A date night for new parents is all about precious currency: money and time. And unrealistic expectations.
Factor in the prep and travel time and the mental energy it takes not to obsess over whether or not your child, potentially hungry and/or neglected by a vodka-guzzling babysitter, is weeping into a teddy bear while drenched in snot and inconsolable tears.
Fact is, sometimes parents would rather sleep, watch Scandal reruns, or take “What breed of a dog are you?” quizzes by the quiet glow of the baby monitor.
But then there’s this: “Hey, you guys, go and enjoy yourselves, get craaazy, just go all apeshit out there, you hear?! It’s a rare opportunity!”
My man and I rarely went out before our baby turned 1 and by some arbitrary mark became mature enough to be babysat on day 366 of her life. That’s when we decided to revisit our pre-baby lifestyles and devised some elaborate date nights.
These nights involved everything I’d been depriving myself of for a year: dinner reservations at places with fabric napkins and without mac and cheese on the menu, live music (and not the library kind with “Wheels on the Bus”), outfits with real pants—or, what the heck, perhaps even a dress, the kind without discreet and easy access to breast, any time, anywhere. Hey, unless that’s your thing on dates.
We even splurged on a glitzy downtown hotel once.
But every time, something didn’t add up.
For starters, I’d scan menu items in opportunity costs, quickly figuring out that ordering tuna tartare is equivalent to buying two and a half packs of baby wipes, the non-generic ones. More if you factor in babysitter pay.
The percussion at concerts seemed ridiculously loud and the gyrating backup dancers hypnotized me to sleep.
At a show of one of my favorite DJs whose establishment I’d frequented while living the single life in Washington, my mind kept drifting to mundane matters. Would Safeway coupons work at Pak’nSave? Would security drag me out if I were to nap in that closet behind the bar? (They didn’t.) But that’s why you have more caffeine! More cocktails! More Red Bull! (And I mean, who drinks Red Bull these days, anyway?)
The mornings after those nights were tinged with hangovers, financial regret, and an inexplicable sense that I disappointed my child, my partner, and my pre-baby self.
Did I age by two decades in just a year?
After running almost exclusively in parent mode for months or years, the noise threshold takes time to build up from Baby Einstein lullabies. The same goes for drink tolerance and heels. And that’s OK.
Plus there’s that parent hyperalertness. It’s one thing to constantly watch the baby for cues and scan the environment for hazards, but try being hyperalert at a bar and your nervous system will get fried.
I found that in those early months, there are mellower ways to unwind sans baby, whether an evening walk, a movie, or a trip to a neighborhood tiki bar. There’s no shame in taking it easy to get your head above water. As they say, baby steps.