As I clean the macaroni and cheese off the floor, my shorts, and my toddler for the 12th time in as many days, all I can think about is a date night. I dream of dressing up in my fanciest outfit, heading to the nicest restaurant in town with no screaming children in tow and spending one-on-one quality time with my husband. I picture us holding hands across the table, staring romantically into each other’s eyes, kindling our love, and talking about things other than my son’s latest poop size and my stepdaughter’s swim lessons. It’s probably the most common recurring fantasy I have since I joined the ranks of the best (mediocre?) in motherhood a mere two years ago.
Planning a date night has proven to be much more difficult than Cosmopolitan made me believe as a naive teenager, mentally planning and preparing for my future with the man of my dreams. Work schedules, kid schedules, childcare issues and sheer exhaustion have rendered date nights a thing of the past. But still, I dream.
Is this what parenthood is?
When do we get time off?
Typically, we go a few months casually mentioning date nights yet never planning them. My off time is spent taking care of the kids while my husband works, and our nights consist of helping with homework assignments and giving baby baths. My desire and need for time off grows by the day but I try to contain it, knowing that the logistics of planning a date night and acquiring childcare is a near impossibility. I envy the coworkers who get to have meals with my husband at work, child-free and undivided. At some point in the whirling chaos of our lives, several months, toddler tantrums, fights with the eight-year-old over technology time and spaghetti dinners later, we both realize it’s a necessity.
“Let’s have a date night Friday,” Josh will say, and I’ll breathe a sigh of relief. We’ll contact family and friends and find anyone available to babysit our chaos and subsequently beg them to relieve us, even if just for a few hours.
When Date Night finally comes, I’ll search my closet frantically for date appropriate attire. I’ll realize nothing fits anymore since having my son (18 months ago) and vow to clean out my closet and stop dreaming that I will one day wear a size 6 again. I’ll resort to dressing up in my fanciest mom jeans and least ravioli-stained top, and we’ll head out to the nicest budget-friendly restaurant we can think of with no screaming children in tow. I’ll spend one-on-one, quality time with my husband. We’ll hold hands across the table, romantically stare into each other’s eyes, and realize that it doesn’t matter what we talk about, because we are in it together, no matter where we are. We’ll pay the check, and get home just before nine so that we can still kiss the kids goodnight and tuck them in. We’ll lay down and finish the Netflix movie we started the night before, while drifting off to sleep.
A perfect date night.
And the cycle begins again.