At some point after having a child or two, you may have an overwhelming urge to leave your house with your spouse for a set amount of time, for no other reason than to get through one evening without having to cut anyone’s meat. This is normal. It’s called wanting to go out on a date.
But Date Night isn’t an easy feat, especially if you are a parent of young children. And while I’ve heard you get better with time and practice, many couples struggle with Date Night. If this is you: welcome. You are not alone. To help, I’ve created this easy to follow primer.
Date Night talk typically commences with a form of the following conversation:
Hey Babe, let’s go out.
Where do you want to go?
I don’t know, where do you want to go?
You both are thinking things like Everywhere, Anywhere, I don’t care, and I have one very specific thing in mind that the other person could never guess in a million years (the new Asian-Mexican fusion restaurant downtown one of my friends told me about that I forgot to tell him about; the one place that does the one thing and I don’t really know much about but I read a review somewhere and thought it sounded cool and maybe we could try it?) yet I’m hoping they do guess because that means they really do love me and that our kids haven’t totally taken over our lives. And, wow, what a huge relief that would be if they guessed the thing I’m thinking, because really, more than anything else, I just want to know that We are still Us, regardless of Them.
If you don’t live near family, this is a shame and I feel for you. I also don’t live near family and understand the complexity of this childcare issue. So here’s the plan: text everyone you know for names of eligible teenagers, preferably ones with cars, who have extensive babysitting experience but don’t actually babysit all that often. You want a sitter who is great with kids, very friendly, will clean up your kitchen, yet doesn’t have an active social life or tons of friends and who plays zero sports. The idea here is similar to finding a small unicorn in a cosmic-sized haystack.
Interview them (via phone or in person) and end with “Thanks! I’ll be in touch!” knowing that you are the one with almost no social life and it’s going to be at least three months before you get around to texting them.
SETTING THE DATE OF THE DATE
Again, this conversation has many forms, but the basic idea is as follows:
What night should we go out?
I don’t know, when do you want to go?
You both are thinking Saturday, because Friday is rushed with getting home from work and Sunday isn’t ideal because the next day is Monday … but you both also love wearing comfy pants on Saturday nights.
The solution? Leave it in the babysitter’s hands. Send this text: Hi! How are you? I know it’s been a while, [it’s been three months, we all know this] but are you free to babysit any night, say from 6 p.m.-10 p.m., between this Friday, February 8, and the last Friday in … oh, I don’t know, October? If so, Lmk! We just wanted to grab a bite to eat. Maybe see a movie, too. Or go to a concert. We haven’t really nailed it down yet. Just trying to get a date on the calendar. We’re super flexible!
Two days later, she texts you back with her only available date, a Friday night in September.
DECIDING WHERE TO GO FOR DINNER
He defers to you, Where do you want to go?
You defer to him, Where do you want to go?
He says, You pick.
You say, No you pick.
That’s why you should just pick! I don’t care!
But I don’t want to pick! Don’t you love me?
[He walks out of room.]
You make a reservation for the place you were thinking of the whole time.
DECIDING WHAT TO WEAR
Let this decision occupy your mind for a week. Comb through your closet prioritizing the clothes that fit, or mostly fit. Double check for snot and peanut butter smears. Pick pieces that contain only a minimal percentages of lycra.
VERY IMPORTANT: don’t make a final decision on the outfit because it’s imperative that you be in a rush when the babysitter arrives, regardless of how much you thought about this choice. Life does not allow you to be relaxed for Date Night.
Accept that your spouse will put on whatever he feels like without a second thought, because all his clothing fits (since he didn’t grow a little human in his body or stress eat pre/post-adoption) and will be ready to go before you’ve even applied deodorant. Do not concern yourself that he’s making awkward small talk with the babysitter while you look for your other earring.
DECIDING WHAT TO DO AFTER DINNER
Talk in circles for days over your options.
See a movie? Which theater? The one with the reclining chairs or the one that serves wine? You worry that either will put you to sleep.
Which movie? [Watch all the trailers.] There’s nothing good out. Scratch plan.
Go to a bookstore? he says.
A bookstore?! On our date night?!
But you like bookstores! he says. (And you do. In fact, you love them. But you don’t want to waste your date night on something so … so pedestrian.)
Warning: This conversation may digress into a small fight.
You recover from the small misunderstanding and go out and have a great time. It turns out, it doesn’t matter what you do. You just want to be together. You reconnect and laugh and it feels like the stars have aligned and all of life makes so much sense because this night feels like the much needed proof you wanted that you two were meant to be together. You come home and check on the kids and oh my goodness, look at them! Such precious angels. [Your heart starts to explode.]
You don’t really recover from the bookstore disagreement and you decide it’s best to cancel the babysitter and cancel the reservations to the restaurant. You eat cereal for dinner and put the kids to bed after three baths where one child pooped in the water and the other one turned into the Hulk while getting his pajamas on. Dishes are still in the sink from lunch and you realize you’re in the pajamas you wore to bed the night before.
You fall onto the couch together after the kids are asleep and one of you reaches over to the other and says, “I’m sorry date night didn’t happen. But we made it through another day.” You accept this is what life looks like right now, so you smile at each other and turn on Netflix and promise yourselves you’ll try date night again next year (when the babysitter is free again).