It took my husband and I a while to become parents; the better part of five years from making the decision to meeting our daughter, in fact. Those five years involved struggling with infertility and finding ways to cheer ourselves up. Our favorite cheer-up trick, it turns out, was to create a running list of things we wouldn't do, and things we would absolutely still do for ourselves when we became parents. This "game" was half fun, half serious, and always involved some (really, only a little bit) shameless judging of our friends and family as they figured out the ups and downs of parenting. That list got lost in a phone switchover before we had our daughter, and I'm pretty glad I don't have to see the evidence of how judgmental and clueless we really were. Nonetheless, I know part of the list involved things my partner and I still do for ourselves, now that we're parents, and I'm pretty sure we're living up to that part of the list. Well, usually.
We definitely had hilarious and lofty ideas about how often (and for how long) our child would sleep, and how our plans would never be interrupted because we couldn't bear the idea of changing up her schedule. Little did we know, my friends, how little we actually knew. However, we also had a running list of what we wanted to make sure to still do once we had children, because we knew those things would still be important to us as both individuals and as a couple. Harder to accomplish? Sure, but still important.
While I don't generally love how long it took us to start our family, one of the silver linings was being able to focus on what made us happy as a couple, and what we wanted to strive to do together and separately once we became parents. Our transition to becoming parents has been far from seamless, but making sure to continue to do the following things for ourselves (and together) has helped us keep our sanity, through even the sleepiest of days.
We Make Time To Work Out
This was and is a non-negotiable for both my partner and I. It makes me sound like a jerk for putting it first on the list, but it's honestly the one thing we both insist on squeezing into our days now that we're parents. Aside from helping my body cope with the large amounts of chocolate I now consume as a parent, it wakes me up.
Trust me when I say, anything that makes you feel perkier is parental gold.
We Go On Dates
This was tough during our first six months with our daughter, because she was technically in the foster-to-adopt system and we could only have approved babysitters. When she was very tiny we'd truck her around with us. but once she got older we appreciated a few hours away even more.
I'll also be very honest here and say that dates were (and still are are) hard to come by, simply because the cost can add up. Even if you do something relatively cheap, getting a babysitter (unless they're family, of which we have little around) isn't cheap at all. Still, we're committed to trying whenever we can, even for a coffee or a walk in a park, in order to reconnect on our own and remember why we liked each other in the first place
We Meet Friends For Wine And/Or Sports
Sometimes I just need to sit on my girlfriend's porch and drink wine while my partner puts our daughter to sleep.
Sometimes my husband needs to go watch NBA in a sports bar with friends.
We Shower Every Day
I can see how this gets much more difficult as babies turn into toddlers who empty every shelf and cabinet when you're going to the bathroom, but we've still made it a priority to shower every day and get dressed into real clothes. For me, that's mostly jeans and a shirt or sweater, but still. Getting out of pajamas, showered, and into a bra and real clothes makes a big difference in my sate of mind.
We Chat With Family
We're very close with both our families, but they're now spread thousands of miles away so getting to spend time with them is a little harder. Even though we've tried to avoid being on our screens too much in front of our daughter, FaceTime and GChat Video are the exceptions. We consider it like having one of her aunts or uncles or grandparents in the room, and it makes both of us feel more supported to have those family interactions regularly.
We Go For Spontaneous Margaritas or Hot Chocolates
Some days just require a margarita and schedules be damned it's got to happen. I think one of our daughter's first solid foods was a tortilla chip. Whoops?
We try to choose family-friendly spots so we don't feel like such "bad parents" bringing our baby to the bar, but sometimes you've just gotta go for it and make a spontaneous trip.
We Have Dinner Together
Our daughter is still at the age where her bedtime means she eats dinner at a really early hour and when neither of us parents are hungry yet. So once she's fed, bathed and asleep, we sit down to dinner together.
We sometimes lament that our daughter doesn't get to eat with us or see us model what "eating dinner as a family" is like, but man is it relaxing to eat dinner as adults, instead of with a small person signing for "more!" "more!" every four minutes.
This was at the tippity top of our pre-kids list and, while the logistics are a little more complicated, we've committed to traveling with and without our daughter. It's something we loved to do together before we became parents, making it a reminder of our old selves that relaxes both of us. And it's always been something we wanted to do with kids, no matter how logistically exhausting. Staying home is easier, but traveling is so much more rewarding in the end.
We Find A Way To Sleep In
During the week, we're up at the crack of dawn/first baby grump, so most weekends we try to split who gets a few extra hours of sleep. It doesn't always work, but getting one sleep in every week or so makes each of us feel more relaxed and spoiled and a little like our pre-baby selves.