parent opinion

HOLLY WAINWRIGHT: The score-keeping obsession of every parent I know.

Are you going out tonight?

What are you giving up for it?

Maybe you’ve said you’ll handle the melee that is kids’ bedtime alone tomorrow evening.

Perhaps you’re going to the gym in the morning, or to bootcamp with your mates, or you want to go and have coffee with your sister?

Will that cost you later in the day?

What about lie-ins? The weekend is looming, which means little to parents of tiny kids, or of school-age ones who need to be chauffeured to the 25 activities you’ve been guilted into organising.

Watch: What’s the sexiest thing in the world? Sharing the mental load, of course.

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But in many houses, Saturday morning goes like this:


A firm nudge to the ribs. “YOUR TURN. I’LL DO TOMORROW/DID IT LAST WEEK.”

What about if you went out last night? Do you get the lie-in, too? Or is the early start your penance for missing bedtime?

Maybe you go away for work sometimes. Perhaps your partner does. In the complex points-bargaining system of parenting, can a work trip away be traded for a fun trip away?

Does two nights in Sydney for that conference equal two nights on the Goldie with mates?

Kid-free time. If you are parenting in a duo (and of course, not everyone is), it becomes a hotly-traded item during the gruelling years of early parenthood.

Of course, we need some disclaimers here. We love our children. We want to spend time with them. There are many, many days and weeks where we’re wracked with guilt because we feel we haven’t spent enough time with them. But also, even the most devoted of parents want and need to not spend every free second with their kids.

But time is a very valuable commodity to come by. Work hours are long. We all have to-do lists as long as our arms.

Maybe you’re at home with your baby all week and when you have some partner back-up on the weekend you feel like you should be together as a family, or giving your other half some downtime.


Maybe you think missing bedtime for a dinner with your friends isn’t justifiable when you often miss it for working back late. And babysitters cost a fortune. And we don’t all live around the corner from a Nana who’s happy to help.

It’s a lot. And it’s how we end up deep in our points-scoring obsession.


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Because we’re that couple everyone wishes they were (ahem), Brent and I got competitive about who can make our @hellofreshau dinners look most like the pictures on the recipe card. And friends, swipe and I think you’ll find I nailed it. That’s One-Pan Chorizo Risoni Risotto you’re looking at there, and yep, that lemon wedge placement was all me. We bloody love Hello Fresh in our house because they make it easy to have non-boring weeknight dinners. All of the ingredients you need to make these good-looking meals, plus the ones for tomorrow night and the next, get delivered to our doorstep. The recipes are super-easy and there’s no stress – apart from Brent trying to match my styling skills. You can get started on your first box from just $25 with code MAMAMIA! #sponsored

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I’m going away this weekend. For two nights, on my own. It’s not for fun. It’s because I have a book-edit deadline and too many distractions at home to meet it. So I’m self-isolating, not for COVID-19 related reasons, but for work ones.

This is what people say to me about that. “Lots of Brownie points for Brent, right?”. “I wish I could do that every time I have a project due. What does Brent get?”.

“Oh, is that because he’s going away for work again in May?”

Tit for tat, this for that.

It’s what all parents do. And it’s completely normal, because balance has never been harder to find, for any of us.

But it’s so easy for the scores to fall out of whack, for resentments to form and fester in the gaps between the points.

For example. If your essential “me time” is a three-hour bike ride with your fellow Lycra warriors, or a five-hour turn around a golf course, that’s got to cost more points than that cheeky 45-minute spin class, right?


And then there are the partners (cough, often male) who count things like shopping as kid-free time.

Yes, you just spent 90-minutes on your own, but you were battling the toilet-paper-grabbing hordes at Woolies.

They don’t live anywhere, these points. They just spool endlessly in our heads, quietly driving us crazy with the injustice of it all.

Because most women I know have all the points. Most men I know are desperate to grab some. But somehow, women’s points are harder to come by. In many households, if the default is that the woman is working less and staying at home more, then it’s not considered abnormal for her to be with the kids alone, and she’s therefore unworthy of extra points. Whereas if the man of the house spends an afternoon with the small people, he instantly clocks up rights to a four-day Hangover-level bucks’ do.

It’s complicated, it’s maths. It’s making me want to lie down. Which, luckily, I will get to do this weekend, with my laptop and my many, many words and post-it notes.

And I’m not trading it for anything.

How does it work in your house? Do you trade points, did you stop? Is it good or bad for family relations? 

This story originally appeared in Holly Wainwright’s weekly newsletter. You can get more stories like it by subscribing to her weekly newsletter, here. You can also follow Holly on Instagram, here. Facebook, here. Or buy her novels, here.

Feature Image: Holly Wainwright/Supplied