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Coupling

The hard work of date night

With two young kids, my wife and I are usually too taxed and tired for alone time. But I think I have the solution.

By Patrick McVay
November 8, 2009

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Now in the seventh year of our marriage, my wife and I seem to be on a never-ending quest to find time when we are simultaneously together and at least marginally awake. The hours spent in the same house preparing ourselves and the kids for the day ahead and getting the food into everyone after work don’t count. I’d rate those parts of our day about a 3 for enjoyment, and only that high because of the occasionally hilarious things the 4-year-old says from his relaxed perch on the couch, like “Dad, I don’t think you’re looking hard enough for my book.” The best of times are right after dinner, when the chores stop momentarily and we dance around with the kids and read books together, but this is immediately followed by teeth brushing and getting the glow-in-the-dark pj’s charged up, which can really test the nerves. By the time the kids are tucked in (way too late) and the dishes are done, so are we, sacked out on the sofa or in bed, staring at our own books and magazines.

Attempts to improve upon this situation generally revolve around carving out a little time with each other via “date nights.” Rather than designate a specific night every week when we actually expect to have a date, we make dates “as often as we can,” which is to say almost never. But let’s say we go out for a nice dinner one night a month (we don’t); I’m not convinced it’s worth the trouble. Prepping the kids for a sitter and vice versa takes organizational and diplomatic skills I don’t necessarily possess, and in reviewing the mind-numbing bill at the end of the night, I’m always amazed I had the daring to order that $15 glass of wine. Worse, by the time we’re done stuffing ourselves and waddling back to the car, one of us (not me) is ready for bed, and by that I mean sleep. If we manage to get home with both of us still lucid, there’s a chance that one has to drive a sitter across town, confounding the already remote hope of extending our rare time together. To top it off, the kids don’t particularly care on Sunday morning that we were out partying the previous night. They want pancakes early in the morning anyway, preferably with sliced apples.

So it’s time to propose drastic changes to this highly overrated concept of “date night.” From now on, my wife and I will only make dates for daylight hours. Maybe we could make better use of weekend afternoons, when the kids nap. If they nap simultaneously, we might be able to eke out 45 minutes together without having to pay for it. I’d love to find out what’s going on in her life these days.

But who am I kidding? Forty-five minutes is barely long enough for us to warm up to each other. Plus, we don’t really look our best on weekend afternoons. If you think I don’t dress particularly well for work, you should see me at home, where I am clad in garb to do battle with my house. My wife looks for flat-out comfort on weekends, so out come loose-fitting sweats and fleece pullovers, which can be used for all manner of house-related activity. This is not prime date apparel. In addition, when our kids nap on the weekends, more often than not we feel compelled to join them, so we’re not technically awake during our 45-minute afternoon rendezvous.

Maybe, instead, we could meet for lunch on a regular basis. Or take up tennis together. And then, one day, instead of lunch or tennis, we’d steal off to some seedy motel. (Note: This is not necessarily a fantasy of my wife’s.)

No, what we really need to institute in our relationship are “date mornings.” True, this would involve taking half a vacation day from work, but spending time with your spouse is exactly why Cro-Magnon hut dwellers invented vacation days some 28,000 years ago, give or take. This way, we can make use of the house we’re spending so much money on at the same time as the kids enjoy the expensive day-care center we’re sending them to. Maybe, on this morning appointment of ours, we’d concoct some kind of outlandish inaugural date-morning omelet, and after reading the paper, we’d head back to bed. No doubt we could really use the nap.

Patrick McVay lives in Boston. Send comments to coupling@globe.com. Story ideas Send yours to coupling@globe.com. Please note: We do not respond to ideas we will not pursue.

  • November 8, 2009 cover
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