A Rare Date With My Husband and How You Can Make Kickin’ Your Kids to the Curb Every So Often a Priority in Your Marriage
I once told my husband that the only way we’d ever be able to go on a date is if we got divorced and each of us went out with someone else. I’d be his built in babysitter when I’d have the kids and he’d be mine on the weekends. Maybe that’s why so many people have affairs, because having someone at home holding down the fort makes it a lot easier for the other person to escape into a new, secret kind of world.
Forget about the noisy kids, the bills, the messy house….Let your significant other deal with that crap and go have some fun, right? Uh, no. I’ll pass on that.
Though I’ve always known how truly important it is for a married couple to spend time alone together, it was never a luxury the two of us had. My last date with my husband not only reaffirmed this truth but it also led me to rediscover a part of myself that I had knowingly abandoned a long time ago.
I can only think of a couple of times since our first child was born where my husband and I spent more than a few hours completely alone together. Even our dinner with a possible movie has been a rare occasion and it’s usually limited to our birthdays or anniversaries. In fact, I’ve probably gone out with friends of mine more than with my husband…and my friends would tell you that they haven’t even seen me in a while. It’s amazing our marriage has lasted as long as it has without that reserved grown-up time most couples have. I suppose we’ve made it this far along because we both play a part in this crazy house of ours and that craziness is our bond. However, I’m not so naïve to think the stickiness of that bond alone will keep us together forever.
If you’ve read any of my other blogs, you’d understand why babysitters are pretty much non-existent. I’m pretty sure I couldn’t afford to pay someone enough to watch our rascals. Babysitters these days expect more than minimum wage as it is and that’s for one, good kid. It’s a far cry than the two bucks an hour I was paid for watching two kids everyday when I was fourteen. Watching my kids for a few hours will leave a person feeling emotionally wrecked and physically exhausted. What’s the going rate for that? My own extended family members need, like a six-month notice, to prepare themselves for the almighty gauntlet should they agree to watch them. Of course, my family is there for emergencies, if there is a work conflict, or that special occasion dinner-thing I mentioned and I am always beyond grateful for that. Nevertheless, there is still the guilt of subjecting my loved ones to the wrath of my children for any amount of time. So you see, jetting off to some romantic tropical vacation somewhere or even just to Vegas for the weekend would be totally out of the question.
The silver lining to all of this is that my daughter is at that age now where she can start babysitting.
She’ll be twelve at the end of summer. For my husband’s birthday, we planned on taking a small day trip on his motorcycle and asked my mother and sister if they would just drop by the house in the middle of the day to make sure my kids were still alive. They did more than that, though. They packed up the kids for a day at the lake followed by a movie later on. I honestly don’t know what got into them and was a bit shocked that they would even consider such a feat. Whatever it was that made Grandma and Auntie fearless that day, I was relieved to know that at least there’d be someone there to make sure my kids wouldn’t kill one another.
Though my daughter is mature enough to babysit other people’s kid’s, I’m not so sure she could restrain herself from taking revenge on her two naughty little brothers while we’re away. The brothers that destroy her room when no one’s looking. The brothers that find her stash of candy and gobble it all up, leaving behind a heap of wrappers in her secret hiding place. The brothers that figured out how to pop the lock on her bathroom door and run away, laughing and mocking her. Tempers will undoubtedly flare and sometimes those kids get physical before I even have a chance to intervene.
The amount of fighting that goes on between the three of them blows my mind sometimes. It certainly makes me reluctant to leave them home alone for more than an hour or two, if ever. Since my husband and I desperately needed this, I was willing to take the chance but luckily, I didn’t have to. I still had some apprehension though, when I thought about how my kids might ruin a perfectly good day for my mom and sister, but at least I didn’t have to worry about household accidents or pint-sized, wrestling match pile-ups.
Of course, anytime spent with my kids is going to be tumultuous and while I did spend much of the day alone with my husband, the before and after was as rough as usual. It started out the way it always does on the weekends–enticing my kids with a privilege to get them to clean the house. It is a constant struggle to get them to pick up after themselves but it is even more difficult to get them to do actual chores. They will spend half of the time arguing about why they have to pick up something that isn’t theirs. The other half will be spent sitting in a time-out for playing or hiding in their rooms rather than doing what they were told to do. I clean up after these little piggies on a daily basis and yet, I catch grief when I ask them to pitch in on the weekend or on days I have to work. It’s amazing how much drama I have to put up with in order to teach my poor Cinderellas a bit of household responsibility.
Needless to say, the house wasn’t even close to being sparkling clean by the time they were scooped up by Grandma. But after they left, I didn’t care anymore. They were gone.
So began our escape from the daily pull of our kids and my husband and I were finally allowed to drift off into a different state of mind.
I hadn’t been on a motorcycle for at least twenty years. My husband has two motorcycles that he’s owned for four years and not once had I gone riding with him. He put a second seat-back on one of his bikes for me a while ago but then took it off once we both realized it would be ages before we ever had that kind of freedom. It wasn’t that I didn’t want to go, I just couldn’t.
That isn’t to say I didn’t have a tiny bit of fear getting on the back of a bike. When you’re a mother of three, a motorcycle looks a lot different than it did in your twenties. Not only did I picture my children becoming orphans but I also imagined what it would feel like to have my skin scraped off of my body from the hot asphalt road. How high in the air would I fly if some idiot on their cell phone wasn’t paying attention and rear-ended us? Oh, the morbid thoughts a person with anxiety can come up with is truly endless. I tried my hardest to blink them all away.
Thankfully, my husband was there to coax me through it all. He’s always at his best when he’s teaching something new to someone. He becomes this patient person all of a sudden and his confidence is always remarkably reassuring. I did enjoy riding with him even though I was still a little freaked out but I also liked being a little freaked out, if that makes any sense. I can tell you that my inner thighs and my butt have never hurt so bad, it was beyond the soreness I might feel the next day after a horseback riding lesson or a HIIT workout. Since I kept shifting and fidgeting to get comfortable, I’m thinking I may have been a bit tense to start out with. Probably because I felt like i was going to get sucked off of the back of the seat at any second.
I wasn’t a fan of the wind-lash from the freeway or briefly being behind trucks kicking gravel at my ankles but being able to wrap my arms around my husband for the whole ride was worth it. Once in a while he’d give my hand a squeeze, such a simple way to say I love you, and the one thing that really stands out the most when I look back on that day.
We rode out to Stillwater, MN, a small town along the St. Croix River that has a downtown full of little shops and restaurants. We had lunch there, along with some yummy craft beer, and strolled around kid-free until we had had enough and were ready to head back. We did a few errands together and hung out for a while until it was time to pick-up our children. It really was a beautiful day and being on the back of a bike with my husband made me feel like the woman I was when we first started dating. I wasn’t that agitated, exasperated mother moving from one event on the calendar to the next. Having that temporary freedom actually made me feel younger and more vibrant than my typical self and I realized that this was not just something our marriage needed, it was something I needed.
Motherhood is full of sacrifices but I think I’ve been sacrificing too much.
I haven’t been taking enough breaks away from my kids and it may be why I’m not always equipped to deal with them in the right way. I’m too exhausted from switching my roles from mommy to housekeeper, to chef, to nurse, and back to mommy and mommy, and mommy again. There’s no time in there for me to purely be a woman, a wife, or a friend.
I had said goodbye to my old self a long time ago when I took on parenting and all the other responsibilities that came with it. I’m only now realizing, I guess, that I didn’t have to. I’m not saying I want to start running around like some tired-out bar whore, acting way younger than I am and embarrassing myself. What I am saying is that maybe I should squeeze some room into my life to have just a little fun, be a little dangerous, and break away from the mommy role now and then.
Holy crap, am I describing a mid-life crisis??
Oh. My. Gosh. I hope not. I feel old enough as it is without needing to consider that possibility. Maybe what I’m actually reaching for here is to prevent a mid-life crisis in the future…yep, that is exactly what I’m doing.
Mid-life-crisis-possibility aside, I really enjoyed being with my husband that day. I enjoy being with him everyday but on that day, he wasn’t spending time with mommy. He was spending time with me, his wife. The whole thing was beneficial to our marriage and to ourselves. To tell you the truth, it was also beneficial to our children. It was a long enough pause to help me feel energized enough to jump back into the ring with my kids.
And I certainly did jump right back in–the second I picked them up from Grandma’s house.
After a quick recap of our days, my daughter and I got into it and whoa, did she go extreme hormonal on me. The two of us mix it up quite frequently and it sort of works out that she’s more of a daddy’s girl and the two boys will usually gravitate towards me. Miss Tweeny’s attitude was so atrocious to me that night, that it even shocked my mom who has always played mediator when we’re having mommy-daughter issues. The attitude started the whole thing but then my daughter went on a tattle-telling rampage, telling Grandma how much of a horrible mother I am to her and how I treat the boys so differently. Maybe I do, but I think it’s because (unlike my princess) while I’m talking to the boys, they don’t say “uh-huh, yeah, hmm” with a ghetto, wobble-head attitude topped off with an eye roll. Clearly, we have issues to resolve here. Let that be for another day…
In the meantime, panicked screams echoed down the hall from my eight year-old son.
I followed a trail of blood droplets on the floor leading to my son in the guest bathroom. He was clutching his nose in the middle of what looked like a murder scene. No joke. There was blood splatter all over the sink, mirrors, toilet, floor and walls. My mom’s pretty hand towels were completely blood-soaked. Tears were streaming down my son’s face while incoherent words were streaming out of his mouth.
After pinching his nose with some direct pressure to get it to stop and when his speech became more intelligible, we were able to learn that my mom’s new wall color wasn’t from an intruder pummeling my kid in the face with a baseball bat. Nor was it due to a bite from an over-zealous vampire. It was a simple nose-bleed that he bravely tried to handle by himself. He attempted to fiercely blow the blood out of his nose into Kleenex and the explosion that followed, scared the hell out of him. So, welcome back to motherhood…and pass the bleach.
As I loaded my tired kids into the car, I tried not to be bitter about the way my lovely day had ended. It is what it is. I was still thankful for having that time away because it was the glistening light that gracefully fell between the shadows. On any other day, those circumstances would have become the straw that broke the ugly camel’s back or the rotten cherry on top of my nasty sundae. But that didn’t happen. There was a sense of tranquility under the surface of my annoyance towards my kids that night. I think it’s because deep down, I knew that this rare date with my husband didn’t have to be so extraordinary anymore. My chickens are getting older now and that opens up more possibilities for mommy to periodically fly the coop.
What have I learned and how exactly do I plan to bail out of mommyhood now and then?
I’ve learned that 2-3 hours away doesn’t always cut it. Don’t get me wrong, I plan on taking it whenever I can get it. However, if you’re always watching the clock because time is limited, it’s like a countdown to Chernobyl. Scheduling in a longer block of time is necessary in order to reap the full benefits of playing parenting hooky.
A day trip or a full night out on the town should do the trick. I have a night out scheduled with friends AND my husband to go to a Kid Rock concert this summer. We planned it a while ago and it’s still two and a half months away but I’m totally looking forward to it. It’s in my planner, we are going, and that’s that.
If you’re not big on babysitters sittin’ in your private dwelling, like we are, I’ve learned that it’s worth it to do some research and find places that offer a Parents Night Out so you can breathe for a few hours. Our gymnastics gym holds these types of nights once or twice a month where the monkeys can swing, swim, play games and eat pizza. My husband and I work on a lot of those weekends so it doesn’t always pan out for us. I plan on keeping track of when these nights are offered though, so on the occasion that it does work, we’ll be ready. I know that there are some churches that also put on similar things like that for parents, so it’s worth looking into.
My baby is finally entering kindergarten next year which, of course, is always bitter sweet. The sweet part is that all three of my kids will be in school for a full day, five days a week! This will be a great time to squeeze in some lunch dates with the hubby. When he’s not available, where my girls at?! (i.e. my few devoted friends that have yet to discard our friendship even though we never hang out).
During the summer months, we like to stay at resorts in the Brainerd Lakes area. I found that the best resorts are those that offer kid camps during the day where you can chill at the beach with a margarita (or two, or three…) and you don’t have to pick up those sand-kicking, water babies until the late afternoon. We plan on staying at Grandview Lodge in Nisswa, MN again this year because it is a beautiful resort but also because it has this particular perk. I went there with my parents and my kids last year but my husband wasn’t able to join us because of work. He will be with us this year and I am super stoked about all of the fun and relaxation we’ll have together without our kids. Grandview’s Kid’s Club has that perfect combination of guilt-free selfishness that makes me drool when I think about it.
Those are just some of the ideas I’ve come up with in order to make more dates with my husband become a reality. I do not have butt-loads of money to hire expensive babysitters or a nanny nor can I afford to take week-long vacations twice a year to tropical resorts with built-in babysitters like Beaches. If I did, I’m guessing the whole “date night thing” would naturally be a more frequent occurrence anyway and I wouldn’t be writing about that one time I got away from my kids, would I?
The truth is, we sacrifice a lot for our kids to go to a private school on top of me working minimally so we can avoid the “daycare mortgage payment.” After monthly expenses and making sure our kids have what they need, we are pretty much tapped out. If you are a regular, middle-of-the-road kind of family like we are, you’ve probably put many things on the back burner yourself in order to give your kids different opportunities to grow and learn.
Sometimes parenting takes over your whole life, but it doesn’t have to.
Even if you are a single parent with one kid but you’re limited to the amount of people that can help you out, it’s still possible to nurture yourself along with your relationship. Not every parent out there is well-stocked with grandparents that would prefer to raise your kids on their own if only you’d let them. Not every parent has an abundance of money to hire sitters to their hearts content. But, that doesn’t mean you have to roll over and allow your relationship to be put on hold until all of your kids graduate high school.
I had accepted that fate for such a long time because I couldn’t see a way out. My marriage had been doing fine but the need to spend time with my husband kept gnawing at me. At some point, that need was finally at the forefront of my mind and I had to do something about it.
Why do we even allow ourselves to feel trapped in the first place? Why do so many of us slowly lose ourselves to our kids? We see the barricades in front of us and instead of trying to find a way through them, we shrug our shoulders, turn around and head back the way we came. We have come to accept that this is just the way it is when you’re a parent. And we love being parents. We love our kids to pieces and we figure that that’s the price we have to pay.
There are some parents out there that seem to have it all and they are able to paint the town together whenever they feel like it. Getting a break from their kids is as simple as clicking the heels of their ruby red slippers together. They lucked out, we didn’t. We get what we get and we don’t throw a fit, right? So wrong! The truth is, it was possible for us to escape all along. All it really took was some thinking outside of the box and the desire to do it in the first place.
When you realize this, that’s your cue to get creative.
- You have to look for those hidden opportunities that you may not have even noticed before. Recognize that as your children move through the different stages of childhood, new opportunities for freedom will open up to you. Find them!
- You might have to schedule things months in advance in order to set up babysitting or fitting it into your work/life schedule. Schedule them!
- You might want to buy yourselves gift cards to restaurants ahead of time so when it works out, you have your date money ready to go. Even if money is not an issue, having those gift cards around will remind you to set up your date in the first place, so buy them!
- You might have to do a little research and planning to find places that entertain your kids for a while without you having to be in the same building. Hello, Google.
- You might be lucky enough to live in a city that has drop-in daycares where you pay by the hour. I found that out by desperately searching online for one once, only to sadly learn that the place I had found was in Florida. Unfortunately, I’ve never been able to find a reputable place near me. Why do you have to be so difficult, Minnesota?
We’ll go to the ends of the earth for our children so how about we go there for ourselves for once. Perhaps you already do and I guarantee you are better off for it. If at one time or another, you felt your marriage was imprisoned by your children but you were able to find clever ways to break free, please share what you did! Everyone has their own unique situation and what may prevent one couple from getting out alone together may be totally different from what prevents another. Therefore, all advice would be greatly appreciated! Above all, relish your time going AWOL on your kids because if you’re like me, you inevitably will be returning to the loony bin.