We had to think about it for a moment. Then we remembered: it had been four years since my husband and I took a trip together, just the two of us. How time flies, just like we were, taking an early morning flight to Boston. It’s not like we haven’t had the occasional “date night” but there’s something about the freedom a couple has when they can do things on their own schedule for more than a few hours at a time.
Author Ayelet Waldman (Bad Mother: a Chronicle of Maternal Crimes, Minor Calamities, and Occasional Moments of Grace, 2009) found herself on the defensive when she announced she “loved her husband more than her children.” It’s a gutsy statement. And one that certainly found her receiving flak (and televised interviews) for it. But it does stir some musings on parenting and also tending to the relationship that gave us this most important privilege in the first place.
I love my children. I love my husband, too. I can’t reduce my love for all of them to a math problem, putting a “greater than,” “less than,” or “equal to” symbol between them. It’s comparing apples to oranges, sizing up a love story that began decades ago to a love that wouldn’t have happened without it. My love for my three kids and my husband are simply not the same. Nor is my love for them finite; love truly “knows no boundaries.” I don’t have a set amount to give and when it’s gone, I stop loving. The love keeps on flowing.
But dang, sometimes I just need to be with my hubby. No kids. No interruptions. (BTW, I’d be more than happy to expound on this point in a tv interview. Just sayin’.)
Anyway, a few years ago a pediatrician who spoke at my parenting group said:
Look, you and your significant other need evening time together for discussion and connection. So the kids need to be in bed!
If parents ever needed permission to take time together, this is a green light for sure.
I realize taking a trip is not the same as enforcing a strict bedtime, but in the end both accomplish that much-needed space for Dad and Mom to take care of their relationship. We parents need a chance to connect on matters of the family, watch a movie (our latest: Dr. Strange), discuss politics (guilty as charged)….and if that involves a whole other locale, awesome. Because, as my husband often says,
When the kids leave home, it’s just going to be us.
We don’t want to look at each other the day we leave our youngest at college and wonder, “Who are you?” Sadly, this does happen to couples who overlook the need for connection during the years the kids are at home. They forget about their own relationship with each other and it suffers, sometimes for years, and sometimes without repair.
So my husband and I take that rare opportunity to travel together. I think of Uncle Max’s comment to the Nazis in The Sound of Music, “How many men do YOU know who communicate with their children while they’re on their honeymoon?!”, said in response to the incredulity that Georg and Maria hadn’t been in contact with their children for a month. Yes, that’s rather extreme. But in the age of cell phones, my husband and I could and did have daily contact with our children. I sent them pictures of our adventures, of things I thought they’d enjoy. And kids need the reassurance of knowing where Mom and Dad are, and importantly, that they aren’t forgotten. But the quiet dinners, strolls through parks, and the time in the health club were Mom and Dad’s. We needed this time together, which was hard for our kids to comprehend. But someday, they will understand that we took time away because we love them. When we take care of our relationship, we are better parents.
So take that date night. Take a mini-break. Your kids will (someday) thank you for it.