“Date nights are so important. In fact, they are critical,” psychologist and relationship expert Melanie Schilling told The Huffington Post Australia last year.
How important are they to YOU?
When my husband and I first became parents, I think we were so enamored with our little bundle of joy, that the thought of leaving him, of missing out on one his firsts and the many, many milestones that seem to flow like never ending debris upon the river’s currents, was just too unbearable. We would squeeze in little hours of one on one time when we had the energy and frankly when we were bored with Davey’s non-productive days. Let’s face it, Angelina Jolie said it best when referring to her first biological child as a blob with little personality during the child’s newborn days.
When our second child came along, we were desperate to get back to who we were. I suppose the “newness” of having a child had already lost its luster. We didn’t hyperventilate with each blink of Henry’s eye, or post fastidiously upon social media about how well he burped, as we had so embarrassingly done with Davey. I know, I know, poor Henry. That second child just always seem to get the burn.
As our children have gotten older, Davey is almost 6 and Henry is 3 & ½, my husband and I find we need that break from our children, to reclaim a part of ourselves. We find that it’s worth the money to spring for an occasional babysitter and to dress up for a night out on the town, a night that now seems to end at 10. My husband jokingly asks me if I recall the times when we were going out at 10. I tell him “no”, as his children have seared those memories from my brain. That’s right! I said “his children”.
I have this conversation, about date nights, with so many of my fellow parenting friends. I’ve found that the discussions are usually pretty split between those who think it’s important and those who feel that the children and family unit as a whole should be a top priority. Of course, I encounter the occasional judgmental prone mother who tells me I’m selfish for wanting something more. I’ve learned to not let those criticisms get to my inner heart and guilt me into a subversion, and I will tell all of you the same thing. You’re no good to children, if you’re not good to yourself, and that includes the relationship with your partner.
I’ve noticed that our country doesn’t place as much emphasis on the parent’s one on one intimacy as others do. According to the March 14, 2014 issue of The Guardian:
Couples therapists would say parents like us should work harder to balance our priorities in order to preserve the family unit. It’s even on the political agenda in some countries; well, Scandinavia anyway. Last October, the government in Oslo issued a plea to parents in Norway to embrace “date nights” more frequently in response to rising divorce rates – now 40%, with those aged 40 to 44 most vulnerable to separation.
Therapists agree that it is important for parents to still have that time for each other, to find a way to rekindle the romance they once created or to just keep the spark going. That’s great and all in theory, but when you’re on a budget, date night isn’t always that easy. That same article in the Guardian said this:
Linda Blair, a clinical psychologist and author of The Key to Calm, says one couple she worked with could just about afford a babysitter but nothing more. “They found an alternative – driving around in their car for a few hours each week. It really improved their relationship.” https://www.theguardian.com/lifeandstyle/2014/mar/14/parents-should-embrace-date-nights
That sounds about like my household. My husband and I find ways to take advantage of freebies where we can. If the grandparents offer to take care of the children, we pounce on the opportunity and may walk around downtown for an ice cream. Our local YMCA offers a Parent’s Night Out every 2nd Friday of each month. Included with our monthly membership is one Friday night, 4 hours, from 6-10 of nothing but me and my husband.
Since the date nights are few and far between for us, I’ve required us to capitalize on the time together. We’ve set up ground rules: no talking about the children, no discussion of work, and no conversing about outside family members.
Friday before last we had a Parent’s Night Out. My husband, understanding my need as a stay at home mom with very little talk of anything not Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle or Magic Treehouse Books, read up on current events. I steal the occasional time to get caught up while waiting in car line, getting a few moments alone in the bathroom, or via podcasts as I’m cleaning. We put away our phones and any other electronic device and find a way to focus on ourselves, learning about each other again, remembering the little nuances that made us first fall in love, and just talking! It’s important.
“Sustaining intimacy is probably the most challenging task a human being has in his or her lifetime,” says Jared Scherz, a clinical psychologist who specializes in couples. http://www.nydailynews.com/life-style/married-children-date-night-article-1.1833789
What about all of you? How important is date night for you and your partner? How often do you get that much needed, well-deserved, and long often overdue time together? Have some ideas you want to share, i.e. where you go, what you do on a budget, or any rules you have (like mine of current events discussions), then comment below.
Happy date night to all of you and try to remember what first made you fall in love with your partner!