Last week I was chatting with one of the other moms at Hannah’s school. She was venting to me about how nervous she was to be leaving her kids with a babysitter that night. I asked her if it was her first time leaving them with this sitter and she said it was the first time she had left them with ANY sitter. I paused as I comprehended what that meant. And then I asked her, “Is this the FIRST time in 4 and a half years that you’ve gone out without your kids?”.
“Yup. Except a few times when my mom is in town.”
I couldn’t believe it. I asked her why and she said she doesn’t trust anyone with her kids. “I just don’t want to leave my kids with a random sitter.”
I told her that if I didn’t go out with Tim we’d never speak. He gets home just as I’m closing Hannah’s bedroom door having put her to sleep, and I’m breathing my sigh of relief that now it’s MY time. All I want at that time is to have my dinner (if I haven’t already) and my glass of wine and enjoy quiet. Tim walks in the door and there are some nights that I give him “the hand” not wanting to talk quite yet. He wonders why the TV isn’t on. How I’m just sitting on the couch with the dark screen in front of me. I crave that quiet on most nights after “dealing” all day with noise. It’s the weekend nights that bring us back together. Getting outside the house, sitting across from each other with no phones, no blackberries, no computer, no TV, no interruptions… just us. Without that… I don’t think we’d be very good partners right now.
She said she and her husband never really talk. They have dinner as a family (family dinner? What’s that?) so the conversation is limited (beyond who the kids played with at school that day and the new song they learned). She puts her daughter to sleep and usually falls asleep in her bed with her, and sleeps there All Night. Every night. There is no time that she and her husband connect. Ever.
I am not judging at all. This seems to work for them. I asked her if she’s ok with the way things are and she told me “It is, what it is. It’s not what it used to be but it’s what it needs to be for now.” I didn’t get the sense she’s miserable or that her marriage is falling apart. Her life is about her family. And that’s it.
So over the past week I started asking around. I had assumed every couple gets out as Tim and I do – most weekends. We also go on vacation at least once a year for a few nights without the kids. I know we’re lucky to have our parents nearby to help us with babysitting but even without them we’ve found a few sitters who our kids love and we trust. As it turns out, we’re most definitely in the minority. It seems most parents go out very infrequently and going on vacation – definitely a rarity. And they wouldn’t want it any other way. Going away without their kids in many cases, just seemed wrong to them. In my head a few nights away to do the things that are IMPOSSIBLE with the kids around (sleep, read, talk, do NOTHING) is totally necessary. I know we’re LUCKY we can do this (and I am unbelievably grateful for my parents and inlaws for allowing it) but in my conversations I didn’t get the feeling that even if my friends COULD do it, they would. I made the mistake of saying to one of my friends, “You guys NEED to get away! It would be so good for you! I’LL watch your kids so you can do it.” She disagreed and said she doesn’t need to get away. She’d miss her kids and it wouldn’t be worth it.
So do they put their life as a couple on hold? Are they just waiting for the day when the kids are old enough to be on their own? For when they’re off to college? Is this when they’ll reconnect with one another? I wonder if things would still be the same for Tim and I if we put “us” on hold. I think I might be surprised at who we’d become if we let so much time pass. Or maybe they do a better job at staying connected without the alone time. Maybe I’m doing something wrong in that I can’t seem to talk about anything important or meaningful unless the kids aren’t around. Maybe I should be including the kids in our dinners out and vacations away. Maybe my logic is off in that I feel they’re too young to appreciate these occasions.
I’d say I’d give it a shot… including the kids in Tim and My time. But I’m not willing to do that. I’m ok with the small bit of guilt I feel driving off every Saturday night to have 2 hours over dinner and a glass (or 2 or 3) of wine alone with Tim. I’ll take the awkward glances I get from people when I tell them I’m off for a few nights of vacation and leaving the kids behind. It works for me. It keeps me chugging along. And as Tim always says, “When mommy is happy, Everyone is happy.”