Marrying my husband is one of the five greatest decisions of my life. Deciding to have my two children rounds out the top three, number four is living in New York City, and number five is ordering and consuming an enormous peanut butter cup sundae by myself at Pizzeria Uno while on a work outing back in 2003. Still, I take the time to date myself, even though I'm married to my perfect date. This decision isn't a passive-aggressive cry for help, or a desire to escape my marriage. To the contrary, making a concerted effort to do something just for me (and, moreover, having that effort supported completely by my partner) is a key component in keeping my marriage great.
By most American standards, my husband and I got married young (we were in our mid-20s). Now, a lot of people are still figuring themselves out at that point in their lives. Actually, scratch that: if you're done figuring yourself out in your 20s you're deluding yourself. No one has themselves all figured out in their mid-20s, nor should they! I feel like he and I recognized that fact, and recognized, therefore, that insisting all future growth must involve one another was impossible and absurd. We tacitly, maybe even subconsciously, agreed that the whole "individual journey of self-discovery" all 20-somethings undergo wasn't going to stop just because we'd decided we were tied together in the bonds of civil matrimony. That really helped set the tone for us acknowledging that we very much wanted to continue to explore and indulge individual pursuits and interests. Truthfully, no matter when you get married, I don't think that same commitment to learning about and nurturing yourself should ever be stopped or put on hold.
Taking yourself out on a date (it doesn't have to be all that often and, for a lot of young families in particular, "often" is going to be nearly impossible anyway) is a great idea for any number of reasons. This is why it's perfect for me:
I'm Super Extroverted And Marriage Is Pretty Insular
You know those bubbly little kids who just go around greeting everyone they see at the grocery store like an adorable tiny politician trying to appeal to voters? That's basically me, but, like, a 34-year-old woman. I already worry that I'm going to be one of those old ladies who engages store clerks in conversation for too long. The kind of old lady of whom they say, "She was nice and all, but she wouldn't stop talking."
We all live with our demons, folks.
Anyway, this is just me. Always has been and, I suspect, always will be. Old lady fears aside, I like that about me. But there's a lot more staying in when you're married (especially married with children) than when you're not coupled. There's always someone there with you, but sometimes you need to see more of the world than just your cozy corner.
My Husband Is Super Introverted And Marriage Is Pretty Social
So you know how I'm the kid who randomly goes up and hugs strangers? My husband is the kid who spend the first nine years of his life hiding behind things: his mom's legs, his dad's legs, his dog, a nearby column, a bush, whatever was handy, really. And I love that about him. I wouldn't change it for the world.
However, just like I need to go out and be with people other than my family, he needs to be alone — with his thoughts and books and a good video game — from time to time. Me taking myself out on dates, therefore, works for both of us.
(Plus it usually means he puts the kids to bed on his own, which gives him some nice one-on-one bonding time that I get plenty of as the stay-at-home parent but that he doesn't often have a chance to enjoy, or suffer through, depending on their moods, I suppose...)
I Pay Attention To Everyone Else's Needs In The House, So Why Not Mine?
You know what no one tells you about becoming a mother? That 65 percent of your day is spent getting someone food. Oh sure, you think you can do it all in one trip, but your children are actually scientifically incapable of asking you for more than one thing at once. So it's all...
Child 1: Can I have a snack?
*You get the snack.*
Child 2: Can I have a snack, too? I want one, too!
*You get the second snack*
Child 1: And a drink, please?"
You: Why didn't you ask for a drink when I got your snack? Or when I got your sister's snack?
*You get the drink.*
Child 2: *cries* I want a drink, tooooo!
*You swallow down your rage and turn to get a drink because it's easier than arguing*
Child 1: Can I have another snack?
It. Never. Ends. Until a certain age, kids need you for everything. I realized the other day that ever since my daughter was potty trained about five months ago, I have been required to attend every single one of her bowel movements. Because if I don't she won't wipe properly, because she's 2 so it's ultimately saving me a mess, but there's something really disheartening about it, too. Then, of course, there's my husband, who also requires and deserves my attention and consideration. And even though one can get bogged down in the details (i.e. watching a toddler poop at least once a day, every day, for five months), I enjoy nurturing and tending to all my assorted darlings. But, damnit, I get a turn, too!
My Husband Isn't Big On All My Date Ideas
Remember: introvert/extrovert? We often have very different ideas of fun. Or, at least, my idea of fun is broader than his. So going to a cocktail bar? Not his cup of tea. Karaoke? Absolutely not his cup of tea. (It's more like his version of Hell.) Going to a tea house is, unfortunately, also not his cup of tea. I love all of these things.
Now, if I asked, he would absolutely accompany me to any of these places (and has!), but I am more often than not just as happy to take myself out for a night on the town and save an actual date night for something we would both enjoy.
I'm Rarely In Public Alone And I Love It
There's something magical and amazing about being alone in a crowd (probably why New York City will always feel like home to me). Most of my outings these days are done with at least one other family member, and that just feels like being part of a loud, boisterous, delightful crowd. Both are great feelings, but contradictory sensation of being alone with your thoughts and observations in the company of other people is something that absolutely recharges me, and is something I seek out on my own personal dates.
Pedicures Don't Happen On Their Own
Maybe it's just the Patriarchy talking*, but my feet are a hot mess when left unattended for too long. But every now and then, when I need some Me Time, I take myself to Andy. Andy is proof that once, somewhere, enough of humanity did a good thing and God said, "You know what? You all earned this." And He fashioned Andy in his image, with magic hands and a warm smile and the ability to transform my feet from actual hoof-talons to the prettiest feetsies you've ever laid eyes on. I very much consider pedicures a "me date," and everyone always has a beautiful time.
*It is: your feet don't need to be professionally pedicured to be socially acceptable, but pedicures feel amazing and I love them, so I go for it.
It Gives Me A Fresh Perspective On Everything
Any time you get out of your usual routine and typical head space you're going to get something out of it, right? Even if it's only, "Aww, I miss my honey and my babies."
In some cases, my own personal dates can feel like the first time I've been in my head for a while, because sometimes family life can make me feel like I'm constantly out of my damn mind. The solo reflection this time allows is invaluable, both on a personal level and in their ability to make me a more thoughtful partner and parent.
I Love Not Being Locked Into Plans
Pre-kids, my husband usually worked Sundays. This meant that I had an entire weekend day completely to myself, and it was awesome. I would usually spend this time walking the length of Manhattan with no destination in mind at all. Sometimes I would wind up shopping. Other times I would find myself at a Museum. Or I would sit with a glass of wine in the West Village, or a cup of coffee and a notebook in the East Village to write. Often I would call a friend and tell them I had put our name down for brunch if they wanted to meet me. It's hard to just kind of wing it when you're with someone else, because both your whims need to sync up (when they do and you can it's even more amazing)
Sometimes, Dating Is Just Code For Masturbating (Which Is Awesome)
It's like the self-dating version of a staycation. Just take a few hours to go up in your room, pop off your underoos, watch porn (or read a naughty book) and masturbate. Do not let self-love fall by the wayside, married ladies! Your fingers don't stop being awesome just because there's a ring on it.
It Sends An Important Message To My Kids
Back when I first started to make a real effort to take time to go on self dates, I would feel tremendously guilty about heading out and leaving my most beloved loved ones at home. The fact that my kids would start sobbing didn't really help, either. But now that I've been making that effort for about 18 months, I'm so, so glad I pushed through the hard part. My kids separate completely easily now. "Bye mommy, I love you! Have a good time!" And I like to feel I've taught them a few important lessons:
1) Self-care is important
2) Just because people love you very much does not mean they need to spend every moment with you
It Keeps Me, Me
My husband loves me because of who I am. Who I am when we met was a person with experiences, thoughts, and feelings completely separate from him or any kind of life we built together. Of course our love deepened and grew because of our shared bond, but at the core of all that is still two individuals. I like for both of us to keep that individual spark at the center of it all visible. Losing yourself even in a wonderful marriage and a happy family is still losing yourself. Like I said at the beginning of this list: who I am really hasn't changed, and I don't really want it to (even if it means I turn into those overly-friendly annoying old ladies).