Kids change the relationship. Most entirely for the better. 35% of parents* say date nights (out) become less of a priority. As we gear up for Valentine’s Day, Katie Bugbee explores what other VDay traditions change after kids. And why one of them shouldn’t.
A few years ago I wrote a piece on the difference between the holiday season with kids – and without. And I realized Valentine’s Day has a very similar comparison for us tired -- make that exhausted -- parents who always put our kids first (and date night, last).
Here’s a round-up of Valentine’s Day then and now.. what would you add?
Non-parents: The more expensive the better. And please have them delivered to your office. You’ll never admit it, but deep down you love for everyone to know how loved you are. But if you get junky flowers, you’ll put them in your car. Loved yes, but the guy better have class.
Parents: “For me? Really?!!! Someone thought of exhausted, always-getting-puked on, never-sitting-down me?!” you think with tears in your eyes as you answer the delivery and marvel at how the littlest things actually do matter. Then you read the card – they’re for your daughter. You smile at her joy as you watch her jump with glee. Hopefully you’ll get some grocery store flowers some point this weekend. Even if you have to grab them yourself.
Non-parents: Unless it’s on top of strawberries, don’t even bother with that lame box of sugar.
Parents: You will beg borrow and steal it from your children. #russelstoverismyvalentine
Valentine’s Day Morning:
Non-parents: Morning lovin’. A day full of surprises. Date night plans have been made for months, and you have no idea where you’re going.
Parents: Morning love is a toddler’s patting your face. Rush downstairs to make sure each child’s gift is on display before they arrive (Since when did VDay become Christmas Part 2?!) Whip up a “special” heart-shaped-everything-breakfast completely unworthy of Pinterest. Ask everyone what “special” activity they want to do as a family. Sibling fights ensue. You choose ice skating. Crying ensues. After a freezing cold “fun” morning, you spend the afternoon making cookies and eating way too many of them hoping they soothe your bruised bum and numb fingertips. But not once has that loving smile faded from your face. Except maybe when your partner turned to you and said “what do you want to do tonight?” and you realized he had no dinner reservations.
Non-parents: For sure. It might be a cliché night, but what better reason to go above and beyond and show off our love for each other? Dinner reservations in the city (check). Hot new outfit (check). Unlimited budget (why not?!).
Parents: The idea is exhausting. The outfits are only hot if you’re wearing a turtleneck sweater. And the budget is limited. But if we don’t go out, what does that say about our relationship? You agree on take-out from a more exciting place (not pizza!) and a rented new release (yup, you’ll even spend $15) Over the warm sushi, you promise each other that this lack of fanfare doesn’t mean you have any less love. Then you both fall asleep mid-movie. #truelove
Parents: You’re joking right? The post-baby belly does not need lace accoutrements. Let’s call it a treat if you don’t get into your flannel jammies before 7p.m.
Non-parents: You are so full of love, you’ve sent Hallmark cards to your sister, bffs, parents and in-laws. Then you write two pages of sweet sentiments to your spouse.
Parents: You are so covered in glue, you’ve hand-crafted 25 construction paper and doily hearts for each class. Your finger tips are covered in cuts, you can barely write a sentence. Perhaps a text will do. #thumbsrule
While some of these comparisons might strike a chord, we know that the bond as parents is stronger than anything a Valentine’s Day memento could provide. But that doesn’t mean we have to give up on romance completely. Really, ladies. This is sad. We are still adorable and adored. We are still youthful and fun. And we can still have that pre-kids spark. Like a real spark, the one where you completely forget for 30 seconds that at one point that morning you had poop in your fingernails and it was all his fault. And, after a glass or wine (or more!) you are now laughing about that moment. Sure we can laugh and cuddle on the couch after we put the kids down. But we need to get away from the laundry that needs folding and the dishes that need to be put away. We need to break our routine of watching Dateline and ordering from the “fancy” takeout place. I promise you, putting on nice(r) clothes and getting out of the house makes a difference. And yes, it takes effort, but that’s what I’m here for.
Here’s what I know: I know that 85% of parents want to go out more, 88% feel more attracted to their partner after date night and 96% of parents say dates bring them closer together. But 52% say finding child care is the worst part. And 66% wish their partners would plan it.*
And, putting your duo first sometimes can actually make you a stronger partnership for the kids.
Yes, finding someone you feel comfortable leaving the kids with is a hurdle (the Date Night app from Care.com hopes to make this easier, so you can scroll through profiles on the couch, start a video interview ASAP and book dinner and/or a movie through our partnership with OpenTable and Fandango). And once you have 1-3 people you can lean on when you feel like getting a break – or recreating that spark -- it’s freedom. Total FREEDOM. Like, a fun new restaurant is getting rave reviews. Text the sitter. A friend calls and wants to double date? Let me check with our sitter. 2017 Valentine’s Day. The sitter has been booked for months.
Know what I mean?
It doesn’t have to be for Valentine’s Day, guys. Go out, enjoy yourselves. Do it for yourselves – and the kids.
Tip: I strongly recommend making the Date Night app a joint effort, scroll through the profiles together, interview together, and share calling the references. The more you’re both involved with choosing child care, the easier you both will feel about getting out. Plus, your partner will feel more comfortable booking her in the future – and 66% of moms want the plans to be made for them!
Download the app!!!!!!!
*All stats from the 2015 Care.com Date Night survey