I went out on a date with my husband this weekend to a Live/Counting Crows concert. The music was great – I hadn’t been to an outdoor rock concert in almost twenty years. We hired a sitter who we’ve had over before, but not regularly. She’s super competent and the kids love her, so I walked away without batting an eye. As I was chilling at the concert, it occurred to me that I’ve lost that guilt of leaving the kids. And I remembered the time when it was a very stressful, concerned feeling to walk out the door. The time when it felt impossible to have everything ready for the kids and to get myself ready and to actually walk out without someone having a fit. So, I reflected on that time and have some random thoughts below.
I was in MOPS for a long time (Mothers of Preschoolers) and now I’m in MomsNext, which is for moms with kids elementary-aged through high school. Each table had a mentor mom – a women who had kids in college or older. I remember the mentor moms in MOPS encouraging us young moms to get away without our kids. To keep dating our husbands. And I could see their point. Yes, I desperately wanted to wear something that wasn’t stained with markers or boogers. Yes, I wanted to go out and have a conversation with my husband. But how? The logistics of it were exhausting to even think about.
When you have the littles, budgets can be tight and babysitters can be scarce. And no matter how much you want to make plans to get out, you usually just end up falling asleep on the couch surrounded by toys that make too much noise. And then the next day starts it all over again!
Instead of a couple, you and your husband become a team – dividing chores and supervision of the spawn – which is cool. It’s good to work as a team, but there’s always this danger of slipping into co-workers or co-habitants. You can become two people living under the same roof, coordinating schedules and tag-teaming domestic disaster management.
Which can all work really well in the moment, except one day, sooner than you can imagine, the kids are going to grow up and move out and you are going to wake up next to a stranger. And yes, you and said stranger will have achieved this huge accomplishment of raising little people into, hopefully, contributing members of society. But just as becoming parents can feel like a loss of identity as a couple or as a professional, there will be a loss/change of identity when the kids move out. Your lives won’t be defined by doctors’ appointments and team schedules. Grocery shopping for a ravenous teen army will become dinner for two again. And if you haven’t invested in your relationship with each other during the parenting years, you’ll be starting over.