I showed up to Little League with all four of my little kids in tow, and I asked the coach which nights practices will be held, because I’m the mom who has no idea when practices are until the first day of Little League.
“Wednesday nights,” he said.
“Wednesday nights?” I replied. “You won’t be seeing me on Wednesday nights. It’s date night. You’ll be seeing Joe, the babysitter.”
“This week?” he asked.
“Nope,” I said. “I mean every week. Wednesday night is date night every week.”
“Seriously?! Sounds nice,” he replied in an unnecessarily snarky voice.
“It’s a whole helluva lot nicer than divorce,” I replied.
Because it is.
I get it — how scheduling date night can seem like a fancy-pants thing to do. Hire a babysitter, put on some mascara, change into a shirt that’s not covered with food splatter or something that came out of one or all of your children’s bodies. Sure, it’s a workout.
It’s also contingent on the fact that you and your spouse both have a common night you can set aside each week, when you’re not scrambling for more hours at work or to drive some kid somewhere or to fold 37 loads of laundry. Plus, it’s expensive. You need to buy food you would’ve eaten for free at home, and you need to pay Joe the babysitter. And paying a babysitter to take care of a bunch of kids, even for just two hours, it adds up.
But I maintain, it’s a helluva lot cheaper than paying for a divorce.
And date night means something in my marriage.
There’s this guy I married 15 years ago, and we got along pretty well. Hell, we met in art school. If that’s not hot, what is? Back in the day we would do Bohemian things, like throw a loaf of bread and a brick of cheese into a backpack with a bottle of wine and then hike off on some rocky trail to the open ocean where we would sit and drink wine, and hold hands, and talk about our hopes and dreams—literally. We used to do that.
But then we created four human beings. And now they are our responsibility. There are jobs to be worked at and things to do, a house to keep, cars to pay off. These days we are grown-ups, and that grown-up world out there keeps us hopping.
We have lived 15 years together, and we’re entirely different people now than we once were. We’re busy. We’re aging. We know each other too well. Maybe sometimes we use the bathroom with the door open (I’m not saying).
And, to answer your question, no. PTA, PTO, bowling league, a speakers series at the kids’ school or bringing the kids along does not count as date night.
Date night is between you and the one you love, the one you built a life with, a marriage, a home, a family. Date night is the contract between you and your soulmate so that you don’t need to sign any other contracts, like divorce papers.
Because every Wednesday, I know I’m going to have my husband to myself, one-on-one, for better or worse. And maybe we will go to a favorite restaurant for a candlelit dinner and a bottle of wine where everybody knows our name, or maybe we will grab some beers and burgers from Bunz Burgers, the neighborhood joint with the trashy logo, and we’ll take our bag of beef and sit on the beach. Pure romance, am I right?
I get how in the olden days maybe people didn’t need to do date night. They were too busy churning their own butter, chasing away the bears, sleeping family-style in their yurt. Also, their average life expectancy was 40, so they were off the hook pretty early. But we may have to live with our beloveds for 80s years. Eighty years.
So put it on the calendar. Decide that it is sacrosanct. If you can’t afford a babysitter, trade hours with a friend of yours who needs date night with her spouse too. Make peanut butter and jelly sandwiches and sit in the backyard with a baby monitor by your side. Whatever. It’s still date night.
Because if we are lucky, in 15 more years, our kids will be out of high school and off doing their own thing. And do you know who we will be left with? Each other. And hopefully, if we work at it hard enough, we will also be left with date night.
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