This post was originally featured on MeetOtherMums #blogsquad.
I know it’s not the advice a 9 month pregnant woman wants to hear, but I just can’t stop myself.
“Go to the cinema.
Loads of times.
And have Nandos.”
I don’t know why it mattered so much to me in those early days, but losing the ability to see the latest big screen release just represented the loss of freedom, choice and well, couple time.
Of course, the blessing of a new baby far outweighs a gallon of overpriced popcorn and coke. There’s no question there. But the one recurring thing I hear from my friends who have had new babies, especially in that first year, is that they just desperately miss the ability to have a date night. Undoubtedly with that first baby, the transition from hot couple to bedraggled zombies is quite spectacular. It’s hard not to miss a time when you actually made an effort, talked and laughed to each other (about something other than nappy contents or teething), and looked into each other’s eyes (as opposed to talking about how beautiful a little someone else’s eyes are).
Time away from the baby may be a plenty – but weddings, parties, birthday get togethers often max out your babysitting quota. And with balancing childcare for essentials like KIT days, returning to work, medical appointments or staff training days it’s easy to feel like it would just be taking the pee to ask for a ‘get out of
jail the house’ card, just because you feel like it.
It can sometimes feel like as parents your social life has become some kind of tag team. Like ships that pass in the night, your calendar has become a delicate balancing act of ‘me time’…taking care that neither one is having their cake and eating it. Thursday night football nights, saturday morning runs, midweek dinners with the girls, Friday night leaving drinks after work…the list is endless. Even sleep and lay ins end up on a rota.
And so, ‘us time’ all too often ends up at the back of the queue. Especially when you have a tiny baby, an early riser or a rubbish sleeper (who quite frankly no one would touch with a barge pole after you have moaned about your lack of sleep for the last six months). With each child you have, the babysitters become harder to come by. After all, just as your life is a whirlwind, so is everyone else’s. Is it even fair to expect anyone to pick up your responsibility so you can take a break from it all? When was the last time you offered one of your friends or family a non-prompted babysitting service so they can put their feet up? You will have moments you are hit by the Green eyes Mumster at what everyone else seems to be doing – but I can assure you we have all been there, or are still in that same boat.
There is good news though. It’s not forever.
Yes, one day, we’ll be at home alone – just us as a couple. Fretting over whether to go to the same local pub AGAIN, or whether we even like going to the cinema anyway. Wondering what to do this weekend and what the kids are up to, with their kids. We’ll be pining back to the days our children were tiny, and so dependent on us. We’ll maybe be offering to babysit for them, so they can have a date night.
And we’ll be mourning the death of rubber ducks at bathtime, bedtime stories and early morning bed hijackers. Date night may be gone, but it’s not dead. It will rise from the ashes, like a phoenix from the flames.
So, until then. Remember, it will get easier. The first few months aren’t how it will always be. Babies with bedtimes who will take a bottle of something are a lot more flexible than a newborn. A potty trained toddler is even more appealing as a house guest. A school kid you can watch a movie with and eat takeaway…you get my drift. Hang on in there.
Try and think carefully about what invites you accept – maybe plan a date night well in advance and be sure to keep weekends around then free. Only go to the stuff you really want to or need to.
Go for the do or die approach – book a show, a spa day, a hotel, a fancy restaurant as a gift (valentines, anniversary, birthday etc). Then you have to get someone watch the kids. It’s a risky one but forces the issue. It can be a lot easier to approach someone with ‘we need a babysitter for X’ than ‘we just want a night off together’.
Try to recreate some date night magic at home. Turn off the TV, light some candles and set the table. Or, rent a new movie and cook your favourite pre-cinema meal together. Phones go off. Kids go to bed. Hopefully. Do your hair, wear something nice (not pyjamas) and resist the temptation to go to bed at 9.00. Well, unless…
Remember your life has changed. Embrace and adapt – go for lunch instead of dinner, with the children. Plan a day out somewhere lovely. A picnic, a beach or a national trust site together as a family might be just the tonic you need to get away from it all.
Dropping hints doesn’t work. Be direct, approach people with a date and a suggestion if you really want to ask them to step in. Hearing parents sob over how badly they need ‘me time’, ‘us time’ etc is so standard we’ll just think you’re venting.
Think about a day date – family may be more inclined to watch the children during the day which means you can optimise daylight (awake) hours with lunch, a movie, shopping – whatever takes your fancy. Just don’t see it as an opportunity to get stuff done.
Earmark special occasions as you time: People will be far more open to helping have the kids on your birthdays or wedding anniversary, as a treat for you. Make the most of that and forget the days of getting all your friends down the pub – after all, you’ll be seeing them all in a couple of weeks at that wedding, right?…
And finally…if you think as a couple you are really struggling, talk to someone. Your parents, your oldest friend, your new Mum-mates. No one would stand by and see a couple they love fall apart – people will help you if it’s what you need.