I was having a clear out the other day when I found a maternity leave ‘bucket list’ I’d written some time ago. I had to laugh. Else, I might have cried.
Funnily enough homeschooling, full time virtual working and trying not to catch a deadly virus did not feature on my maternity leave vision board. And the further away all that gets, the weirder it seems – anyone else finding that? What even was that crazy time we all lived through / are still living through? What that time was not ideal for was romance and doing fun things as a couple. My husband Ben and I are fortunate to enjoy each other’s company (also read, we have a garden to scream into when this wares out a bit) and we pulled together well as a team during the lockdowns, though I will say there was a notable difference between lockdown one and two, by which point we had reached a whole new level of ‘over it’ to say the least.
So with our optimistic hats on, we pinned 2022 as the year our relationship would be elevated to the top of the priority list. With the focus of the last couple of years on keeping things light and fun for the older kids as well as adjustung to a new baby, getting our sleep back and dealing with the realisation that we were returning to the toddler years (wtf were we thinking?!) it was time an increase in us-time. Afterall this is not only good for us but good for the whole family.
When you enter adulthood and specifically those parenting years, the term ‘date night’ starts to creep into conversations with other couples gladly advising that, ‘you have to regularly date again, to, you know? Keep it fresh’. And maybe it’s just how my brain works, or maybe it’s my relentless Aquarius tendencies, but I always have a resistance to doing anything that everyone else is doing. My collective observations from what I could gather the average date-night comprised of involved paying a babysitter so you can go out with your co-parent have dinner and some wine while you try not to talk about the kids but inevitably talk about the kids, before feeling so tired that you have to leave before planned to collapse in bed. Now don’t get me wrong, I love going for dinner, and, yes, am partial to a glass of wine (and most definitely an early night), but as two children from divorced parents, Ben and I decided that for our 2022 investment in us, we needed a different approach.
I should add a bit of context here (before the happy date-nighters take offence). I see my husband A LOT. Like all the time a lot. We are both self-employed, work from home and share the childcare of our youngest who is 2. We start most days having coffee together on the sofa (and now of course, doing the daily wordle) and after a day of work/toddlering, we’re generally together from 4pm, through dinner to kids bed times and spend our evenings either together or doing our own thing – which in my case is usually in bed by 9pm. My point being, is that, honestly – I just don’t know if I need to go out for dinner with him all that often. Lol. But what I do have the desire to do is to continue learning more and more about one another. I want to peel more layers off him because I find him truly interesting and love being with him. I always joke that being married to Ben is one long ‘study of a man called Ben’. And I yearn to be at play with him. That is where I feel we connect on a different level, where we see eachother come alive and remind each other we’re not parent-working drones, but unique people with dreams, feelings, skills and vulnerabilities. When we can carve space to be curious, creative and joyful together it has a ripple effect on the whole family and all elements of our lives.
In play, we are our truest selves. If you want to know who someone really is, play with them. There you will find the most authentic version of them and perhaps even discover who they desire to be in everyday life but perhaps have fallen into the trappings of adulthood which can suppress our true self. And should our children come to me for dating advice I will encouraging them to do more playing than swiping to find their most compatible play mates. Ben and I chose to do different playdates versus repeating one thing to upskill at, because when we play in situations that are new, it means we must adopt the role of an amatuer. Which means allowing ourselves to be vulnerable. Part of learning something new and getting out of our comfort zone is a willingness to be the fool. And this is a good thing, I strive be super comfy with being the fool as someone who can cross the threshold from fool to fun can embrace vulnerability, can be comfortable with all sides of themselves and can easily step out of a fixed mindset and those are key ingredients of healthy relationships.
Last week we joined a local improv class. It was brilliant and we really threw ourselves into it. I found myself as Roy’s daughter lost on a trip back from New York having only met Roy 10 minutes ago. on Afterwards we hugged and felt proud of one another and giggled at how our made up characters and go to improv ideas were just ‘so us’. We also loved retelling our tales to the kids who found it hilarious. This week we took an ariel yoga class giggling the entire way through and next week we’re taking a bike ride along the coast – how is it that we have lived at the beach for over 5 years and never taken a bike ride without the kids?! And We coming-up on the playdating schedule we will be going foraging, bird spotting, having a parkour lesson, going flower arranging, taking a mermaid lesson, having a cosy chess night and we’re looking forward to joining a Dungeons and Dragons game. In short, we are completely hooked on play-dating, our weekly scheduling used to centre on what was going on at school and work and now our planning kicks off with – what are we playing this week? It’s taken a bit of commitment to get it organised and also some boundary holding to keep the time non negotiable but we’re into the swing of it now. And I’m pretty sure that the next time we do go out for dinner, that we’ll have a lot more to talk about than the kids and might even be able to stay up chatting past 10pm.