Sunday, November 8, 2009

Letting go of date night

I am sure I'm not the only working mother who's aware of the constant drumbeat of criticism disguised as advice for working parents that appears in such august publications as the New York Times. (In fact, the NYT is responsible for a good chunk of the "out-of touch-with-reality-Upper-East-Side" style of journalism I'm talking about). The stories range from women who "opt out" of careers in favor of staying home with children to a recent gem about how yelling at your kids scars them for life.

The general message of these stories to working parents is: You're doing it wrong. And as a working parent, I'm always annoyed with myself after reading the latest installment of Guilt Trip, but I read these articles every time.

The latest Must for Every Marriage proclamation is the idea of Date Night. You have to find time for each other! Get a sitter and go out etc etc. If you don't, you're not valuing your marriage and you may as well just get divorced now.

For awhile, I bent over backwards to try to arrange dates with my husband. Eleven years in, I figured the 5-year-old could be left with the grandparents for an evening now and again. It proved a mostly frustrating ordeal; they were never quite the idealized romantic evenings I envisioned, since we were looking at the clock constantly, and trying to cram a week's worth (or longer) of conversations we never got around to into a three-hour span. And we usually ended up talking about the kid at least half the time anyway.

I was SO GLAD, then, to read this author's excellent piece in the Boston Globe on how hard it is for him and his wife to arrange a date night. I realized that we're already altering date night to fit our schedules: when my husband had an unexpected day off from work recently he scheduled the whole day around meeting me for lunch.

We had such a nice time, much nicer, even, than the few date nights we'd managed to cobble together. I didn't realize how much I missed just enjoying his company over a meal someone else had prepared (and would clean up) without having to make sure all water glasses were centrally situated on the table to avoid spills.

So I'm officially ending my efforts to arrange date "nights." I think we'll figure it out-- after all, as the Globe writer puts it, that's what vacation days are for.