I was talking with a neighbor who’s daughter babysits. I joked that we needed more date nights and he said, Take it from the divorced guy. You NEED date nights. Even if it’s just one glass of wine.
Things have been busy around here and, of course, Frank and I start to pick at each other during these times when we need to be most united. Work hasn’t slowed down much; the end of the year was jam-packed for Bea; it still feels like we’re transitioning to 2 kids, 10 months later.
We were talking and realized it’s been nearly 2 years – since our 5th anniversary – that we’ve had a night away together. It’s been since February that we’ve had an “official” date night. Life is busy.
It’s so easy to say we need to take time for ourselves, that our relationship is the most important in our family, but it’s much harder to implement an action plan.
Part of it’s the phase we’re in. Bea is fairly easy to leave. Elle… Not so much. We left her with friends whom she sees at least once per week for a few hours while we were at Bea’s dance recital. These friends came for dinner yesterday and it took Elle a solid 5 minutes to settle down and realize we weren’t leaving her. (Even then, she was suspicious…) We drop her at the church nursery every week and every week we get a text partway through the sermon telling us she’s inconsolable.
We try doing the whole “home date” thing after the girls are asleep. But honestly? Even if it happens to be an easy bedtime, I’m tired. We’re at home. It’s hard to break habits and routines.
All that to say, we’re finding ways. Maybe one day (hopefully sooner than later!) we’ll be able to do a regular official date night. Maybe we’ll be able to plan getaways more easily. For now, we take advantage when we can.
After a doctor’s appointment that we both went to, Elle fell asleep in the car so we went to a bathroom redesign store. She slept in the corner in her carseat and we were able to browse and dream at leisure. A friend watched Bea the other day and Elle (again) slept in the car while we drove through Starbucks and just talked.
These moments certainly aren’t perfect or beautifully romantic, but they remind me of real life. We’re in the midst of an intense period of parenting and if we don’t take advantage of these small windows, we’ll miss something. We’ll miss out on those conversations and jokes and observations.
If I knew this is how date night would look when we talked about having kids, I would have laughed and thought, Of course we’ll take time for ourselves! It’s what makes a solid marriage! Yes… But, like all of parenting, I’m learning that what I thought pre-kids and what I think in the midst of our reality aren’t different in philosophy so much as they’re different in practice.
This weekend, we laid low. We planted our garden and celebrated victories and had the most epic of meltdowns in public places. We ate meals with friends and went swimming and rode bikes. Frank and I didn’t have a whole lot of time, just the two of us, but we built into our family. We established norms and routines (again) and because of that, our communication as a couple was so much better. I think it’s because of those snatched moments this past week. Because we were able to intentionally connect, we were able to have a solid family weekend without longing for alone time.
I know that even later this summer will look different. Next year, it will be easier to leave the girls. And as they grow older and date nights are part of our routine, I hope we don’t take them for granted. I hope we learn from these chaotic days and remember how to connect at the drive-thru or in a bathroom fixture store. I hope that the lessons we are learning now will build a foundation for when life looks different and connecting as a couple isn’t as squeezed.
Do you plan regular date nights? Any advice for leaving a very attached child?