Having children is a wonderful privilege, and it is one that I’m eternally grateful for. But it can be an exhausting time in the early years and even as you leave the baby years behind it is always busy. You are forever ‘On’ and every stage, while bringing its own rewards, also brings its own challenges.
One of the trickiest things to keep on track is your relationship. Exhausted parents of very young children are bombarded with ‘advice’ that they need to work at keeping the spark alive, when realistically they are just trying to keep the baby alive and enjoy those gorgeous baby moments through a fog of tiredness. They are told, in very grave terms, that they must somehow eeek out time for ‘date nights’ when a whole day could go by and you may not have found the time to go to the bathroom, and if the stars aligned and you somehow did, you can bet your bottom dollar you were not alone. When you are in the trenches of babyhood then this becomes one more thing on your never-ending to-do list, your relationship becomes yet another thing to ‘mind’ in a time when minding is all you seem to be doing! This stage passes quickly and I would feel it’s much better to have faith in your relationship, to believe it’s strong enough to withstand the attacks of sleeplessness and upheaval that new babies bring and to assume that your partner has got your back and isn’t sulking like a big child waiting for attention.
Sleep deprivation passes and children get bigger and finding time together does get easier, but new challenges arrive. Children become part of every conversation, this is great but it also means having a full conversation becomes harder and even following a train of thought in a busy house can become difficult. Conversations become more about comparing schedules, organising drop-off and collections, sorting out who’ll put the bin out, rather than anything you would have previously described as a conversation!
You will learn more sitting across from one another in a restaurant than you will have in the two months previous of sharing the same house and bed! What’s rare is wonderful and these nights out serve as a reminder of why you are together in the first place.
We recently had three nights, in our own house, while the children were away, thank you so much Supergranny and Grandad. Grandad hasn’t reached they dizzying heights of Supergrandad yet as he didn’t run the gauntlet of talking the four of them out for dinner.
We still had work to go to and so in that way the usual routine continued. The house was eerily quiet, and fantastically clean, and of course we missed the children but something wonderful happened. We had full and uninterrupted conversations, with each other. We laughed together at nothing in particular, we had a cinema trip that required no forward planning, dinner in and dinner out and a last minute decision to meet for lunch, all so ordinary and all so lovely. I discovered that sharing articles out of the paper that I was reading still annoys him and he is still better at cross words than I am.
We weren’t in some fancy hotel where spending time together,while lovely, has an air of suspended reality about it. We were in our own home, doing ordinary things together. It was a glimpse back at the way we used to be, at what made us want to be and stay together. It was also a sneak preview of what life might be like when we reach the dreaded ’empty nest’ phase which is no longer as bleak looking as it once was.
Half of the children returned, two choosing to stay on for another few days. The house was filled with noise and running and fighting and laughing and our home felt just right again, but those few days were perfect and needed.
I fully believe that love does not consist in gazing at each other but in looking outwards in the same direction but every so often it’s nice to get a moment to look and check that the direction hasn’t changed and that your partner is still there, at your side, looking out with you.