Family Lifestyle: Mum & Dad’s Date night

Before we became parents, we always said we wanted to be the kind of parents who prioritised their marriage. I’m not sure where I come down on the ‘put your marriage before your children’ line, but what I do know is that I love my son and husband a huge amount. Tom and I have been together a long time and, despite this(!) I still love spending time with him and neither of us wanted to forget why were married and raising a child in the first place.


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I’m not going to lie, making an effort with my husband was way down on the priorities list for a long time – behind eating, washing my face and getting more sleep – but when the new year came round we decided together to make a resolution to have a date once a month and, so far, have stuck to it. Finding the time, and a babysitter, has been difficult, but we both feel very strongly about how important this is now. And, actually, it’s been wonderful and definitely worth it.

Perhaps you think I sound a little callous saying that I like spending time away from my baby. The fact of the matter is that before I became Freddie’s mum, I married Tom and made a commitment to him as his wife. It should go without saying that we make sure Freddie is with someone he knows and would rush home if he needed us, but as long as he’s doing alright, we will continue to make time for ourselves on a regular basis. I think it’s really important to get this into our routine now, before our baby becomes a child.

Growing up my parents didn’t have a very strong marriage and they divorced when I was a teenager. While they never wavered in showing me affection, looking back I find it sad that I don’t remember them going out much at all and certainly never cuddling on the sofa or holding hands. Clearly they married the wrong person, which is a whole other story, but I’ve always known that that’s not the kind of marriage I want and I don’t believe we can keep it strong without putting constant effort. We’ve also made a rule that we kiss each other hello and goodbye first, and Freddie second. It doesn’t always happen, but it does make me feel special when Tom comes home after a stressful day and although Freddie is reaching out for him, I get the first acknowledgement. (This was instigated after me telling a story about a family I used to see coming off the train from work: the dad brought the son to the station to meet mummy and she would instantly gather him up and smother him in kisses. It wasn’t until they were getting into their car that she would off-handedly ask her husband how his day had been. It was a bittersweet moment that I saw everyday.)

So far we’ve had a couple of meals out and a night at the cinema, but next on my list is a daytime date. Having a leisurely lunch without grabbing hands sounds like my idea of heaven right now, and with Freddie loving his time with grandparents and my sister and his cousin, it’s going to get booked in soon. We’ve also booked a night away for our anniversary in August, which feels like a huge step at the moment, but I know it’s the right thing to do.

As much as I cringe at the phrase ‘date night’, I’m a true convert now I’m a mum. I’d love to hear if you agree or disagree with my opinion on prioritising nights away from the kids. Could you do it? Or do you have any suggestions for keeping your marriage strong after you’ve had a baby?

Love, Esme.

Find Esme on her blog Esme Wins or @Real_Married

18 thoughts on “Family Lifestyle: Mum & Dad’s Date night

  1. Great post Esme. The saying hello/goodbye thing struck a chord with me, I think we need to instigate that!

    We’re planning to go away for one night alone in July for my birthday – it’s so strange because I completely trust my mum/sister whoever babysits him but it makes me very anxious to think of leaving him. Will I still feel this way when he’s a teenager I wonder…..

    I completely agree that you need to make sure you have some time alone. Even if just to re-join the adult only world for a bit – even though it’s always so lovely to go back to babytown, it makes giving each other your complete attention feel even lovelier.

    Although Tom and I generally spend time alone looking at photos of Max and/or marvelling at how amazing he is. Saddos. Does that wear off?!

  2. I completely think putting your marriage first is very important, having happy parents and a stable home is the best you can do for your children so makes sense for it to be a priority. We aren’t brilliant at a proper date night ( leaving the house) as we don’t have babysitters on hand but we make an extra effort to have great nights in. This is actually what we used to do a lot pre-baby too as Tom loves to cook so don’t feel like we are missing out too much. We do go out to a restaurant whenever we can (this Thursday we have our anniversary meal and I CANNOT wait!) and it always feels so special. I would also love a daytime date though as I am still pretty shattered in the evenings and would be nice to not be mentally counting the hours of sleep I’m going to get to decide whether I want dessert!

    One thing we haven’t managed is a night away and although we have one planned in June it is for a wedding so is a bit forced and not a weekend just for us. It is harder than I anticipated to keep some time for each other as husband and wife and we both find it very difficult to leave Ben still which really frustrates me but I’m not sure how to change my feelings about it.

  3. We too instigated once a month date night in the new year and have pretty much stuck to it. The problem has been trying to fit in a night out just for us, with nights out with friends as well, and not impose too much on our loyal band of baby sitters, or indeed feel guilty for missing the odd bedtime routine. But, when we do finally get out just the two of us, it’s brilliant. Next step is a night away – not sure I’m quite ready for that yet…

  4. Brilliant post and very timely for us as we’re really trying hard with this too. We haven’t managed once a month sadly, but I’m going to aim for that from now on. One of the hardest things about living away from friends and family is finding a reliable babysitter that you trust! There’s a couple I want to try, so maybe going for a coffee in the daytime is the first step.

    This weekend we’re off to London for a whole 24 hours of adult time, which I am so excited about. We’re seeing Les Mis, going for dinner and staying overnight while Olive is with my parents and I don’t feel a moment’s hesitation about it all (so for those of you with little ones it does get better I promise!) It will be brilliant for all of us to hit the ‘refresh’ button.

    I’m going to really focus on the greeting each other first thing – such a subconscious thing that actually speaks volumes!

    xxx

  5. The greeting thing really struck me. It’s an irrational fear but as I know how excited Pete is about our baby I do worry he’ll kind of forget about me and after a hard day at home I think that could be a straw that breaks the camels back! Particularly as he is so attentive now, I think I’d notice the difference. Great tip :)

  6. We find it really difficult to manage date nights. We have had a couple of nights away (for my 30th birthday, and for an award my husband won) but the most recent was before Christmas. I have no qualms about leaving my son with my parents, my mum looks after him 1.5 days a week while I work (he is in nusery for another 1.5 days) so he is totally used to her and now I’m no longer breastfeeding there is nothing he needs that only I can give. The problem is that my parents are the only babysitters available and they also help out my sister, so we don’t want to impose on them too much. Between that and my husband needing frequent trips away with work it can be hard to schedule time for us!
    Now the our son sleeps a good evening stretch we get to eat dinner and watch TV together in peace, we also have a good chat on the journey to work. On weekends we are strict about afternoon naps, 2 hours daytime adult time is a godsend!
    With regard to the ‘who gets greeted first’ issue, it’s definitely my son! He likes to run to the stairgate when he hears my husband open the front door, I will just get on with whatever I am doing and then they’ll both come to me and we’ll have a family hug…ahhhhh!

    • Exactly the same here, Kathryn! Stella goes potty when Phil gets in of an evening, so excited and squealy – I’d be gutted if he bypassed her in favour of me… And like you say, once they’ve caught up with each other – Stella’s really into telling you alllllllll about her day atm, at least I assume that’s what the babbling is! – they come and find me for a group hug which I adore.

      The concept of time just for us is one that’s bypassed us completely – until very recently breastfeeding at night meant it wasn’t possible. Now we seem to have nailed sleeping, we’re looking forward to the odd evening out, for sure. My babysitter when I was little was a teenage girl from a few doors down – how do we even go about finding someone nowadays?! The whole process scares me slightly but I definitely don’t want to hassle my parents and siblings too often so I guess the search is on!

      • Same here – F is a definite daddy’s boy. I love it and it makes me so happy to see and so if I don’t get a kiss till later, that’s fine – it’s just nice to know I will get one!

  7. With the who gets greeted/kissed/hugged first part, while I definitely agree that no-one likes to be neglected, I also think there are really important reasons why parents will often go to greet the small child before the adult (eg a small child visibly excited jumping/shouting etc is pretty hard to bypass…and it’s such a different relationship; your time away from your partner is something you’ve both always been used to while time away from a small dependant child whom you are responsible for is slightly different).

    However I very much relate to the process of getting out of the habit/being unable to prioritise time together as a couple and needing to find a system eg date night to get this on the agenda. We often almost cancel nights out what with lack of money, being knackered, having no decent clothes that fit (me!) but are always always always imeasurably glad we did. Babysitters are few and far between here too…. Swaps with Nct/parent friends can work well though.

    • That’s what we do, Cath – I was babysitting for an NCT friend last night, actually. Her daughter actually woke up and wanted milk, but I was pretty proud that I then got her back to sleep.

  8. Another great post Esme. This struck a chord with me too- New Years resolution was a date once a month- perhaps a little ambitious given Phoebe only arrived in December. We’ve only managed it once for a lunch on my birthday plus I went to an afternoon tea leaving Phoebe with her daddy Saturday. I didn’t expect leaving her to be quite so difficult esp when I’m going to miss bedtime as I did on Saturday. I think we just need to go for it and book some days, and hopefully it will get easier. Fingers crossed!

    • I think that’s the key – book stuff in! We haven’t gotten round to doing anything this month simply because we didn’t decide on a day. It doesn’t have to be an expensive night out!

  9. I wonder if there is a difference regarding the greeting thing with a baby v a toddler. I always greeted my dad first as a child, so excited to see him get home while mum was usually busy elsewhere, and I imagine running toddlers are not only unignorable but pretty cute for both parties!
    When it’s a baby however, after a long maternity leave day, I think the situation is different?

    • See how you feel Rebecca as this was something that had crossed my mind too but I find it doesnt bother me. Your baby is such an extension of you in those early weeks and months that half the time when your partner gets home you are holding them anyhow so I didn’t really notice whether J greeted Annie or I first anyhow! Also your baby is something you both love so much so you bond over that anyhow.

      And nowadays Annie is normally asleep by the time J gets home (around 7) anyway…

      Re: date night! We have some family around but they all have their own children so it’s difficult to ask them too much. I’m actually about to sign up to a babysitting service (sitters.co.uk) which have babysitters local to you… My sister uses them and thinks it’s a great service.

      Rachie xo

  10. Really interesting. I don’t like the idea of a fixed date night but we do regularly talk about friends who, after 9 months, will make comments like ‘I left the baby with it’s Dad today whilst I popped to the shop’ as if leaving baby with it’s father for 10 minutes was a great accomplishment. My cousin is my role model in this and always passed her children to anyone that wanted a cuddle, even if they were 4 and not the safest person to hold them! Or was confident to leave them with people for an hour or two pretty early on and, as a result her children have been confident with a multitude of people from a very young age. I like the saying that it takes a village to raise a child and I’ll hopefully have no difficulty leaving Baby with parents or babysitters for an evening or a lunch date.

    As for ‘date night’ I’m just not a fan of the concept of an enforced period. I understand why people feel they do need this but I’ve always enjoyed cooking at home or a takeaway in our pyjamas far more comfortable and conducive to talking about things than a fancy restaurant where I’m worried people are listening in (or more usually we’re trying to listen in to other people’s conversations!).

    I’m glad you wrote this Esme because it’s made me conscious that I shouldn’t neglect Rob and, as a result, I’ll be more aware in the future. I also think the same applies to each maintaining your own OTHER relationships, as well as romantic ones.

    • Glad you liked it, Becca. We are also very much ‘cook a nice meal/takeaway and watch a film together’ people, but I think that changed slightly when F was born. Now I feel a real need to go out occasionally, principally because you can’t see evidence of the millions of jobs you need to do in the house!

  11. Thanks for this nudge Esme. We’ve been pretty bad at finding time together….even since I stopped feeding and Connie has slept better, my husbands crazy work hours and my endless jobs lists get in the way of what it utterly more important.

    We have recently however enjoyed a few nights out locally and are going out for lunch, shopping & drinks this weekend for our birthdays followed by our first night away the following weekend. As our families don’t live nearby, it’s too big an ask for a regular babysitter but we have discovered recently that both of Connie’s keyworkers at nursery babysit. We couldn’t ask for anyone more qualified or second best to family to care for her. The other thing we’ve tried to do is have a date night when we’ve been visiting our families. We went to the cinema a couple of weeks ago…..now that really did feel like a treat!

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