Having a baby is a bonding experience for spouses—but it can be fraught too. While it’s literally incredible to see a whole living person that was created in the image of you as a couple, the arrival of that sweet creature introduces new responsibilities. The workload explodes. Suddenly there’s no time to do anything—even shower—and the list goes on.
It’s easy to start seeing your spouse as a team member of Family Inc. (or in some cases, another to-do) and not as a romantic partner. It’s easy to lose yourself in child-rearing. It’s common to stop thinking of yourself as a woman and instead identify only as a mother. The daily drumbeat of life so easily gets in the way of a close, intimate connection with your partner. But it’s important to keep the flame alive.
I know that. I knew that. But yet, this past month in particular has been nuts. My husband had a crisis at work, so he’s been going in early and coming home late. We were both so exhausted by the end of the day that we barely had time to speak.
A night away
This past weekend, we had to go across the state to a charitable event his work sponsors. It’s been on the books for weeks, but I wasn’t looking forward to it. It meant almost eight hours in the car for one night. We had to find a babysitter we trusted for an overnight. I needed to round up something to wear. Surely it wasn’t worth the effort.
Saturday morning was a race against the clock. We had to do all the normal weekend errands (cleaners, etc) plus pack and set the babysitter up for success. My husband and I were both literally sweating from the effort before we jumped in the car to race across the state. It all felt like a hassle.
But then something happened. We cranked the AC, found a good radio station, and started chatting. It wasn’t about anything important. No talk of schedules or plans or duties. We were simply shooting the breeze. We didn’t have to manage any expectations from the backseat, make sure someone went potty, or take care of anyone but each other. It felt like the old days.
A night off
Once we got to the hotel, everything was so simple. There was no stress trying to figure out what our son would eat for dinner. No cots to set up. No unpacking to do. I drank wine while doing my makeup. Which means I put on makeup. I got dressed in real clothes—not just sporting gear. As we glided out of our room, I realized the underlying tension I carry around was gone.
Although we do “date night” from time to time, we’re always on the clock. We don’t want to get back too late for the babysitter. Plus it’s not fun to stay out late if you’re going to be awakened before the crack of dawn by a kid. Not this night. We even wandered into the bar before bed for a night cap. And then we slept in until nine. Nine, people. It was glorious. It was like we were dating.
I share this story because my night away made me realize a couple things. The first is that being the mother of a young child has made me a micromanager. Someone has to make sure that our son gets enough sleep, eats healthy food, is on time for school, is bathed, and his emotions and needs are managed. That takes a lot of discipline—both for myself and him. The results are mostly good for the family, but it’s made me a little uptight. Being chilled out this weekend made me realize I can carry the bossy mommy role into other relationships. And nobody wants to be married to bossy mommy.
The other insight? I missed my husband. I missed having that wife/girlfriend feeling. I liked relating to him as a man and not just as my child’s father. In short, it’s a relationship that shouldn’t be on the permanent back burner. Even if strong, it still needs to be tended.
I know that an overnight away in a hotel is a privilege. But if it’s possible to get grandma or auntie or a friend take the kids so you can be home alone, it is worth it. It might feel like an unnecessary effort or even a hassle, but nurturing the primary relationship—the marriage—in a two-parent family is crucial. Good moms like to have fun too…no kids allowed!