When you have babies and small kids, people give you so much advice — breast-feed, bottle-feed, co-sleep, use an infant straight-jacket, get an electric swing that achieves as much noise and velocity as a rocket — that you can't even remember it all. But one thing I do remember is that everyone insisted we make time for a "date night" at regular intervals.
Photo: Julian Jagtenberg (Pexels)
Now this is a fine idea in theory, but once I got the baby down for the night, wrestled myself into nice clothes and greeted the babysitter, I just wanted to crawl into bed and go to sleep. "Date night" meant nodding off over my linguine and wishing we had stayed in with ice cream and Netflix.
But wait, what if you swapped your date night for a date morning? That's a suggestion from Esther Perel, renowned sex and relationship therapist.
Haley Nahman, writing for ManRepeller, reports on interviewing Perel about the sheer havoc that having kids wreaks on your relationship (and really, your immediate family and community). In short, American families are raising children under trying conditions — isolation, extreme fatigue and over-scheduling, among other problems.
The average parent doesn't necessarily have the resources to buck this whole culture, but there are a few minor tweaks that we can make to hang on to our sanity and our relationships while raising kids.
One of those tweaks is rethinking how you want to spend your limited time with your partner. That four hours of babysitting doesn't have to be 7PM to 11PM. It can be 8AM to noon! Or noon to four! Or whenever you will feel like you will most enjoy your kid-free time! Now Perel very astutely notes that one thing young parents miss the most is a leisurely morning drinking coffee and a long lunch.
If your new normal is being yanked awake at dawn, like some kind of prisoner under the thumb of a tiny, sadistic guard, you might want to spend your babysitting budget on a morning rather than a night.
Perel is succinct: "Fuck the date night — especially the first year. You're so exhausted, you have nothing left; you're just doing it because you think you have to do it and you already got the babysitter."
If you're lucky enough to have grandparents who can spend the night, or you've got the scratch for an overnight babysitter, for goodness' sake get on that gravy train — sleep in and go out for brunch (and then describe it to me in lurid detail). If your kids can sleep elsewhere for the night, so much the better.
When my kids were four and one, my husband and I asked ourselves what we wanted to "buy ourselves out of" — meaning what aspect of child care were we most willing to hire out. For us, it was the dinner/bath/bedtime/dishes routine. So once a month we got a sitter to come from five-nine on a Sunday evening, when a local bar had a live band.
We'd listen to music, get a cheap dinner, and arrive back home at nine to sleeping kids and a clean kitchen. We do this less often now, but looking forward to those Sundays saved my sanity in those brutal early years. It was our "date early evening."
So at the risk of adding to the tsunami of advice, let me suggest something: Carefully consider what you think would most help you — not what someone else says you need. And if that's a date morning so you can drink coffee that's still hot, so be it. Fuck the date night.