Remember dates? It’s probably how you got to know your partner unless you had an arranged marriage.
My husband and I have experienced a real learning curve over the years on dating as a married couple with a kid. The curve part is due to the fact that this activity that was once easy, fun and often spontaneous is now necessary to our sanity.
Needless to say, there is a lot riding on date night.
I love our son dearly. I think he is the best thing since sliced bread. The bees knees. The Cat’s Pajamas. That said, I miss my husband. I see my co-parent everyday. It’s the guy I fell head over heels with I don’t see as much.
Our first barrier to actually going out are my rigorous babysitter requirements. Homeland Security may have slightly stricter standards than I do. The upshot is that we rely almost exclusively on family members, which narrows our options and thus our opportunities. I did make the acquaintance of a ten-year-old in the after school recreation program who shows promise as a future babysitter. I told her, “After you turn twelve, have taken an accredited first aid course and become bonded, please let me know.” She solemnly shook her head and took my card.
My husband and I had to re-learn how to date after our son turned our cozy “2” into a more active “3.” Once we got out there – you know, in the world – we forgot what “date talk” was about. At first, all we talked about was the kid. Which is sweet, but he’s who we were trying to get away from. It sort of defeated the purpose of going out alone together.
Sometimes life got in the way and we forgot about date night completely. That’s a recipe for disaster and resentment. If it was awhile between date nights, we found those nights instead became replaced with “Unfinished-argument-night.” Which lead to the ever popular, “I-don’t-care-what-we-do-night!”
But this summer we had an epiphany. Why don’t we do what we did when we first dated? Let’s do those things that were simply fun. For us that meant: taking a picnic to the beach and people watching. (Or more accurately for us ‘people judging’.); going for a walk with our German Shepard who is thrilled we are paying any attention to him since ‘that boy’ showed up; and going to the movies.
A couple weeks ago we went to the bad boy comedy This Is The End. By any definition the film would be described as raunchy and irreverent. The only other people in the theater were a couple in their late eighties. The husband had a walker. The wife held the pop corn and sodas as they made their way up the aisle. During the film we watch as they laughed, nudged each other, ate pop corn and enjoyed each others’ company. They clearly understood the value of “date night.”
The first year my husband and I dated, I kept a movie journal tracking all the films we went to: title, date, our impressions. I took it out the other day. In looking through our first year I remembered it wasn’t the big things we did; it was simply sharing time alone together.
Through 1-on-1 Coaching, we often hear from parents who are at the end of their ropes. They are tired, burnt out, overwhelmed. Many times, our conversation with them centers on the importance of self-care. We discuss the need for parents to re-charge. The need time to not be a parent. On more than one occasion I have asked, “When was your last date night?”
If that question is met with a long pause followed by, “I’m not sure,” I like to offer my take on the merits of date night. I have been privileged on more than one occasion to hear a parent giddy with excitement at planning that special time with someone they miss. They never describe anything elaborate. It is invariably simple. It is always about the opportunity to spend time together.
P.S. This post in no way intends to slight single parents. All parents need a night out with a partner, date, family, friends or even some good old fashion alone time!
About Kari Wagner-Peck
Kari Wagner-Peck has a master’s degree in social work. Her career path includes: clinical work with survivors of abuse, advocacy and public education. She finds parenting to be a funny, trying and rewarding adventure. She believes disability is a natural part of life not to be feared or pitied but accepted. She and her husband and son live with two rescue dogs. She has been with Empowering Parents 1-on-1 Coaching since 2013. You can follow her at atypicalson.com and on Twitter @atypicalson.