“So, do you and Sam go out a lot then?” has to be one of the questions I most dread as a parent. Not because I don’t want to be spending time with my darling OH, but because we are quite simply *rubbish* at making it happen. Whilst I’ve never really cared about being judged as a mum, suddenly I feel as if my relationship is being put under (a probably fairly grubby, if it’s in our household) microscope. “We make sure we go out every Saturday night for a really nice dinner either with friends or alone so we stay close as a couple and have a social life” one colleague proudly once told me. I think the furrows in my forehead grew significantly deeper that day.
I suppose because we have a fairly relaxed approach to parenthood, it seems to just happen that our kids are around a lot and as a result, Sam and I don’t really get much ‘us’ time. Months go by and we’ve not stepped foot out the front door just the two of us without clinging on to a child (and accompanying 18365929 other items.) 99% of the places we go, we just seem to just take the kids along too – on a holiday to celebrate our anniversary, traveling, to a festival… You name it, the monkies are there. To give you an idea, we spent New Years eve drinking champagne (us), in onesies (them), dancing (all) at home, with the kids.
But there’s more reasons why our nights out are few and far between; there is the dreaded issue of finding a babysitter (we have one lady we know who babysits but well, turns out she has a life and isn’t always available), the *right* one at that (OK, so she – because they usually are – can put a toddler to sleep but can they bath a baby?), the cost (a night out is expensive and clock watching ain’t that sexy) and not to mention the actual content of the date (I seem to want to try a gazillion different restaurants the rest of the year but when that one time comes to choosing for that all important date night out, your mind goes blank). All in all, it’s an added pressure that seems just well, easier to shy away from than embrace.
Recently though, we’re trying to shake things up on this front. Not because we ‘need’ to but because ya know what, we WANT to. Two kids in, nearly three years of having this monumental responsibility of solely caring for two human beings, we want some time off. Kids, we’ve got news for you: we’re outta here (for a limited time period only – say 3 hours every week?)
Although I hate the word, it seems apt here because to achieve this result, I’ve come to realise there is a set of behaviours that is going to help us reclaim some parental – one buggy-free step at a time -freedom. So, here’s how we’re doing it:
- We’re ditching date night – by this I mean that instead of putting pressure on ourselves to find the perfect restaurant or show, we’re opting to do uncomplicated, inexpensive things that don’t necessarily leave us hungover or sleep deprived (if Sam suggests going to the theatre, I can’t help but start to calculate potential loss of sleep hours). So for example, we went out for brunch last weekend somewhere local and just sat, sipped hot coffee and read the newspapers together. Reading a newspaper together at the weekend is something Sam and I used to love doing and which just doesn’t happen these days – but turns out, it makes the perfect ‘date’. It was simple and delicious and best of all, we were back within 3 hours and ready for the day ahead with the sprogs.
- We’re multitasking – by that I mean that we’re using the juggling skills we’ve honed as parents to combine loves in our lives. So for example, yoga is a huge passion of mine so we go to yoga classes together as a way to both spend some time together and also do some downward dogs. Next up, will be tennis…. Similarly, if food is your thing, why not go to an cookery class together with the other person getting to choose what they’d want to do the following term. Also, classes tend to be quite short so you can be back home before you know it – our yoga class is the perfect length at an hour so we are back home quickly but feel refreshed (and exercised) too. Becuase anyway, just because you’re together it doesn’t mean you have to actually talk to each other!
- We’re committing to it – by this I mean that we’re making time spent alone together a regular occurrence. So yoga happens once a week, every week, and unless something at work comes up for Sam, it is a fixture in our diary that we honour and look forward to. Similarly, if going out for a meal is your thing, put it in the diary to happen once a month. Set those dates in advance, and respect them.
- We’re being smart – and by that I don’t mean we’ve signed up to learn a new language. Nope, we’re just trying to use the time we do have better. We are a zero routine family you see so timings are extremely flexible and we tend to go slow on most things. So, bath and bed is a very relaxed affair but it can also be a pretty long one which isn’t conducive to catching up with each other at the end of the day. So we’re doing our best to kick start things a little earlier and make bath time and bed time shorter and faster in order to max our evenings out (and finally get through one episode of Fauda)
- We’re committed to finding more babysitters and not just relying on one person. Our new go to resource for this is Bubble which is simply brilliant. I’m all about the connections and recommendations through word of mouth (wasn’t Instagram invented for this?) so what I love about this app is that it finds you a babysitter that someone you know knows. So once you enter your basic requirements, it surfaces babysitters and using Facebook, shows you all the mutual connections that you have with that person. For example, I could see that one of the babysitters was actually connected to my best friend and after a quick phonecall to my friend, it turned out they worked with each other. You then select which babysitters you’d like (remember that thing about babysitters having lives too?), each person will then receive an alert and the first person to respond gets the gig. Above and beyond the personal connection, each babysitter has a review and sets their own price. Talking of price, you know that awkward thing when you come home 25 minutes before the hour is up and don’t quite know if paying your babysitter a bit less is OK? With this app you just clock in and out when you leave and come back and pay (through the app – so no awkward searching when you are slightly tipsy for a £20 note). This app works, people, it really works, and I can’t see us going back to any other service.
So those are the five ways we’re trying to get some time in our lives, just for ourselves without the minis, as much as we do love them. Having low expectations, tapping into each others’ hobbies, being speedy at home and finding an awesome babysitting app are all total game changers not to mention the actual ‘commitment’ to the goal in hand.
Do you and your partner spend time together away from the kids? And I’d love to know what you tend to get up to when you do? Leave me a comment below and I’ll get back to you.
Thanks as ever for reading,
This post is in conjunction with Bubble. To download Bubble (which I recommend you do), head over to http://joinbubble.com/download-app/