When You Don't Have Kids, Every Night Is Date Night

by Julia Pelly
Originally Published: 
A couple on date night kissing next to a carousel

To my childless friends:

Hey there! I know we haven’t talked in a while (baby, work, exhaustion, you know my spiel), but I saw your Instagram picture from last weekend and wanted to pop over and let you in on a little secret I didn’t know until I became a mommy. You looked beautiful in your picture. You and your husband were all dressed up and eating something fancy, you looked relaxed, your husband looked handsome, and that glass of wine in your hand looked absolutely irresistible. You must have been excited for your date, so excited, in fact, that you snapped a selfie at the restaurant, captioned it “#Datenight!” and posted it to be admired and liked by all. I know it must have felt good to get all dressed up and go somewhere special, but well, the thing you might not realize, the thing I sure didn’t realize before I had my son, is that when you don’t have kids, your whole life is a date night.

I know right now you probably think that for something to count as a date you have to go somewhere fancy or wear something special or do something you’ve never done before. Really though, all that’s required to call something a date is that you’re spending one-on-one time with the one you love. Before you have kids, you get to do this all the time. Going out for pizza because you’re too tired to cook? That’s a date night! Grabbing frozen yogurt on the way home from dinner with friends? That’s a date! Hiking after work? Seeing a movie? Taking a Sunday drive? Date, Date, Date—those are all dates! Your life, the one where you can get out of the house whenever you desire and enjoy the company of your spouse, is filled with dates.

As a parent, especially one whose baby is not fond of being left with a sitter, I’m envious of couples who get to go on dates. To squeeze a date night into our lives, my husband and I have to pick a date months in advance, find a sitter, shell out $50 and pray the baby doesn’t get sick. If all of this miraculously falls into place and we do get to go out, my husband and I pick somewhere close by, keep our phones out in case there’s an emergency, and either bring the pump or rush home before my three-hour countdown clock runs out and I end up with a milk-stained blouse and a wailing baby.

Getting everything we need in place to have an actual dinner out is so maddening and happens so rarely that I’ve been forced to put on my rose-colored mommy glasses and call very non-date-like things dates just so I can throw up an Instagram pic and feel like a real woman again. Watching Netflix in spit-up stained sweatpants? As long as we’re holding hands and the baby’s asleep, I’ll call it a date. Running into one another at the grocery store before picking up the baby from the nanny because we both remembered we needed milk? As long as we’re sharing a cart, that’s a date! Meatballs at Ikea while the little one’s nodded off in the stroller? As long as the strollers facing the window and I’m facing my husband, I’ll definitely call it a date.

I know you’re probably tired of people telling you about how hard kids are and how tired they make you and how you should appreciate your freedom before becoming parents, but, well, having kids is hard and it makes you tired and you just don’t have the same freedom you did pre-baby. I wouldn’t trade my son for the world, and being a mom brings me far more joy than hardship, but from time to time (all the time) I do find myself missing the freedom to connect with my husband one-on-one on a more frequent basis.

So my advice, dear childless friends, is that before you decide to become parents, you should enjoy those date nights. Or should I say, date-lives?

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