Shevonne Hunt hosts Kinderling Conversation every weekday at 12pm.
‘Date night’ is a term I hadn’t heard before I had kids.
When it was first uttered in a sentence, I didn’t take it seriously.
Why would people who were in a monogamous, long-term relationship need to date? Surely this was some weird, ironic hipster term.
After all, dating is what you do before you’re actually in a relationship isn’t it? It’s what happens when you’re still getting to know each other and you don’t see each other every day, so you need to schedule a time and date in the diary.
Now I have been a parent for almost five years ‘date night’ has taken on a different meaning.
As a mum of two who works five days a week, I don’t have a lot of time on my hands!
Time has become a very measured substance in my life. It’s measured in drop-offs and pick-ups, office hours, washing, cleaning and cooking hours. All the necessities of life, each one involving some kind of transition time that is a harried rush from one thing to the next.
I don’t mean it to sound depressing, but there are only so many things you can squeeze into a day. And under, above and throughout all of that is my children - wanting to see them, spend time with them, feed, clothe and protect them. All of these things need to be massaged into something that works for everyone, and there’s little room for additional activities.
But one activity that has fallen out of this amazing and complicated juggle is alone time with my husband.
Adult time. And I don’t mean just "business time" (though that’s important too). I mean time spent together without children jumping on our heads and demanding ice blocks for breakfast. Time to talk, time to feel comfortable silence between us (as opposed to hostile silence, which can easily occur after a frazzled day with children).
So ‘date nights’ now define adult time.
My best friend and I were chatting recently, and she reflected on how marriage is really just the start of learning to really love someone. Anyone in a long-term monogamous relationship will tell you that it’s not easy, that it takes work.
There have been times when I’ve felt stuck. Stuck in a rut of short, terse broken conversations. Stuck in frustration and anger. My husband and I have always felt that we are good communicators, but when you don’t have time alone together, how good can your communication really be?
Our words boiled down to text messages asking when the other would be home, could you pick up some toilet paper and is it okay if I go out with girlfriends on the weekend? The spoken words were mostly questions about missing socks, goggles and shoes. Or what we were going to have for dinner.
And it took its toll. We weren’t saying the words that made us feel connected and loved. We were depleting the glue that kept us strong. It made us less inclined to hug, be affectionate, and do nice things for each other.
And so I decided it was either couple counselling or regular date nights.
Date nights were always easy to put off. We were tired and broke. It was just as relaxing to have a night in once the kids were asleep. But it’s become apparent to me that date nights are now as much a necessity for my family as food and paying the bills.
As soon as I committed to the idea, miraculously a friend at work mentioned she did regular babysitting (at a very reasonable rate). I was so excited I booked her in for the start of every month this year.
This past weekend we had our first ‘date night’. And it was everything I laughed at before I had children.
It was booked in advance, on our calendar and in our diaries. It involved getting to know each other again. We talked about the things that were bothering us (we still needed to clear the air before the good stuff!) but we also made plans for the future and how we felt about each other.
And then we went for our first swim at dusk in five years.
Alone. Together. It was totally amazing.
So this Valentine’s Day we are unlikely to go anywhere. We may (as I like to) exchange cards. And I will strongly suggest that he buys me flowers. But I feel like we’ve already started on a journey that will make us stronger, happier, and is worth way more than the money we will spend in months to come.
If you don’t already have a regular date night, I recommend that you give it a shot. Yes, it needs to be scheduled with someone you wake up next to every morning. But it’s guaranteed time together that gives you space to fall in love again.
And it’s way more fun than relationship counselling could ever be.
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