This post was republished by ScaryMommy.com on April 9, 2016, titled “Why an Elaborate Date Night Doesn’t Do It for Me.”
A date night for new parents is all about precious currency: money and time. And unrealistic expectations.
Factor in the prep and travel time – and the mental energy it takes to not obsess over whether your child, potentially hungry and/or neglected by a vodka-guzzling babysitter, is weeping into a teddy bear, drenched in snot and inconsolable tears.
Fact is, sometimes parents would rather sleep, watch Scandal reruns or take online “What breed of a dog are you?” quizzes by the quiet glow of the baby monitor.
But then there’s this “Hey you guys, go and enjoy yourselves, get CRAAAAZY, just go all apeshit out there, you hear?! It’s a RARE opportunity!!!!”
The Huffington Post did a comparison of what date night means for parents vs. non-parents. It’s funny because it’s true, which sort of makes it not funny, actually.
My man and I rarely went out before our baby turned one and by some arbitrary mark became mature enough to be babysat on day 366 of her life.
That’s when we decided to revisit our pre-baby lifestyles and devised some elaborate date nights.
Those involved everything I’d been depriving myself of for a year: dinner reservations at places with fabric napkins and without mac’n’cheese on the menu, live music (and not the library kind with “Wheels on a Bus”), outfits with real pants. Or, what the heck, perhaps even a dress, the one without “discreet and easy access to breast, any time, anywhere.” Hey, unless that’s your thing on dates.
We even splurged on a glitzy downtown hotel, once.
But every time, something didn’t add up.
For starters, I’d scan menu items in opportunity costs, quickly figuring out that ordering tuna tartare is equivalent to buying two and a half packs of baby wipes, the non-generic ones. More if you factor in babysitter pay.
The percussion at concerts seemed ridiculously loud and the gyrating backup dancers hypnotized me to sleep.
At a show of one of my favorite DJs whose establishment I’d frequented while living the single life in Washington, my mind kept drifting to mundane matters. Would Safeway coupons work at Pak ‘N Safe? Would security drag me out if I were to nap in that closet behind the bar? (They didn’t.) But that’s why you have more caffeine! More cocktails! More Red Bull! (And I mean, who drinks Red Bull these days, anyway?)
The mornings after those nights were tinged with hangovers, financial regret and an inexplicable sense that I disappointed my child, my partner and my pre-baby self.
Did I age by two decades in just a year?
After running almost exclusively in parent mode for months or years, the noise threshold takes time to build up from Baby Einstein lullabies. Same goes for drink tolerance and heels. And that’s okay.
Plus there’s that parent hyperalertness. It’s one thing to constantly watch the baby for cues and scan the environment for hazards, but try being hyperalert at a bar and your nervous system will get fried.
I found that in those early months, there are mellower ways to unwind sans baby, whether an evening walk, a movie or a trip to a neighborhood tiki bar. No shame in taking it easy to get your head above water. As they say, baby steps.