This weekend Drew and I are getting away alone together for the first time in well over a year and a half. We took a handful of overnight trips alone together in the years after we had Jackson but before Joanie was born and found that even 30 hours away helped us reconnect and remember why we fell in love with each other in the first place. When you have little kids, it’s a challenge to maintain that connection in the midst of the grueling and exhausting work of parenthood, but it’s so important.
Getting away for a weekend is a big splurge for us — we don’t have family nearby enough to leave the kids with, so we have our longtime babysitter, whom we love and trust, stay with them, and, while we know the kids are in great care, that doesn’t come cheap. Add to that the transportation cost (we don’t have our own car), and lodging cost, and suddenly a day and half trip is costing what we would have spent on a multi-day vacation pre-kids. But it’s worth it, and, obviously, we don’t do it all the time. (This trip in particular is a special occasion because we’re celebrating my birthday a little early; in the future, we hope to get away for an overnight trip maybe twice a year.) A few other ways that we work on maintaining our relationship through these early parenthood years:
1) Though we normally eat dinner together as a family, which I think is really important and which we’re super lucky to have the kinds of schedules to allow, it’s nice every once in a while to feed the kids and then have a parents-only dinner a little later after they’re in bed. To be able to sit at a table together, taking our time eating and not having to compete over the whines of “I hate broccoli” or whatever, feels so luxurious, and, even though it’s not a true date, just having that quiet time to ourselves does make a difference.
2) Obviously, true dates make a difference, too! We were on a roll for a while, getting out every few weeks, but this summer has been a busy one and the last time Drew and I got out alone together was at the beginning of July when my sister was visiting and we snuck out one evening for an hour or two while she babysat. We haven’t even properly celebrated our anniversary yet, which is kind of sad (it was a month ago tomorrow), so, clearly, this weekend away together will be well-appreciated. Once Jackson’s back in school and our schedules normalize a bit and our summer travel is over, I’d like to get back to having dates every 2-3 weeks, even if it’s just a quick happy hour drink on a random Thursday.
3) Random weeknight dates totally count! Our longtime sitter, who watches Joanie (and sometimes Jackson) three mornings a week, has an afternoon gig in the neighborhood that she’s done with at 6 every weekday evening. Sometimes I ask her to come babysit after that for like 90 minutes, and she gets the kids to bed while Drew and I have a quick dinner or drink down the street. It works out for all of us because our sitter is already in the neighborhood and so she’s not making a special trip out for a short job, and we don’t have to pay a big babysitting fee to feel like we got a little break and change of pace and some time alone together. When we get home, the kids are going to sleep and we still have the rest of the evening to Netflix and chill.
4) We don’t do this too often, but every once in a blue moon, when Jackson’s in school and Joanie’s with the sitter, Drew will take the day off work and he and I will have a nice morning together, strolling around the neighborhood, having a leisurely brunch. I imagine doing this more often once Joanie’s in school full-time, too, and paying for a babysitter isn’t part of the deal. We haven’t done this yet, but I think seeing a movie together in the middle of a weekday would feel like the height of indulgence.
5) Occasionally we do the things we did when we first started dating that we don’t have much time for anymore. Like bike-riding! Back when we first met and I lived in Chicago, one of our favorite things was when Drew would come visit me and we’d ride bikes all over the city together. Once I moved here, we didn’t do that as much because Manhattan just isn’t as biker-friendly as Chicago is. And then once we had kids, it pretty much stopped completely save for maybe one or two times we managed to squeeze in a random bike ride. This weekend we’re staying at a B&B that has bikes, and I’m really excited to ride around the nearby vineyards together. Another thing we did a lot when we were first dating that always brings me back to that time in our lives when we have a chance to do it is karaoke-ing. It’s been ages and ages, though, so I think it’s time we made a karaoke date. I like renting a small, 2-person room in one of the weird little karaoke bars in Manhattan during happy hour, when they’re half-priced and empty, and singing our hearts our for an hour. It’s like the rest of the world and all our responsibilities and various stresses don’t even exist. Plus, there’s nothing quite like hearing Drew belt out some Merle Haggard over a $3 Sapporo.
If you’re a parent, what do you do to maintain your relationship with your partner (if you have one)? And if you’re in a long-term relationship without kids, what do you do to keep the spark alive?