Monday, March 8, 2010

The questionable importance of "Date night"

I've been thinking about this a lot lately. When you're married with little ones having date night is a tough thing to come by. There are sitters to arrange, reservations to make, curling irons to reaquaint oneself with. It's a big production.
Then, once you actually get out without the kids, what do you do with yourselves? Last date night, Dilbert and I went to a very loud restaurant with good food which meant we both ate too much and paid too much for it and could barely hear ourselves speak much less each other. We managed to chat through the din but it was tough going. After that we went to the book store and browsed around for a while before we both settled down with a stack of magazines and books and read. While all this was nice to be able to do, it wasn't exactly a bonding experience for us. We chatted about when we'd plan our next baby, Dilberts crazy plan to arm himself (more on that later) and the prospect of homeschooling our kids. All of this is stuff that we've talked about before with our without the kids around.
While it was nice to have a break from being on call for the kids, it's not like you get a weight lifted from your shoulders when you walk out the door. You don't get a break from being a parent because it's who you are, not something you do. Babysitter or not, you are where the buck stops whether you're in the house or not. So to the mommies out there, don't think that a night out is a night off because there is no night off.
As far as being good for our marriage, date night was a bit of a bust there as well. I had built up so many expectations for what our date ought to be that when it wasn't this big romantic extravaganza, I got hurt. That's not my husbands fault, it's mine. I wanted us to have this sweet romantic time like we used to when we were newlyweds or when we were dating but we aren't those people anymore and romance has changed. Romance is now him saying "I cleaned out the cat box for you because I know how much you hate when it gets smelly," or "This meatloaf is awesome!" Romance is now a door propped open when I'm struggling to get the Tyke, Pudding and two bags of groceries into the house while not letting the cat out. Romance is not a box of chocolates and a bunch of flowers anymore. I value the other things more but even I occasionally forget and succumb to the Hallmark expectations of romance, yet when these things are actually presented to me, I wonder why he'd spend the time and money on something so silly as flowers. (Note to Dilbert: This doesn't mean you're off the hook for flowers for big occasions or any occasion at all, I do enjoy them and they are a wonderful and thoughtful gift. My point is only that I value many other things as romantic besides them.)
My point here is not that we shouldn't do date night, it's fun to actually get out without the kids and do things we can't do with them. However, it's not something that will make or break our marriage. Cleaning out the cat box might but certainly not date night. All joking asside, our marriage hinges on mutual respect and our willingness to meet each others needs. The way we translate that respect and willingness into our daily routine is what makes or breaks us and all the fancy diners and outings in the world wouldn't fix it if that were missing.
Between the carried responsibility of parenthood, the price of date night, the expectations and the changes of romance, dates just ain't what they used to be. Most of the time, I'd rather be curled up next to him watching bad TV after putting the kids to bed. That would only require sweat pants and the remote, that sounds like my kind of date.

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