My husband and I are watching the tennis when I realise there is an unsettling similarity between our marriage and the game of kings. I’m referring to a new element that has entered our relationship in the past year since our beautiful baby was born: an obsession with point scoring.
Let me explain our point scoring system (although I have a feeling that lots of parents will be familiar with their own version). In our marriage, points are awarded for time spent looking after our baby on our own, while the other spouse enjoys the highly-prized pursuit of ‘free time’.
For me, this free time might be spent strolling around the shops, enjoying the ability to try on clothes or stop for a coffee. Or it might be spent exercising, reading or even just sleeping. For my husband, free time usually consists of a trip to Bunnings.
I must add a caveat at this point – we adore our beautiful baby. We feel extremely fortunate to have the opportunity to play, teach and learn from our little boy and are constantly grateful to be able share our lives with him. We also love spending time as a couple. But that does not mean that we don’t crave the forbidden pleasure of free time. Given that for more than 30 years we enjoyed all of the freedoms available to young, unencumbered individuals, is it really surprising that it is at such a premium these days? Which brings us back to the point scoring system.
Big points are up for grabs when my husband or I need a day out on a weekend for social activities. A day of golf can be devastating for my husband’s tally and I have to think twice about spending a couple of hours getting my hair done. Just Cuts has benefitted considerably from our system. Points are so precious that any time consuming activity has to be very worthwhile to risk losing so many; a hen’s day = yes. A day hungover after a big night out = no.
The point scoring system is complex and nuanced, and is constantly evolving. For example, what the baby is asleep during our time on duty? Or what if one of us is spending extra time at work, leaving the other to mind the baby? And should our baby’s behaviour be taken into consideration when calculating points? Surely, it’s harder to look after an irritable baby than a playful one.
And so, like tennis, the points are often up for debate and our rallies can be long and fierce. A few weeks ago I was giving my husband a WHOLE DAY of free time. I decided to take our baby to the beach for the day, but on the way, the car broke down. As we rolled to a stop on the side of the road, I considered the situation carefully. Was it worth calling my husband and risking the points I was accumulating by interrupting his free time? As this was the only option that I realistically had, short of forking out hundreds for a towing service, I called him at Bunnings. He spent 45 minutes driving to get us, 45 minutes driving back, and half a day arguing with me about whether the morning off counted as free time.
And then there was the time that we debated whether it counted as free time when we were in the shower…
We know it’s petty, ridiculous, perverse, but here we are: sitting, watching the tennis, unwilling to go out, lest we concede a point.
Fleur is a former journalist and marketing officer who moved from Melbourne to regional Victoria to start a family. She is also co-founder of recruitment company MediRecruit Doctor.
Do you have a point scoring system with your partner? How does it work and what earns you the big points?