When it comes to making time to go out and have fun with friends, things definitely get more complex if you have kids. If you manage to find the energy, you still have to make sure there's someone you trust to take care of the kids while you're gone. Despite the extra logistics, I'm all for going out and having fun. It's important to maintain our relationships beyond our families, and to spend time getting to be who we are apart from being someone's mom. That's part of why I can't get behind the phrase "Mom's Night Out."
Like I said, I am all for going out and having fun. However, I get weirded out by the "mom's night out" phenomenon being labeled the way it is. It reminds me a bit of bachelorette parties, which I like as much as the next person but which also frequently feature really problematic “last night of freedom!” messaging that has always bugged me. If women aren't free in our family roles and relationships, we need to actually deal with that, rather than just taking occasional breaks to vent our frustration with simultaneously and continually feeling trapped in our normal lives. We don't have to feel that way, and feeling that way on a daily basis isn't a "normal" part of motherhood. We can build lives that feel satisfying and free on an ongoing basis, rather than just when we manage to "escape" for a little bit.
Now, if people out there are into this phrase, more power to them. I'm not here to take that away from anyone. I’m unpacking it solely as food for thought, not fodder for judgment. It’s a small phrase, but little words often hide big ideas, and those ideas often affect how we live our lives and the overall quality of our lives. I feel uncomfortable with a lot of the ideas embedded in the concept of "mom's night out," and for a lot of reasons, including the following:
It Just Sounds Weird
“Out” where? Out of the house? That shouldn't be news, moms leave our homes all the time (unless they're having problems of some kind, which they need and deserve help with). The "Night Out" language kinda reminds me of a jailbreak or something and, like I mentioned earlier, the idea that the rest of a woman’s life is some kind of prison definitely gives me pause.
It Makes Going Out Seem Oddly Novel
Again, moms leave their homes all the time. The idea that moms need a special night out with a new, mom-specific label makes it seem like moms go out so rarely, that we all should take pause and document the moments when it actually happens.
It Acts As An Erasure Of The Rest Of Her Identity…
"Mom's Night Out" is linked to the same problem I have with terms like “mompreneur” and the like. Women with children are so many other things besides mothers, but people act as though we always need to center motherhood in everything we do.
When we insist on defining women solely in relationship to other people, even when those people aren't around, we reinforce the idea that women aren't whole, worthwhile people on their own. That idea feeds the very isolation and loss of self that makes family life so challenging for many of us. We deserve to get to be seen as our full selves, not just who we are in relationship to our families. We give so much of ourselves to our families. We should be able to just go out without making even that about our lives as moms, too.
...And Suggests That Moms Are Fundamentally Different From Everyone Else Having Fun With Their Peers
Everyone simultaneously plays multiple roles in their lives. People are often partners, and siblings, and cousins, and workers, and community members, and so on. We don't label all of those things when other people go out. People are just people, and sometimes they happen to be spending some of their time doing a fun thing. It really doesn't need to be any different for moms.
Just One Night Out?
“Night,” singular, is one of their weirdest parts of this phrase for me. Why is it just one? One out of how many: a week? A month? A year? Because there's so much “should” surrounding motherhood — so much moralizing about what it means to be a good or bad mother — it's hard not to worry that if a mom is going out more often than a single night every so often, that she's being judged as a result. A woman should get to spend her time however she wants as long as she's not hurting anyone else. That doesn't change once she becomes a mother.
It Turns A Normal Night Out Into More Of An Event Than It Needs To Be…
People should just get to go out and have fun when they have the time, energy, and inclination. Making into more of a thing than that just seems unnecessary.
...And That Ups The Pressure To Make It A Big Deal
If this is a “special” night, then that implicitly raises expectations. Stealth expectations frequently lead to disappointment and drama. For instance, if a friend has to cancel regular plans at the last second, it's a bummer. If a friend has to skip your special “Night Out,” then things can feel ruined. Or, if this is a special night, normal going out stuff may not feel good enough. It starts to feel like you have to go to a fancy restaurant or get tickets to a show or something for it to feel worthwhile, versus just being a normal “let's meet for drinks or whatever.”
That There's No “Dad’s Night Out” Phenomenon Speaks Volumes
Society doesn't define men by their families in nearly the same way as it does women. No one talks about “Dad-Owned Businesses” or “Dadpreneurs,” even though the majority of men in these pursuits are fathers, because society doesn't assume men’s lives revolve around their children the same way we do for women with children.
Men, especially straight, cisgender men, should be involved enough with their children that it shouldn't be novel for their partners to leave the house and have fun on their own. Women with children should get to just be our full selves, before and after we become parents.
Not Everything A Mother Does Should Be About Her Kids
Moms are whole people, who have more to us than just the lives we’ve built with and for our children. We deserve to get to do what we want without people automatically linking it to our status as parents, especially since we know that almost always comes with a totally unnecessary side of judgment.
If It's Necessary To Call It That, It Suggests Something Uncomfortable About The Rest Of A Mom’s Life
Parenting is hard and we all need breaks. However, if we need a special “Mom’s Night Out” instead of just spending time with peers (or by ourselves) when we want, that suggests that the rest of a mom’s life feels confining.
If that’s true, whether it's getting more help with her kids or balancing work and family, or anything else that's frustrating her, that’s something she should be supported to overcome.