Date nights. Those two words might as well have been spoken in a foreign language over the past decade for all I cared. Actually that's not entirely true- I did care, it just wasn't the reality I lived in. I told myself that date nights didn't really matter and that I could live without them. But that was all just what I told myself to get by in those early years of living sleep deprived, exhausted, weary and broke.
I'm going to be real about this just in case you can relate in some capacity. Because our son has Asperger's, we faced meltdowns and some challenges that I'm pretty sure scared friends and family off on occasion- or scared me off from letting any of them "in." Because of that, we didn't tend to get a lot of childcare offers, exchanges with other friends didn't really work well as a rule, and because money was tight, we couldn't have done much in the way of date nights anyhow. So we just didn't have them.
Friday night might as well have been Tuesday night. Year after year, after year, after year. Except maybe an anniversary or two. I could tell you some crazy stories about a few of the dates we actually did get brave enough to try during some of those years. Probably half of them ended really badly. I would also tell you that I spent nearly all of those dates wrapped up in worries and fears about what was happening back at home- mainly would our babysitting help ever come back? Would they understand the things that even I didn't always understand? I heaped guilt on myself when obvious babysitter types didn't want to jump in that pool with us and give us help. Mainly because I must have been doing it so poorly that my kids didn't know how to behave and thus caused others to not want to watch them. It was a trip to crazy town, let me tell you. And it went on and on and I won't even continue. Just know it was really unhealthy on my end.
My marriage survived those years, but there were moments- thread-hanging moments of deep brokenness, when I felt like if we didn't get away from it all we'd bust into a million pieces. Those were hard days. I told a friend recently that the only thing I really needed when I had two kids in diapers and I was so confused about what was happening with my son and had more questions than answers and more exhaustion than I thought a person could handle- the only thing I needed... was to get away. That was the one thing I never got. I needed two hours in a coffee shop to gaze into my husband's eyes and somehow convince myself that we would make it whole and intact, on the other side. I needed to get away if nothing else but simply to know that there even was an "other side."
Date nights look a lot different from this stage with our older kiddos. We can rent our kids a movie, give them a pizza and say, "We'll be back in a few hours." It's nice having at teenager. And I found something out. Starting our weekend with a two hour- kid free stretch of time to regroup, talk, connect and have fun sets an entirely different tone for the coming weekend than I ever realized it could. I found out that it doesn't have to be expensive- a walk in the park at sunset is lovely- it just has to be done.
Date night matters. It matters because it helps us be "us." I don't want to forget about that relationship in the struggles and chaos of raising these kids. So I want to say this to the mama who is where I was, and date nights are a foreign concept that you long for but know you can't make into a reality. If you can't come up with some other solution like a babysitting co-op between your other couple friends...or if you can't afford the sitter and the date... or if you can't find a babysitter you trust... or if you and your spouse share opposite schedules to make ends meet and it just doesn't work.... don't give up trying to make moments count in any way that you can. And as for actual date nights... the time for those will eventually come! I'm proof of that! Soon, (okay, maybe in ten years time) you will get to leave and remember how to be a married mama again. Just don't lose hope in that connection time, and don't quit trying- just be encouraged that the season you're in right now will change at some point to make way for a new season and all that it brings. Hang in there mama.