[I received an email and thought I’d share it with you as well as the resulting article that ended up being published in the magazine.]
E-mail: I’m a journalist writing a feature for a British magazine called Real. The feature is telling women how to ‘reclaim their evenings’. The basic premise is that pre-kids evenings are spent catching up with friends over a pizza, wallowing in a warm bath, or sipping wine in front of a movie on the TV. Post-kids it’s supervising homework, loading the washing machine, planning a week’s menus, getting school uniform ready, etc. Do you have any quick tips for today’s stressed out working mother as to how she can reclaim a couple of evenings a week? I’d love to hear from you.
I Can’t Go On A Date; I Have Children!
Yes you can! You can go on a date, out to lunch, or just take a half hour looking through stores. It all comes down to scheduling time. When “;my” children were little, it was easier believe it or not. There wasn’t the arguing over where we were going or what plans we had, like there can be with older children. When children are little, you plan, you go and they have to go with you.
Oh there is always going to be the “one” child who might whine. But overall, if you know how to manage your errands while you have children, then it’s not too hard. (But that’s an article for another time.) So when families with young children schedule their day, week, or month, they should make it a point to schedule in “FUN TIME” and “DATE NIGHT.” I’ve been having date nights with my husband for about 15 years. Sometimes we schedule them every Friday night. Sometimes we can only schedule them once a month.
Parents with young children should plan a date night at least once a month, even if it’s just going out to a nice restaurant, then returning home. You don’t realize how much you need it until you do it. And some people don’t realize how much BOTH spouses need it until they aren’t talking anymore. I remember when my children were young, my husband and I made a deal not to complain about anything on date night. We were only allowed to talk about good things that made us happy during our day or neat things the kids did. Parents, you need to get away from poopy diapers, whining, and children asking for things for a short time now and again. It’s SO important!
Like I wrote in one of my other articles, “Scheduling depends on the phase of life you’re in.” I think it’s harder for parents to schedule dates with each other when the children are between the ages of newborn to 11 yrs. Parents usually don’t want to leave a newborn at all. They’re afraid to leave a toddler (13 mos. – 3 1/2 yrs.), because those are the very curious years and taking your eyes off of them for one minute could mean danger. The next age group, 4 – 6 years, ask so many questions and still wonders why they can’t go with mommy and daddy after they’ve been answered, and then sometimes even throw temper tantrums. After that the price to raise kids starts to wear on parents and they think that they need to save the money. I knew parents who would say that they aren’t supposed to go out until the kids are older.
Now these are complete generalities. Obviously there are some who won’t fit this profile. But after 16 years of raising my own three children and about 14 plus other children over an 8-year period, I’ve seen a lot. While working for the school district I heard so often from the preschool parents that they were too tired to go out. I personally have teenagers and can leave on a date whenever I choose.
I’m sure you’ll read this and say, “Sure, it’s easy for her to say, “Take a night off.” and “Her kids are teenagers.”” Remember, it took thirteen years before my children were old enough for me to leave alone. So when they were young, I made it a point to schedule in at least one night a month to go out with my husband or girlfriends. With the kids being teens now, it just makes it easier to be spontaneous. What it really comes down to, whether you think so or not, is that you as a mother need to take a night away from your children to have a little “me” time, whether it be with your husband or your friends.
Everyone goes through those spurts where they either want to sit or break out! Now, more often than not, my husband and I are so tired from work that we’d rather just stay home and have a quiet night with the kids. So, one night a week we rent movies or watch old ones and eat in the family room. Most weeks, we take Friday night as our date night, because after sixteen years of having kids, we’ve come to realize that at least once a month we need to take a break.
I HAVE noticed that our friend’s kids are either older than ours, or younger. Most of the time they are younger. So they don’t want to get a baby- sitter. It’s a money issue. To go to their home isn’t fun because we have to deal with their children while we’re on a date.
One solution I have found is to try to set up date nights with my spouse “in advance.” Then I’ll call some friends and try to plan far enough in advance that they can set aside that time as well.
However in this new era, it’s getting harder and harder for everyone to plan time together. I’m finding that many of my friends work opposite schedules from their spouses. When they are finally home at the same time as their mate, they want to spend an evening alone. So another solution is to actually send an invitation to the couple you would like to go out with. This seems to work more often than not. Make sure to give two to three weeks notice. There’s always one person who doesn’t mind doing the planning. Sometimes you have a friend for years and the two of you can somehow manage to plan something even more fun with 4 or more couples. Either way, make it FUN! Let your friends know how to dress, where you’re going and how many others you’re planning on inviting. The comedy hour nights I went to with my husband were one of my favorite date nights. I LOVE to watch my husband laugh.
Again, it takes planning ahead of time. And that’s why the age of day planners has come full circle. I have hundreds of customers who haven’t ordered for 2-3 and sometimes up to 5 years. They call and say, “I stopped using my planner a while back. But I need to start scheduling again and getting more organized.” They’re finding that they need to carry their “portable brain” (as my friend calls her Busy Woman Planner).
Just a thought for those mothers that are compulsive like me and feel the need to have the house spotless, the laundry does not “always” need to be done. Every now and again you can leave dishes in the sink. It’s perfectly fine to let something sit an extra day. It’s ok! You are allowed to take a break.
Life has become too fast paced now and we need help. Whether you carry an electronic or paper planner. Find some help and take that night off.