An oasis of parental calm? Or a drunk Dad depository? Olly Lemon talks about the varying uses of the spare room
There is only one room in our house that doesn’t look like the set from Toy Story vs Apocalypse Now. One room with no crayon on the wall, no mangled toys littering the floor, no pictures of tractors or animals and not even so much as a passing mention of a Gruffalo.
I am talking about our spare room, and I am fascinated by the role this mini hotel plays in our lives. It wasn’t until I was married that I became aware of the verb “to spare room”, or the more commonly used past tense “spare-roomed” (a hyphen seems appropriate there). My fascination lies in the varying reasons that lead to one spending time in this little oasis of calm, aside from the obvious hosting of overnight guests. Here are a few scenarios to mull.
Section 1: good things
The Spare Room Treat; the pre-mediated allocation of sleep for one parent whilst the other bunkers down armed with milk bottles, nappies and baby monitors. This is good, solid teamwork at its best, and a killer way to earn brownie points (needed for section 2 below)
The Spare Room Hero; it’s 3am and one of the kids has been screaming for an hour. Nothing has worked. One parent bravely stands up and says the immortal words, “I’ve got this, you go back to sleep” before striding off to collect the little person in question and lock oneself in the spare room to comfort them. I see this as the parental version of a soldier jumping on a live hand grenade to protect his comrades.
Section 2: bad things
The Spare Room Incarceration: (perhaps the most common spare room use in our house). You get home from the pub and quietly tip-toe into your bedroom, knocking over a glass of water, stubbing your toe and smashing into a wardrobe you swear wasn’t there earlier. An unimpressed spouse suggests with limited subtlety that you are not welcome and off you sulk to the spare room. Verdict: probably the best outcome you could have hoped for.
The Spare Room Seppuku; getting home late and deciding that maybe you’re a little over-cooked for the master bedroom, so you fall on your sword and sensibly take the spare room. Perhaps you take your trousers off, but really why bother? Verdict; This is a total and absolute error. It usually results in a volley of children and an angry, tired looking wife crashing in between 6-8am and berating you with an (annoyingly valid) emotional Molotov cocktail of concerns; not knowing you had got home + room smelling of farts + needing to change the sheets again for imminent guest arrival + no sleep + having to deal with all children + blah blah blah. Avoid this if you can, unless there is pre-agreement.
The Inverse Spare Room: you creep into bed hoping to go unnoticed and your other half takes one whiff of your tequila breath and buggers off to the spare room. Verdict; This is actually a pretty good outcome, as long as you can hear the kids in the morning and act vaguely appropriately. Perhaps you can get yourself out of the doghouse by giving your partner a well needed lie in (see The Spare Room Treat above).
The Kamikaze Inverse Spare Room: You get into bed, she leaves to the spare room. You follow her asking for a bit of action. Verdict: wars have been started over less.
The Spare Room Explosion: A few years ago a good friend of mine invited me to join his stag party. At the time my wife and I had a one-year-old boy who didn’t sleep well and my wife generously suggested in advance that I take the spare room. It was a great night. In the morning, around 9am, my wife came in with my son, some marmite toast, a coffee and a paracetamol (she’s amazing). My head was pounding though, and as I reached for the toast my wife handed me a white stick and dropped the words “I’m pregnant”. The spare room started to spin…
I love our spare room. I just can’t work out if I want to spend more or less time in it.