This might seem like a really obvious thing to say, but you know how when you have kids time sort of retracts and constricts, so that you need to cram in a gazillion more things into any given day than you did before? And all the while people are telling you to “enjoy them while they’re young” and “treasure every moment” and yadda yadda yadda, to the point where you feel like the world’s worst parent if you’re not doing joyful, important, life affirming things with your kids at weekends or any other time when you might get some space to be together as a family? I’m so over that.
Time is a bastard to parents. We just don’t have enough of it. But as well as not having enough of it, we have constant reminders to grab every second do something important with it. Now I have two kids there’s an added pressure, in that I want to be able to spend one-to-one time with both of them. They drink up quality time with me like it’s hot chocolate in an age of chocolate prohibition. And, of course, that makes me want to give them even more of it.
And aside from all this quality time with the kids, I’m factoring in time to do work, keep a house together, life admin and Netflix. It’s a miracle I even get a moment to say “hi” to my husband most days, let alone spend any meaningful time with him, too.
With two young children – one of whom is prone to not sleeping – our “date nights” consist of Spotify and wine, swiftly followed by an hour of dribbling in front of the TV, until we both inevitably fall asleep on the sofa. Romantic, I know. And with a routine like that, it’s easy to forget why I picked this person to have children with in the first place. How are you meant to keep a relationship alive in that situation? They didn’t cover that in the relationship pages of J-17 back in the day, did they?
To be honest, it’s a far cry from what I imagined for my life when we got married (five years ago this summer). Back then we only had one baby, so finding babysitters and organising time away just the two of us was relatively easy. Plus, Frog wasn’t a terrible sleeper like her sister, so palming her off on her grandparents for the odd weekend didn’t seem like such a big deal.
For some people, so called “date nights” (or even “date lunches” / “date walks” / “date anythings”) might seem like an indulgence. But for me, they’re vital in keeping sane and reminding myself that, despite the fact I often find him highly irritating, I do actually love my husband.
As much as I enjoy our evenings in front of Netflix, there’s something so refreshing about doing stuff that involves leaving the house. As a work-from-home-mum, my days are spent working at home, mumming at home, or ferrying my kids around from one place to another. Some days, even the thought of just going to the supermarket on a date with my husband, without the kids, seems appealing. As much as I love this house I live in, the same view can get a bit, you know, samey, after a while.
In an age when we’re regularly told about the importance of quality time as a family, I think it can be really easy to forget how important quality time as a couple is. For us, the main issue is childcare, so it’s just not realistic to squeeze in regular couple jaunts. This means that most of our “me time” nights away are solo, with our friends. This is all lovely and everything but, sometimes, I just want to spend time with my husband. This is cheesy to the Nth degree, but he genuinely is my best mate. I love hanging out with him and, sometimes, it’s nice to do that in a setting that isn’t our front room with both of us wearing loungewear.
And that’s why Saturday was so special.
It was our first night out together in nearly two years. My parents came over to babysit while we went to a wedding. We left the house at midday, strolled around the pretty harbour town of Salcombe, ate fish and chips by the sea and then checked into our B&B and had a blissful two hour afternoon nap.
That morning I’d been irritable, moody and genuinely considering leaving for the wedding on my own. The NLM had left stray bits of hair from his razor in the sink, he’d not put his socks in the washing basket and he’d not put enough milk in my tea. All perfectly legitimate grounds for divorce, I thought in my sleep-deprived, I-hate-the-world mood.
But after an hour out of the house, just the two of us, I remembered that I do actually like this bloke I married. That evening, for the first Saturday night in forever, we got changed into something that wasn’t loungewear. We enjoyed a drink on the terrace of the hotel our friends were getting married in, overlooking the pretty bay. And, later, we got merry with our mates, danced, drank a bit more and then fell into bed at 1am for a beautiful stretch of uninterrupted sleep.
I don’t know when it’ll happen again – probably not any time soon – but that brief night away was like a welcome oasis in the desert. It’s revived us both and made us ready for whatever the next bit of parent life throws at us.
Never underestimate the power of “us time”. I know I won’t, anyway.