Modern parenting is a series of scheduled moments. Swimming, parent-teacher meetings, ‘me time’, play dates, date nights.
The list goes on. I’m not complaining, as a self-proclaimed Queen of Spreadsheets, I find this type of organisation helpful. It’s the way you get stuff done. And not just the fun stuff, but the really soul-fulfilling stuff.
Of all the scheduled moments, date night should be sacrosanct
Before there were children, there were the two of you. You were in love, carefree, generous and kind to each other.
After children, there’s still the two of you, but you’re often just holding the barricade together as your kids lob all kinds of bombs over the wall – tantrums, sleepless nights, childcare costs, etc, etc.
You become a different kind of team: one that is focused on raising and loving your children, instead of evolving with and loving each other.
So date nights become a moment of connection, free of your parenting responsibilities, where you can enjoy each other’s company once more (and remember why you started this family in the first place).
I knew date night was important, but it kept getting lost in the spreadsheet
I once told my husband that if we didn’t commit to monthly date nights, we may as well start saving for couples counselling. And I still believe that, but for some reason, our time together just kept disappearing.
Kids parties, work events, or just being too tired – all these things pushed date night down our list of priorities.
We saw each other every day, every night. Date night stopped feeling important. Heck, sometimes we didn’t even want to talk to each other, why would we want to go out alone?
And then my mother-in-law came to visit and insisted that we go out on a date.
Rediscovering the fun of date night
Admittedly, when your mother-in-law is in town, you can take date night to the next level.
We booked a hotel and met each other straight after work. We had dinner, watched a movie, and we laughed (a lot).
Those bad dad jokes that can be irritating as hell when you’ve just come out of the bathroom, having picked up a pile of wet towels? They’re funny again when your arms are free of laundry.
You can lie in each other’s arms knowing you won’t find a small body wedged between you in the early hours of the morning.
There is space, space to make decisions, to finish sentences and to really listen to one another.
That’s crazy talk!
Though, I will call bullsh*t on one piece of advice you often hear about date night: ‘Don’t talk about the kids’.
I was told this a lot in the early years of parenting. It made me panic – had I lost a real connection with my husband? When we went out, all we did was talk about the kids! What did that mean? Did it mean we no longer had anything in common?
No. It did not. It meant that every waking hour was spent looking after and loving our small children – who we had created together – who we were raising together. It was a natural thing to speak about, and it still is.
Date night is often the first time in months we have space and time to stick our heads over the parapet and survey the surrounding countryside.
It’s the first time we can think expansively about where we’re headed. Where we want to go once the early years are over and we head into unknown territory. We can make decisions about where we want to go, together as a family.
Long-term relationships can be hard work, but working on it can still be fun
I’ve come to see date nights as the glue that will keep our marriage together; something that needs to be written on the calendar in ink.
There are times when we both need a break from each other, time we need with the children, time we need with friends.
But we’ve decided to do this thing together because we love each other. And that decision means we need to work at it. Both at our relationship, and how we want to be as a family.
Seems to me that date nights are one of the best ways to do it. You’re working on your relationship, thinking about your family, and still having a good time.
And that, my friends, is a win-win situation.