A couple months after our youngest was born, my mom offered to watch the kids so we could have a date night.
…COOL! DATE NIGHT!
It seemed like a nice idea, so we decided to do it.
Wednesday night found us in the car: baby in the backseat, baggy-eyed parents in the front.
“So I thought we could go on a dessert tour,” Ben began, as he took off his glasses to rub his tired eyes.
That was nice of him. Because I like desserts. He thought of me. Sweet. But I could read his body language loud and clear.
“We don’t have to do this. You should sleep,” I said.
“No, no, it’s okay… it’s DATE NIGHT!” he said, forcing a smile. He had caught a cold and was still recovering, yet was determined to make this happen.
“Really, it’s okay,” I yawned.
“No, let’s go!” he said, squeezing excitement into his voice. So we went.
I have a semi-candid picture of it. In the picture, we’re in a nearly empty restaurant and Ben has his glasses on the table and is full-on rubbing his eyes with both hands. He is the very image of exhaustion. I have my elbow propping my head up on the table while my right hand takes the photo. It’s pretty sad, really. But we did it because everybody says to go on date nights when you have kids. They also say not to talk about the kids when you go.
WHY everybody, why??? I’d rather just go to sleep early. Or veg out and watch TV. Or waste time scrolling Facebook. Or… really… why must I get dressed in real clothes and go out at this ungodly hour of 8pm when I can finally actually have some ME time???
We spent the rest of the evening trying to think of non-kid related things to chat about. Honestly, it felt a little awkward and forced, which are two things I never thought I’d feel with my husband. I remember thinking, “I can’t believe we’re that couple. We are a long way from the honeymoon days.” It wasn’t in a particularly negative or disappointed way. It was just… reality. We weren’t acting like the best friends who couldn’t get enough of each other. We were just two people who were really low on social energy… even for our spouses.
But we tried.
That night, we came home, showered, and zonked out. I really wasn’t sure it was worth the effort to try again. Date night was something to check off the list (yayyyyyyy. we did it.), but didn’t really feel like a break or worth the babysitting trouble it required.
Or so I thought.
A month later, we did it again. It was the principle of the thing. And a couple weeks later, we did it again. And again. And then again.
And you know what? Things started to change. Our enjoyment probably correlated strongly with the amount of sleep we were getting, but after a while, it was clear: date night was super! This past Wednesday, I walked around all day with a spring in my step. Why? CUZ IT WAS DATE NIGHT! Even when she whined (again) and he threw the spoon (again) and there was a mess (always), it was in the back of my head: we get to go out tonight! We’re going to spend quality time and we’re gonna eat something yummy and it’s date nighhhht!!
I could tell it had a similar effect on Ben. He came home smiling, was cheerier than usual as we got her ready for bed, and we both had smiles on our faces as the evening neared.
On the car ride up to the restaurant, it felt natural. We talked about the kids, but we also talked about ourselves. We chattered about our evening plans (we could do whateverrrrrr we wanted! FREEDOM!) and we talked about our days. We didn’t worry about parking seven blocks away because heyyyyy it only takes a couple minutes to get from point A to point B when it’s just two grown-ups. We sat down and looked at the menu without grabby hands pulling at it (or us). We had normal conversation and looked at each other while we waited for the food and didn’t have to entertain any needy toddlers or take anyone to the restroom or shush any babies.
And when our food came, we ate it. Just like that. Like, hold utensil, retrieve food, place in mouth. Chew. Swallow. Repeat. Without having to worry about making someone else eat her food or rushing to get someone else home for his nap.
IT WAS GRAND.
I mean, I think maybe this isn’t as much of a novelty for those of you who work outside of the home (or don’t have kids). But if you stay at home like I do, you probably feel me on this: taking care of just yourself is such a luxury!
Date night, guys. Date night. Such a good idea.
Thanks, Mom and Dad. I’m so thankful we have the luxury of parents nearby who can stay at home while the kids sleep so we can go out and think about just ourselves and focus on each other for a couple of hours. I know not everybody has this luxury, and not everyone can spare the time or money to hire babysitters. But for those of you who do have the means, I encourage you to intentionally cut some time out and try it once in a while. You do really have to schedule it in, because it’s too easy to push it off if you’re waiting for a time when you “feel up for it.” When you’re a parent to really young kids, I don’t think you ever really feel like going out again once you come home.
To be honest, it might be a little awkward dating your spouse again if you’ve gotten used to seeing him just as Papa. The first couple (several?) attempts might feel unnatural and make you feel a little more “we’re old and kind of distanced” than you prefer… but keep at it. It gets better. It feels special to know your spouse will set aside the time to give to you, and it can be such a joy to act like a normal couple again!