Even before I had my daughter, I remember seeing posts on social media about the elusive but very important “date night.” My friends who had already started their families seemed to all be in agreement that making it a priority to go out with their partners without their beloved bundle of joy or bouncing toddler in tow was not just an important part of new parenthood but an imperative. I was down to get on board with that train of thought, not fully realizing what a classist fantasy date night is.
My first date with my husband after giving birth was only two and a half weeks afterwards for a couple hours to see a movie — we lived with my parents at the time.
I spent nearly 10 years with my husband child-free, and I assumed it would only be natural that I’d want time with him on my own after the change in life I knew having our first kid would be. What I didn’t know — and what no one ever seemed to talk about in the captions of their pretty, dressed-up date night selfies — is how hard it actually is to make the post-baby rendezvous of your dreams a reality.
Why was it hard? First, I had to get past the place in my mind where I felt like I was the one and only person in the entire world that can look after my child. Then because I was breastfeeding, I’d have to prepare for actual days in advance for a night of fleeting freedom by pumping extra milk. That was all before actually sorting out who would do the baby-sitting. For the first part of my daughter’s life, I lived close enough to my parents for this to not be too much of a problem.
In fact, my first date with my husband after giving birth was only two and a half weeks afterwards for a couple hours to see a movie — we were living with my parents at the time, and a quick trip to our local theater was just about the length of time we could get out of the house without me needing to pump any breastmilk. I enjoyed the time out, but it could hardly be called an actual date. We were able to have a proper date a few times while we still lived with or near my parents.
It wasn’t until we were living in a new city apart from either of our families after my daughter’s first birthday that I realized how difficult date night was going to be. Ironically, it was at this point in my daughter’s development and my process of getting used to new-mom life that I felt we could really use some date nights.
Every time I saw a photo of my friends (or the blogger-type people I follow on Instagram) having a night out, I couldn’t help but to feel the natural pain of knowing I wasn’t in that place in my life.
For six months, we lived with no family around in a new environment where we were getting to know new friends, and having uprooted our life, we didn’t have any spare money for hiring baby-sitters. We only had one four-hour date on our anniversary in that time. I knew we weren’t alone in that predicament — lots of people live away from their families — but every time I saw a photo of my friends (or the blogger-type people I follow on Instagram) having a night out, I couldn’t help but to feel the natural pain of knowing I wasn’t in that place in my life.
Even though we’ve now moved again to where my husband’s family live, it’s still not an easy task to prioritize date nights. Life gets in the way. Having the money and resources to enjoy time off without your baby is a concept only familiar to privileged families. Each time we tell moms to indulge in "me time," we need to remember that. Poor moms, working moms deserve time off, too. The answer to families under stress can't be for everyone to just rustle up the money for a babysitter and night at Olive Garden. We need to recognize the underlying need for family and maternity support.
Family dates have become easier as our daughter grows up, and my mindset has changed to enjoy those times together. The time my husband and I have at home after our daughter goes to bed has also become a treasured part of our home life. It might be a little lacking in thrills, but the principle behind “date night” is still there. Plus, I keep telling myself, there will be plenty of times for just the two us in 20 years or so.
Check out Romper's new video series, Romper's Doula Diaries:
Watch full episodes of Romper's Doula Diaries on Facebook Watch.