Time Out

Last week I was chatting with one of the other moms at Hannah's school. She was venting to me about how nervous she was to be leaving her kids with a babysitter that night. I asked her if it was her first time leaving them with this sitter and she said it was the first time she had left them with ANY sitter. I paused as I comprehended what that meant. And then I asked her, "Is this the FIRST time in 4 and a half years that you've gone out without your kids?".

"Yup. Except a few times when my mom is in town."

I couldn't believe it. I asked her why and she said she doesn't trust anyone with her kids. "I just don't want to leave my kids with a random sitter."

I told her that if I didn't go out with Tim we'd never speak. He gets home just as I'm closing Hannah's bedroom door having put her to sleep, and I'm breathing my sigh of relief that now it's MY time. All I want at that time is to have my dinner (if I haven't already) and my glass of wine and enjoy quiet. Tim walks in the door and there are some nights that I give him "the hand" not wanting to talk quite yet. He wonders why the TV isn't on. How I'm just sitting on the couch with the dark screen in front of me. I crave that quiet on most nights after "dealing" all day with noise. It's the weekend nights that bring us back together. Getting outside the house, sitting across from each other with no phones, no blackberries, no computer, no TV, no interruptions... just us. Without that... I don't think we'd be very good partners right now.

She said she and her husband never really talk. They have dinner as a family (family dinner? What's that?) so the conversation is limited (beyond who the kids played with at school that day and the new song they learned). She puts her daughter to sleep and usually falls asleep in her bed with her, and sleeps there All Night. Every night. There is no time that she and her husband connect. Ever.

I am not judging at all. This seems to work for them. I asked her if she's ok with the way things are and she told me "It is, what it is. It's not what it used to be but it's what it needs to be for now." I didn't get the sense she's miserable or that her marriage is falling apart. Her life is about her family. And that's it.

So over the past week I started asking around. I had assumed every couple gets out as Tim and I do - most weekends. We also go on vacation at least once a year for a few nights without the kids. I know we're lucky to have our parents nearby to help us with babysitting but even without them we've found a few sitters who our kids love and we trust. As it turns out, we're most definitely in the minority. It seems most parents go out very infrequently and going on vacation - definitely a rarity. And they wouldn't want it any other way. Going away without their kids in many cases, just seemed wrong to them. In my head a few nights away to do the things that are IMPOSSIBLE with the kids around (sleep, read, talk, do NOTHING) is totally necessary. I know we're LUCKY we can do this (and I am unbelievably grateful for my parents and inlaws for allowing it) but in my conversations I didn't get the feeling that even if my friends COULD do it, they would. I made the mistake of saying to one of my friends, "You guys NEED to get away! It would be so good for you! I'LL watch your kids so you can do it." She disagreed and said she doesn't need to get away. She'd miss her kids and it wouldn't be worth it.

So do they put their life as a couple on hold? Are they just waiting for the day when the kids are old enough to be on their own? For when they're off to college? Is this when they'll reconnect with one another? I wonder if things would still be the same for Tim and I if we put "us" on hold. I think I might be surprised at who we'd become if we let so much time pass. Or maybe they do a better job at staying connected without the alone time. Maybe I'm doing something wrong in that I can't seem to talk about anything important or meaningful unless the kids aren't around. Maybe I should be including the kids in our dinners out and vacations away. Maybe my logic is off in that I feel they're too young to appreciate these occasions.

I'd say I'd give it a shot... including the kids in Tim and My time. But I'm not willing to do that. I'm ok with the small bit of guilt I feel driving off every Saturday night to have 2 hours over dinner and a glass (or 2 or 3) of wine alone with Tim. I'll take the awkward glances I get from people when I tell them I'm off for a few nights of vacation and leaving the kids behind. It works for me. It keeps me chugging along. And as Tim always says, "When mommy is happy, Everyone is happy."


Shaunells Hair said...

AMEN! The best advice I ever had when I had my first was GO OUT and leave them with someone else. It's the best thing you can do for yourself as a mother. I don't know how some women can do it. You win no awards never giving yourself a break. It's like not getting an epidural during labor, YOU DON"T GET AN AWARD for enduring pain!! :) Love your stuff!

BigLittleWolf said...

Every couple does not get out. And in hindsight, that's a real problem. Unfortunately, when one spouse travels extensively, the other bears the brunt of everything involved in holding down the homestead (kids, house, outside work as well, often). When traveling spouse returns, s/he wants to sit; other spouse might want to go out, but is often too tired.

Add in money & logistics for babysitting, and... right. Not a good thing.

I wonder how other couples survive in that scenario.

Even when there isn't significant travel involved, I've definitely noticed a difference in those couples who make time alone together a priority. It seems basic, but we so often forget how it all began. With time, together.

Sarah said...

Oh boy! I have much much much to say about this issue. Probably enough to fill a post of my own in fact. Were you reading back when I planned the secret weekend for Dan? Did you know that Jen and her J are having their own secret destination this weekend? It is IMPERATIVE. Date nights. A few nights away. Even just 24 hours together.

"Or maybe they do a better job at staying connected without the alone time. Maybe I'm doing something wrong in that I can't seem to talk about anything important or meaningful unless the kids aren't around."

How do you stay connected without the alone time? Even if it's just alone time in your house because you don't have the money for dinner or wine or vacations and such. Talk about important stuff with the kids around? Counter-productive and only adds to the frustration.

And...I have to say that "It is what it is" has become my least favorite saying ever. When I read it I see someone shrugging their shoulders because they HAVE to...but they are not so happy to be doing so. Find what needs to be changed. Change it. It doesn't HAVE to be any one particular way - not if you don't want to. Saying it is what it is about the electric bill I can see...but even then, really, TURN OFF THE GODDAMNED LIGHTS MORE you know what I mean???

I love this post.
Your writing is getting so great. And your ability to tell a story? I love it. I'm not a storyteller and it's one of the reasons I love coming here recently!

Anonymous said...

I am well past the age most of you commenting are with your children. My "baby," that would be #6, is 15. I have left him with older siblings as a sitter and gone out - usually #1 or #3 and occasionally #5.

All that said, I still occasionally need a reminder. A weekend or so ago, I had a friend's party to go to for dinner on Saturday night. Pizza and wine! Had a blast! The next day, the friend I took to said party took me out to dinner. We were sitting waiting for our food to come when I said I just needed to text #1 to be sure he didn't forget he was suppose to pick up #6 from the confirmation retreat. I got a snotty - don't ask how I can read tone in a text message - response that #1 didn't forget and they would somehow, he and #3, find food for dinner also. My dinner companion did ask what I was worrying about. After all I was worrying about an almost 25 year old and a 22 year old getting food. So, the mom in me still exists and still worries.

In another story, I left #1 with my sister and her roommate when he was 3 weeks old. They came to my house. My then dh, now ex, and I went to see The Kinks.

I also left same sister and roommate with #1, #2, #3 (the twins were 9 months)so I could go with then dh to KC for a vacation.

It is so totally necessary and Tim is right. If mama's happy, everyone's happy. Something I tell my kids regularly.

LZ @ My Messy Paradise said...

I would love to leave my kids more, but one of my girls has serious allergies, and I'm just not comfortable with anyone but a family member. We know we should do it more, but just haven't really tried yet.
I think your situation is so good for a marriage - good for you for making the time for yourselves.
Oh, and I'm exactly like you - when Joe comes home from work, I need my time. Just to read, chill, even pick up, but no talking, no needing anything from me. Now THAT's normal...no doubt!

Aidan Donnelley Rowley said...

What a great topic. I am with you. All the way. I need to get out. Husband and I get out twice a week, every week. I know that is a lot. I give my nanny one day off a week and instead she splits those hours over two evenings. I treasure these nights out where Husband and I actually have in-depth conversations and dream about the future together and nibble good food. Once a week, we try to get out with friends, to sustain our social life. I adore my girls. I relish the chaos. But I need the break(s). For my marriage, for my sanity, for myself.

becca said...

First let me say how ANNOYED I am that I can't reply to each commenter underneath their comment. Is this a downside of blogspot.com?

- Shaunelle - so true. I do get the feeling that some moms like saying they NEVER go out because it makes them seem stronger. Better. But there really isn't an award for "most time with kids" it's about quality, not quantity time and my time with my kids is much better quality when I have time for Tim and I too.

- BLW - good point. There are often logistical issues in getting out. Traveling spouse, money... yes, yes. But I truly believe if it's made a priority, it can happen. I think the traveling spouse is a whole other issue since they probably get so little time with the kids that it should be their priority to spend home time with them. I don't know how I'd handle that situation. I'm lucky I don't have to. As for not having money for a sitter, I'd probably save somewhere else in order to scrape together $40/week for the sitter. The time out could be on a park bench somewhere, coffee at starbucks. Nothing fancy... just time away. Then again, it IS my priority and if it isn't someone elses, my thoughts wouldn't matter much to them!

Sarah - You're right. For us it would be totally counterproductive to try to have a real conversation with the kids around. It would absolutely end in H having a meltdown because I'm not paying attention to her or because she wouldn't understand what we were talking about. And there are times that our alone time HAS to happen in the house because we can't get a sitter that night. A bottle of wine in the rarely visited living room is not quite the same but different enough to make it feel special.

I totally agree "it is what it is" is the BIGGEST lamest cop out ever. I say it to end a conversation and that's just what it does. Obviously she was saying it because she didn't have anything else to say on the topic.

momto6 - OK if YOU were able to get out with SIX kids - then ANYONE should be able to get out. I felt like I was doing one of those logic exercises trying to follow you through all those kids! I'm so impressed and I think that's what it's all about. Finding a way to make it work - which you did. And I understand worrying about your kids when you leave them. I make sure my phone is on the table at dinner, I'm able to be reached by anyone if necessary. I can't COMPLETELY shut off but the risk that my phone will ring is much smaller than the reward of getting out for a few hours a week.

LZ - I forget, what is your daughter's allergy? Hannah is deathly allergic to eggs and all nuts so I TOTALLY get the worry there. I guess I just have a level of trust that all of my sitters can handle the epi-pen, god forbid. Again, I'm lucky there. There's also very little for Hannah to get her hands on in my house that she'd react poorly to.

Aidan - So well said. This really has nothing to do with how much we care for our kids. It's not about escaping them (well, sometimes it is) but more about reconnecting with our spouses. Whether we're home all day or at work all day, there needs to be a time (at least in my life) to just be us again.

Kristen said...


I am the black sheep in my circle of mommy friends because my husband and I regularly have babysitters so that we can go out alone together. As much as I love them, the idea of "missing my kids" too much just doesn't register with me. And that notion speaks, I think, to the hyper-parenting phenomenon that seems to be infecting parents, especially mothers, of our generation. Mothering becomes our business, our justification; not being able to take a break from it is another form of workaholism.

Thanks for another thoughtful post.

Lindsey said...

You know, I know people like this too - sort of seems like the marriage just comes second to teh kids ... I guess for a while, though my fear would be that it's really hard to get it back. I guess whatever works is whatever works, but I share your general approach ... and also share your view that when mama's happy everyone's happy!

Carrie @ Who Knew? said...

You are so right. There is a huge difference in my relationship when Jake and I never go out versus when we can. We usually go out at least once a week to our ballroom dancing lessons. Which is great cos we have the time together and sucks because we can't really talk. But we always have a good time.

One thing I've noticed about being a parent is that everyone is judging you and you're usually always doing something wrong. You gotta do what's best for you and your family. But I think everyone could benefit from a night out.

Kelly @ The Miller Mix said...

We don't purposely get out without the kids, but we wind up doing it at least 2 out of 4 weekends each month ... and sometimes more.

For instance, we were talking about the local holiday parade at dinner (yes, we eat dinner as a family every night) and my 9 year old yelled out, "We don't have to stay with the sitter do we?!" That's a sign!

I feel how much love my husband when I'm not constantly distracted by my feelings for my children and the things I must do to run my household. Just stepping out and being me, with him, reminds me that he is my mountain man. Without that alone time, horrible things like resentment and frustration get between us.

I do know people who refuse to do things without their kids even though they have the ability to, but I don't understand them at all.

Debbie said...

Came over by way of Heather at EO.
We didn't go out very much when our twins were very young. But, then we were lucky and moved close to my mom and felt very confident going out. However, often we didn't want to leave them! Freaky, I know. But we did always put them to bed early and have "us" time for a few hours every night.

Summer said...

Can I just tell you that I LOVE your blog layout??? Adorable!!!

And yes, I agree on the quiet weeknights, and much needed date nights. We don't do them nearly as often as we need to, but you've motivated me to do it more!!!

Shell said...

It took a while for my husband and I to get out and about without kids. And our marriage definitely suffered from not having that time together. We make it a point now to have time for us, even though getting to go out alone happens only once a month or so, we try to make the most of it.

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