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Giles Coren: ‘Parenting Is The Best Party Of Them All’

Balancing work and life is all about getting the boring bits done, so you can spend time on what really matters, says our dad-in-residence

Before I had children, the phrase ‘Work/life balance’ only meant one thing to me: ‘Don’t let the tedious business of earning a living get in the way of your drinking.

Friends of mine who worked long office hours – staying late despite being dog-tired and not having anything worthwhile to do, simply to satisfy the snarling gatekeepers of the greasy pole (or ‘bosses’ as my friends called them), before going home to a quick ready meal, a glass of water and an early night so they’d be fit and healthy for the following morning’s exploitation – were only fooling themselves.

Taking it easy

They might be doing well at work, I told them, but they lacked balance in their lives. They needed to alternate this wage slavery with the odd massive 15-pint bender, month-long stoner holidays in Holland, casual sex, computer games, proper all-night midweek parties (because weekends are for sleeping) and a lot of reading.

‘Really, Giles,’ they would say wearily (they were always weary, from all that working). ‘And how many hours a week work do you think a person ought to do to “balance out” all that fun and maybe earn some money?’ ‘Ten hours, max,’ I would say. ‘But, ideally, no more than six.

'I have now replaced all my activities, very happily, with parenting'

The ultimate aim of every gentleman should be, by the time he is 40, to be working no more than an hour a day during the week, and never at weekends or after six. Or over Christmas. Or during July and August. Or September if the weather is nice.’

The post-baby shift

And I lived by that until I was very nearly 40. Then something changed. We all know what that was – this is a parenting magazine, after all. But having a child, then another one, and planning to maybe have even more (‘Come on, darling, pleeeeeease’) has not changed the balance especially.

The only difference is that I no longer drink, smoke, shag, party, play games or read. I have replaced all of those activities, very happily, with parenting.

Instead of sex, I cuddle my kids. Instead of partying, I dance with them. Instead of video games, I fight with them. Instead of boozing, I sleep, so as to be ready for more parenting in the morning. And instead of reading, I… Well, I still read. It’s just that instead of big American novels and cutting-edge modern fiction, I read Pip and Posy, Meg and Mog…

But the balance remains the same. I do as little work as possible to make room for the rest. I get to the office as early as I can, I do what I have to do as quickly as possible, then I run home to the best party of my life – the parenting party.

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