Being Us

Parenthood is amazing–don’t get me wrong.

But one of the hardest thing about becoming parents is that, naturally, your married life –and identity as a couple — changes.

Lots has been written about women becoming moms and men becoming dads, but aside from marriage counseling-type books (that assume there is a problem), there isn’t a ton out there explaining the how and why things change … and how we can work to ensure our marriage doesn’t take a backseat to parenthood.

Because all too often, you hear about that happening … and, now nearly two years into parenthood, I can see why/how it does: sometimes it seems everything ends up being about the kid(s) and, in many ways … that makes sense. Hello, we’re PARENTS! Of COURSE life changes!

But there was also an “us” before kids, right? And sometimes I think we need to be reminded of that.

Fortunately, we had six years together as a couple before we got married — plus four married years by the time we had Maya. And in those ten years, we had pretty much done most of the things we had wanted to before having kids.

Between getting Rocco and then becoming parents, the whimsical nature of our existence has all but vanished. Gone are impromptu movie dates, dinners at nice restaurants, random overnights in Chicago, or crazy weekend-long international trips. But it’s OK; we had that — and still can/do.

What’s different now is we need to plan ahead. Without family near by, we need to arrange for a sitter, kennel, etc. So we end up doing lots of stuff as a family — we go to the playground, take walks, BBQ, go on bike rides, go out to eat, etc … and then once a month plan a date night, just for us.

As with all relationships, there is some ebb and flow. My mom and wife hats are ever-present, but because Maya is so young, I feel like I naturally need to wear my mom hat first most of the time; there’s a lot of flow there. But I’m still a wife, and that’s an important role, too. And though I usually think we’re doing a good job of balancing it all, I feel I’ve been doing a little too much ebbing lately (i.e., putting parenthood above marriage instead of being on the same plane).

Which brings me to today: Date Day.

We had initially planned to take today off work as a family day, but we’re going home to NJ for the long Labor Day weekend so we will have lots of family time then and are likely going to go up north at some point this fall and I’ll be taking the Jewish holidays off … so the more we thought about it, we realized this was a perfect opportunity to have a daytime date. A day that didn’t revolve around nap-time and snack-time and play-time. Meals out that didn’t involve sippy cups and barely-touched food thrown all over the place and a little voice whimpering, “DOOOOOOOWN” to get out of her high chair four minutes after we sat down (oh yes, for as awesome a little traveler/diner as she is … we have entered THAT phase!). A leisurely day to be “us” again.

A nagging voice in my head said, Isn’t it selfish to take the day off and NOT spend it with your child, the child you say you miss allllll the time when you’re at work???

But I quelled that voice quickly. It’s not selfish; we need time together as a couple, too. Our marriage — and relationship — is important. And we need to treat it as such.

We could not have asked for a better day. It was picture-perfect. Temps in the low 70s, sunny, blue-skies. We went out to breakfast and then drove through the countryside to the adorable harbor town of Saugatuck, Mich., where we walked around, poked our heads into shops that would have been off-limits with Maya, had lunch outside overlooking the water, and treated ourselves to delicious ice cream cones (sea salt caramel for me; black cherry for him) before heading back to get Maya from school an hour and a half earlier than a usual day. When we got home we played outside with Rocco til everyone was zonked.

It was a fantastic day and something we will do again. Sure, we definitely talked about Maya and missed her immensely– especially seeing parents with strollers or a dad toting his baby or a mom holding a her big-girl’s hand while they crossed the street. But it was also nice to be able to have good, uninterrupted conversation for much longer than a typical date night would have been.

Yep, I’d say this was one of the best Mondays I’ve ever had!

How about you? How do you make time as a couple? Do you ever take a date day? Do you feel guilty?

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