When my husband and I became parents, we expected parenting to be the focus of our lives. We anticipated that we’d be spending essentially all of our non-work time as a family, taking the children with us when we visited friends, went to restaurants, traveled, and so on. We’d both had this kind of experience growing up, so it never really occurred to us that family life could be some other way.
As we were expecting our first child, some well-intentioned people told us that we should be sure to go out on dates so we’d have “couple time.” We couldn’t figure out why we would want to do that. After she was born, we enjoyed spending time together taking care of our new baby, and we found that after the first couple of months, we had plenty of “couple time” in the evenings at home after our daughter went to bed. We still couldn’t figure out why we would need to get a babysitter and leave our house in order to spend time together as a couple.
The birth of our second child complicated things considerably. We were much more exhausted physically, and dealing with the competing needs of two children was emotionally draining. When we had only one child, it was possible for one of us to take a break while the other spent time with our daughter. With two children, one of us had to be spending time with both children in order for the other to take a break, which has rarely seemed worthwhile — we prefer to have a 1:1 ratio between adults and children whenever possible in order to minimize parental meltdowns!
We found that we weren’t getting as much “couple time” in the evenings because we were so exhausted, and because we seemed to have even more chores to catch up on. So a few months ago, we finally started going out on dates. Starting around the time our son was 15 months old, we’ve felt fairly confident that both kids would stay asleep from the time they went to bed until at least midnight. This has provided us with a great opportunity to have someone from our babysitting co-op come over and hang out while the two of us got out of the house.
We’ve been out on three or four dates now, and it’s definitely been nice to set aside time to spend together away from the chores and tasks of home. Yet I’m also sure we wouldn’t be doing it if the kids weren’t asleep — it just wouldn’t feel right to leave them with a babysitter when we know they’d rather be with us.