezing rain shower, loses its appeal. If we could both do our fair share of wearing thermals while watching training, I’d be so much happier.
What I find slightly heart-breaking is that my husband is missing seeing his kids enjoy what makes them tick. He has no idea what they refer to when they excitedly discuss a match or complain about one of their coaches. They are becoming teenagers so the years of “Look Mum!” and proudly showing me a Lego masterpiece or needing help to put on shin pads are gone.
Pretty soon they’ll be getting around under their own steam too. It’s this that has made me resolved to keep doing the taxi service and encouraging them. I hope that when it’s their turn, my sons pick a fairer partnership than this one.