Jim and I had ten years together as a couple before Rosalie came along, so it’s fair to say that the arrival of our little bundle did mean adjustments had to be made. For the first few months I was barely functioning as a person, and beyond that I was just incredibly focused on Rosalie. I think naturally when you become a mother your focus really shifts, it has to, but for us, after the struggle we had with establishing breastfeeding, I was so thrilled it was finally working that I relished each and every nursing session and being there for her whenever she needed me, and being the only one who could provide what she needed.
Sad as it is to say it, and write it, I really neglected myself, and Jim, and us as a couple. I think I can actually count on one hand the number of times we’ve been on a ‘date’ since Rosalie was born. We didn’t do anything together, just the two of us, until Rosalie was 16 months old. It was about a year ago and we went to the cinema to watch The Avengers. I remember feeling quite excited to be leaving the house and doing something grown-up, but also feeling really anxious at leaving Rosalie. Of course it was all fine, she was fast asleep and didn’t know we were gone, and we were happily scoffing popcorn and enjoying some Marvel superhero action on the big screen.
Not having family nearby means we don’t really have anyone to help us out, or relieve us of our parenting responsibilities for a few hours every now and again. It’s not a big deal really, Jim and I hardly went out before anyway (we left all that behind after university, when we bought our first house together way back in 2005 on 100% mortgage and had no money for going out!). But not arranging to do something together out of the house does mean that life sort of rolls on and you realise it’s been ages since you properly looked at each other, or talked about something other than your daughter.
(In this photo Rosalie is just out of shot, we were taking our Me & Mine portraits and she ran off so we’re both looking at her and I hit the remote shutter release, unknowingly taking a rather wistful photo of the two of us.)
We both have our hobbies – blogging, writing, photography and baking for me and programming, video gaming and playing guitar/drums/piano for Jim, plus we both like watching TV shows – so we end up cramming so much into what little time we have left after Rosalie has gone to bed, that it doesn’t leave any time for us.
It’s not about having time, it’s about making time
At the beginning of 2016 I decided that it wasn’t about having enough time, it was about making time for each other. There is never enough time to do everything, it’s about prioritising the important things. And with lack of babysitting still an issue, I settled on finding ways to make being at home together a bit more special.
So, starting with Jim’s birthday at the end of January, I planned a surprise at-home date night. It wasn’t anything elaborate – I wrapped up a DVD (Interstellar) and some movie snacks and I made it a bit mysterious with an invitation to ‘join me on the couch at 8pm…’. It was fun, and each month since then I’ve produced a little invitation and we’ve set aside time for each other once Rosalie has gone to bed.
In February we had ‘Candles, Conversation and Hot Chocolate’ – I had put together a little pack of conversation starters, some serious, some silly, but it was fun to talk about hopes and dreams and do a bit of reminiscing.
In March we had a video games date – I think it’s really important to sometimes take time to do each other’s hobbies, at the very least it’s a fun way to try something new or different. I am actually terrible at video games, I can’t walk in a straight line so I’m always falling off the edge, and if it’s a first person shooter then I seem to swing wildly between aiming at my feet and aiming at the sky. Well, I let Jim choose the game, and knowing my video game prowess was somewhat lacking, he settled on Lego Marvel Superheroes. It was a lot of fun, we got to blow off some steam and have a good laugh together. All whilst being able to keep a listening ear out for our little poppet.
As it is our wedding anniversary at the end of April, we are having a little Mr&Mrs Quiz date night tonight to celebrate! I’ve got a little bag of folded up questions so we can take it in turn to pick, and laminated (love a bit of laminating!) answer cards so we can both scribble our answers with dry wipe pens then rub them off again! I’ve prepared some dips and dippers and hopefully it will be a lovely relaxed evening – that, or a brain wracking evening, trying to remember anything that doesn’t involve a toddler… We shall see!
It’s just so hard when you become a parent to balance everything just right, isn’t it? We adore spending time together as a family, but it’s so important not to forget that mummy and daddy sometimes want to be Jess and Jim, and making the effort to carve out a little slice of time each month, just for us, has been really good fun.
We still miss our cinema trips – we both love watching movies, and there really is something special about watching a movie on the big screen – but for now we are happy with our at-home date nights. The fact that we are spending time together, that’s what’s important, not where we are, and there’s no where quite like home.