Tuesday, 22 September 2009

Trade agreements - keepin' the peace

When it comes to racing and training, there are definite advantages to being unmarried with no children, especially if your spouse is not as devoted to sport participation as you.

After some insightful (and entertaining) conversations with friends this past week (all married with children) I have some thoughts...

One for one
This is one I don't recommend - you work* X hours on one day of the weekend in order to get the same amount of time off the next day to race/train. It's a bad idea because this is essentially an eye-for-an-eye strategy. You'll never win.

* Work is defined as household, DIY or childcare activities

Suck it up
You just go ahead and do what you want, dealing with the impending doom when you get home later. This is not a great strategy either... for two reasons. First, it's never nice to being in trouble; and second, intentionally antagonising your partner is stoopid - you wouldn't like them to do this to you.

The guys I spoke to are all responsible, committed men, who love their wives and families dearly. They work during the week and put in time at home after hours and over weekeds. They don't go boozing with 'the boys' every weekend, crawling home at 3am; and they don't spend Saturday nights away from home tucking R50 notes into strippers' thongs. I'm certainly making assumptions about these guys and their home life (you know the whole 'behind closed doors' thing); my assumption is based on how I know them. For all I know they could be lazy, beer-guzzling, couch-dominating slobs at home - but I doubt it.

As much as these guys love their families, they also love their sports. And, their participation in sport is integral to who they are as well as their physical, mental and emotional health and wellness.

Athletes and their partners, I'd like you to look at training and participation in the following light; sport is a 'hobby' of sorts. 'Traditional' hobbies like stamp collecting, cross-stitch, watercolour painting and rebuilding cars also take you 'away' from your families. The only difference is that you'd probably do these at home whereas a run or a race will take you out of the house (as does boozing and gambling etc - there are worse evils than being sporty). The doing of hobbies gives you time to yourself, time to think, time to be, stress relief and the many physical health benefits. This certainly keeps the individual sane so that they're much nicer person, partner and father.

Of course, everything in moderation. Spending 50hrs a week at work and 20hrs a week training will mean that you'll be dropping the ball at home.

Not having to deal with these issues myself, I'm no expert but I do tend to be sympathetic.

On the radio today the local psychologist was talking about criticism (giving and receiving). "You spend too much time on that stupid bike!" could be better positioned as "How about you do a two hour ride early on Saturday morning and then we can spend the rest of the day doing stuff, together, at home".  And, in response to version one, you could ask, "Does the duration of the ride bother you or is it just because I'm away from home when you'd rather that I was with you?".

Avoid discourse by being open about your sporting needs - and they are, for the most part, needs. And what it means to you. Put your training and participation in context and, of course, be fair - both of you.

(Comments welcome; I'm sure there are many of you with lots of experience from which other readers will benefit)


Gene said...

Greetings from New England (again)!
I struggle with the whole trade agreement issue. I have a wife and 3 kiddos. I love to run. I have found this love after having lost it for too, too many years. While my wife is VERY supportive of my hobby, my struggle is mostly internal. She has hobbies, too, but doesn't do them as often lately as she used to, saying that there is too much to do around the house. So i don't feel comfortable enjoying running while she doesn't get the chance (take the chance?) to enjoy her 'stuff'.
the 'fight' is purely internal.
we (the family) all realize that Dad is MUCH NICER to be around if he gets to run regularly. 3 days without and I start to become a bear. not good.
thank you for the post. it was insightful, and i will try harder to even things out!

adventurelisa said...

Hey Gene - thanks for your comments. Maybe you can assist your wife by encouraging her to do her hobbies too. If your kids are big enough (don't need to watched all the time) then you can try the following. Suggest to her that you both take the same 2hrs - you run and she does her stuff - and then together you split what needs to be done around the house. Se gets a helping hand so the asks don't seem overwhelming and ou both get your play time.If your kids are still small, you take shifts. While you are running, she does X on the household task list (that you both draw up) and while she's doing her thing you do Y and later, together, you both get Z done. The one thing with doing stuff around the house is that it seems like there's so much to do and you can potter round doing odds and ends. Make a list of chores that need to be done so that the tasks are quantified; in the cold light of paper and pen there usually isn't so much that needs doing. And if your kids are big enough, get them to do stuff ;) Good luck - let me know how it goes.

Tommy Booth said...

Wow, what an interesting topic. And I must say for someone who's not married you've given quite an accurate summary of the "Trade agreements". Even those bad idea ones which we all sometimes think of. And I wholeheartedly agree with the conclusion: 'Put your training and participation in context and be fair'. Here's my bit on it. I try to reduce the time spent away from my wife to a minimum and therefore do the majority of my training early in the mornings. Maybe once a week I'll do a 1.5 hour session in the afternoon. My wife is very supportive of my sporting activities and I will also try and involve her as much as possible with something not too physical like orienteering which we both love doing. And seconding or supporting but I've found it must be quite interactive and involved, if it's too boring or not fun like sitting in a transition area for hours she'll get bored and won't like it. Can't blame her either. Picking events are tougher though because they're on weekends and during the day. I'll try and keep those big events where I might need to be away for a day or so to once every 2 months, other than those I firstly try and pick events where I know my wife would enjoy coming along or that aren't too far from home or long in duration. We don't have any kids yet but I'll have to compromise a bit more when that time comes. Thanks for the great post! Nice knowing that others are working hard at 'keepin' the peace' too.

Garth said...

My wife and I both like sports, and have done a few AR's together. Before we had children training together was easy, so there was no conflict there...

But after the arrival of our children things got complicated.

I think it is good to openly discuss what the various expectations are. My wife needs help with a few things and would also like to go for a run or ride once or twice a week.

I have also decided that spending quality and quantity time with the family is more important than being super fit.

I normally plan training activities during periods of time when the children are sleeping (either at night during the week) and between 11:00 and 13:00 on Saturdays.

But one can also combine family time with training time -
* For newborns a pouch or sling is very handy as they enjoy the rocking motion of brisk walks
* Once your child's neck is a bit stronger, you can promote him / her to the baby jogger - you can add about 10 % time to your regular 5 km time trail route
* You get nice hiking bags for children, so pop junior on the back and do a short 5 km hike.
* You can get a good child seat to put on your bike... I still need to tackle Montagu Pass with the additional 15 kg plus sitting behind me... coming down will probably use up a pair of brake pads!
* Try and work out a few fun core strengthening exercises that involve them as your "weights".

Enjoy your children, they are only small for a VERY SHORT time, think of all the cool things you can do together in a few year's time! A few examples of family combos:
# Bloed and Omo took on the Swazi Xtreme as a Father and Son pair.
# Donovan Sims and his son did the Eden Duo and finished in the top 5.
# Chris Crewdson and his daughter have done 2 Eden Duo's.
# There was a family with very small toddlers doing the Night Run at this year's Oyster Festival

Garth said...

One final thought, event organiser's should try and cater for families in their events, and people with families should support the event organisers who try and cater for their needs... it is simple supply and demand.