How date night changes after you have kids

For starters, it takes you about three hours to even get out the door 

Photos: ING Image
Photos: ING Image
02 Apr 2015

Photos: ING Image

“Go on date nights!” everyone says. The experts, your friends, even your mom, who never misses the chance to remind you that when she was your age with four children, she didn’t have time or resources for such luxury.

You always swore you’d keep the sparks flying in your marriage. After having kids, you took a break from date nights and now you can’t wait to start again – especially when your marriage has been shoved to the backburner. You finally shave and ditch your ratty old underwear for Spanx; wear something nice that doesn’t have crusty spittle on it. You deserve this small pocket of time with your husband outside of the confines of being parents. But date night isn’t quite the same as before.
 

1. It takes more planning
1. It takes more planning
02 Apr 2015

1. It takes more planning

Spontaneous dates and outings are harder to pull off. It usually requires scheduling in advance (Google calendar helps) even if you have full-time help. If you need to hire a babysitter, that’s an extra step. What if they’re not available? Call days ahead. Check that the nanny cam is working. Worry. Plan for any potential crisis while you’re gone. Worry some more.

2. It’s a race to get out the door
2. It’s a race to get out the door
02 Apr 2015

2. It’s a race to get out the door

Before, you had time to shop for a new dress in advance to wow your husband on the big night. Then you’d take your time getting ready. It was an enjoyable ritual. Here’s the scene now:

In the bathroom, he trims his nose hair while you gargle mouthwash, both trying to ignore the little fists banging incessantly on the door. You jump in the shower, shave your legs in record time but forget your armpits. Oh well. No time for coconut oil either. Quickly put on makeup. Briefly wonder where your eye shadow palette is until you remember that last time your kids dipped their paintbrush in it to make “watercolour art.” Eager fingers are reaching under the door now. You finally let them in. Someone runs off with your lipstick, probably to use as a new crayon. Then your husband says, “Um honey, I can’t find my phone.” Sigh. You’re already late. 

3. There’s a bit of guilt
3. There’s a bit of guilt
02 Apr 2015

3. There’s a bit of guilt

The kids act like you’re abandoning them for good instead of only being gone for a few hours. As you wipe away their snot you wonder if maybe you’re being too selfish, going out and having fun without them. 

4. There’s more pressure to have a good time
4. There’s more pressure to have a good time
02 Apr 2015

4. There’s more pressure to have a good time

Because going out without the kids is such a special and rare occasion and because of all the planning that went into this, there’s pressure to make the most out of your date. Remind yourself that the point is to reconnect. It can be a fancy night at the opera or a simple walk – as long as you’re enjoying each other’s company, consider the date a success. 

5. It actually feels like a treat to go to a restaurant that doesn’t have a kids’ menu
5. It actually feels like a treat to go to a restaurant that doesn’t have a kids’ menu
02 Apr 2015

5. It actually feels like a treat to go to a restaurant that doesn’t have a kids’ menu

Since most of the restaurants you frequent nowadays are family-friendly, it’s a novelty to eat somewhere that’s so clearly for the adult crowd only – and you can determine that by the lack of high chairs and tantrums. 

6. It’s weird to focus on each other after you’ve gotten used to feeding your way through meals
6. It’s weird to focus on each other after you’ve gotten used to feeding your way through meals
02 Apr 2015

6. It’s weird to focus on each other after you’ve gotten used to feeding your way through meals

For parents, date night means you get to savor each bite. It’s a change to say things like, “Mmm, this is amazing,” and “Oh this lamb chop is ex-qui-site” instead of “John, stop putting spaghetti on your sister’s head,” and “Wait sweetheart, let me just cut this up for you.” You don’t have to blow on anyone’s food to make it less hot. There isn’t a mountain of dirty paper towels on the table. Not one drink is spilled. You and your spouse can actually talk uninterrupted – and you don’t take that for granted, not for one second, when the usual scenario is one of you shoveling food down while the other one tends to the kids.  

7. You can drink but you can’t drink to the point of utter oblivion
7. You can drink but you can’t drink to the point of utter oblivion
02 Apr 2015

7. You can drink but you can’t drink to the point of utter oblivion

Remember when the two of you used to go out, share a bottle or two of wine, and head somewhere else for a nightcap? You’d cab it home, stumble through the door giggling, and collapse on the bed (if you could make it there). Then wake up at noon the next morning with a hangover. Yeah, those episodes are a thing of the past because imagine your kids’ alarm when they see mum and pop like that. Also, as if they’ll let you sleep in until noon. 6 am is more like it.

Still, you can’t help missing those hangover brunches your husband used to cook up, and how the two of you would laugh trying to piece together events from the previous night. 

8. You have to stop yourself from talking about the kids
8. You have to stop yourself from talking about the kids
02 Apr 2015

8. You have to stop yourself from talking about the kids

Part of the appeal of date night is the chance to act like a carefree couple again. For a few hours, you can disengage from the responsibility of being parents. But even after you promise not to talk about the kids, they’re constantly on your mind. You keep checking your phone for any missed calls from the nanny or to spy through the virtual webcam. The little rascals aren’t sitting at the table with you, but they sure feel present. 

9. You talk about them anyway
9. You talk about them anyway
02 Apr 2015

9. You talk about them anyway

Because you can’t help it. 

10. There are little ones waiting for you at home
10. There are little ones waiting for you at home
02 Apr 2015

10. There are little ones waiting for you at home

And you can’t believe that you actually missed them. After you check on them and feel reassured that they’re fast asleep, you gouge whether or not you’ll take date night further in the bedroom. Your husband seems to be in the mood. Right as he closes the bedroom door, you both hear it: “Mama?” And that signals the end of date night.

Truth is, when you have children—especially little ones—date night is not what it used to be. Will it ever be the same again? Maybe when they’re older. Meanwhile, know how lucky you are to have a husband who says, “You sleep in a bit” the next morning and takes over pancake making for the kids.

And this – the sound of him in the kitchen with the kids, the laughter and smell of breakfast – this is warmth, a different kind of romance. This gives you butterflies nowadays. 

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