Two weeks after my first child was born, the phone calls, well wishers and Facebook posts had tapered off. I was contentedly marveling at this little being that we had created. Then my husband says, “What do you think about having a date night Saturday?” The music in my head stopped abruptly, I sat up in the chair and squeezed Owen a little tighter, a date night, already? My mind started racing with excuses, “I can’t go, I can’t leave him.”
Date night sounds like a great idea until you’ve had a total of eight hours of sleep in three days. You haven’t bathed in as long and it doesn’t matter because all you can smell is spit up and poo. The last thing on earth you want to do is shower, put on make-up and go out with that guy that impregnated you. If you can remember anything through that post-baby fog please take the time to do it anyway. Just go. Even if you don’t get a chance to shower, just go. Even if you fall asleep at the table waiting for your food, just go.
Better yet, plan it out before the baby comes because once you hold that crying bundle of poo in your arms, no matter how badly you want to get away, every fiber of your being will fight against it. At least it did for me. It starts out with valid excuses, I’m breastfeeding and don’t know if I’ll have enough milk to leave for him while I’m away. But soon it turns into any excuse, “he’s colicky, gassy, fussy, didn’t sleep well, hungry, sad, too attached, the dog’s will miss us, my favorite show is on, I can’t go out looking like this,” and on and on and on. The truth of the matter is that once that baby is born there is some annoying instinct that makes it damn near impossible to separate from them. That’s why having the aforementioned plan in place is key.
When I was pregnant I read article after article about making frequent date nights a priority after the baby was born. Because my husband and I were in such a new relationship, I was really concerned about losing track of one another after the baby was born. I talked with both sets of grandparents and got their consent to take turns watching the baby every other week so that Jeff and I could have an evening to ourselves. We are tremendously blessed to have both sets of parents that live so close and are eager to help. If you aren’t as fortunate, then it’s all that much more important to make a plan for after the baby.
Talk to your friends and ask around about babysitters. (See Care.com) Meet or visit them while they are watching other children to see if you are comfortable with them. Make a plan to have them meet the baby after he is born. Schedule a time for the caregiver to meet your child before you’ve even had the baby. It will be one less thing for you to think about after the baby is born. If money is tight, as it most certainly was with us then start putting $5 a week into a freedom jar. That might not seem like much now but when you are living on cereal and soup for two weeks straight, the idea of a hot meal prepared for you without a crying baby at your breast will sound like paradise.
Anyway, back to me and date night. There I was, lost in my post baby bliss, gazing at my two week old sons sleeping face when I heard my husband say, “What do you think about having a date night Saturday?” The music in my head stopped abruptly, I sat up in the chair and squeezed Owen a little tighter, a date night, already? My mind started racing with excuses, “I can’t go, I can’t leave him.”
He must have seen the the terror in my eyes because he smiled and reminded me how important it was to the both of us before we’d had Owen to carve out some time for each other. He told me that he missed me and I realized that I missed him too. I felt torn and in a panic. The baby was so little. What if he got scared? What if he started to cry and they couldn’t comfort him? What if he choked or got hurt while we were gone? I did the only thing I know to do when fear creeps in, I took a deep breath, said a prayer and agreed to go.
Three nights later, I dropped my two week old son off at my mother-in-laws house along with a diaper bag overflowing with a week’s worth of things. I kissed him on his head and we left for our date. I’m surprised that I agreed to a movie. I don’t remember what movie it was, but I do remember it being long. I held my phone in my hand the entire time. Checking often to make sure I didn’t miss a call even though the ringer was on low and set to vibrate. The first night out wasn’t much fun for me. I ached to be with my baby and I couldn’t concentrate on anything but getting back to him. However, it taught me to trust someone else with him which was extremely important for my overall mental well-being. As a parent the terrifying thought will come, what if something happens to me? It’s one of my biggest fears to this day aside from something happening to my husband or children. It’s important for me to know that my children are comfortable having others look after them just in case I’m unable to.
When we returned from our date, it felt wonderful to hold him again, it felt like I was home. I have to admit that I did feel a bit more rested having spent a few hours away from him. I listened as my mother-in-law gushed about all the noises he made. How she held him the entire hour that he napped and how he drank almost an entire bottle and had difficulty burping, two wet diapers and a poop. I still remember the details, but not the movie we watched. I was able to relax realizing that it was okay to take a break once in a while. The next week we left him with my Mom, which was easier for me mostly because it’s my mom but also because I had faced a lot of my fears and anxieties about leaving Owen for a couple of hours the week before.
While we were a family of three, my husband and I committed to going on a date night at least every other week. We didn’t always have the money to go out to eat or to the movies. Sometimes we’d just drop him off at the grandparents and then race home to make love and enjoy some time to ourselves without worrying about waking the baby. We’d rent movies and watch them at home or just take a nap. A luxurious, uninterrupted nap. We would go for walks, hikes or have a picnic by the beach.
When baby number two came along date nights became a little more difficult. Because of Owen’s inability to handle Eli’s cries they needed to be separated. (See Life After Autism.) We had to have both sets of grandparents available to watch the kids in order for us to have a date night. Needless to say our date nights became a lot of work to schedule and would often times be pushed to monthly. During the weekends that we didn’t have a sitter we made it a priority to set time aside after we put the kids to bed to focus on one another. Establishing a bedtime as early and as consistent as possible has been key to our marriage’s survival. It gives us a little bit of time at the end of the day to talk about our days and reconnect. Sometimes that means sitting on the couch together and staring at our phones but we’re together nonetheless. We’ve had many ups and downs in our short marriage. If we hadn’t continued making our relationship a priority then I doubt our marriage would still be intact. Certainly not as strong as it is.
I believe that the relationship you have with your spouse is the most important relationship of your life. More important than your relationship with your children even. The two of you created these children and your job is to raise them to live independent lives. Someday, they will be grown and searching the world for their own happiness and it will be just the two of us again. I don’t want to spend 25 years of my life with someone, raising our children together only to realize that we have nothing in common after all of that time. That’s why it’s so important to nurture and cultivate your relationship, especially through the years with small children. I’m looking forward to retirement with my husband. There are so many places I want to travel with him. Hopefully we’ll have the opportunity to watch our own grandkids. Giving our boys and their spouses a date night so they too can enjoy some quiet and reconnect.