A wife is a useful thing, indeed. Welcome to PG, where today I’m taking a moment to forget about my children (like that one time on accident at Target) and honor my lovely partner-in-grime. Valentine’s Day may be a completely made-up farce of a holiday, but that doesn’t mean it’s completely worthless. When you’re a parent of young children, Valentine’s somewhat serves as a reminder you are married. We get so lost in dirty diapers, sleep deprivation, and the unending antics of a deranged toddler that we often lose sight of the fact that we were first attached to that other adult in the family, not to the teething progeny he or she produced. Sometimes it takes a holiday or a childless evening or even a spousal fight to recognize and remember why we started having kids in the first place. Think about it this way: we’re basically renting our children for 18 years but the spouse was purchased with a neon No Returns sign in the window (though I wouldn’t be shocked if my wife had at least inquired about an upgraded model or my trade-in value).
My wife and I went out on our first childless date last weekend in over 3 years (on a *completely unrelated* note, our oldest daughter turned 3 last month…what a shocking coincidence). Is it embarrassing to admit it’s been that long? Absolutely! But it’s not quite as bad as it sounds as our lack of dates correlate specifically to two items. First, I’m a notorious cheapskate and both my wife and I are incredibly low maintenance, materially wise. Fancy dates, trying the best new restaurants, and seeing all the new releases doesn’t really align with our priorities in life. Second, and much more importantly, we both work full-time in supporting our family. This means that we are incredibly protective of all our opportunities to capture time with our kids. Working all day while our girls are in daycare only to come home and leave them in the care of a babysitter is basically untenable for us; we would both prefer to appreciate every moment with the kiddos by staying home to relax or even dragging them along. While our sentiment is sincere, this doesn’t necessarily always translate to the best decision for our family, as I believe our long-term success as parents actually depends more on our own relationship than our individual relationships with our children.
Thus, we took a step back this past weekend (at my wife’s demand) and ventured into public for the first time as a couple in 3 years. We ate at a new restaurant that was indescribably terrible and capped it off by visiting some fancy ice cream shop that serves the worst ice cream I’ve ever inhaled (but all that’s a different story). After a few hours together, we concluded that perhaps we were juuuuuust a bit rusty with our dating skills. While we still timed our date to begin after our girls were down for the night, we did bypass alternate activities such as sleep or lying in a vegetative state with Netflix nagging us to see if we’re still watching.
While the date itself fizzled with overpriced nonsense incorrectly identified as food, my date didn’t disappoint at all. While you may forgive us for being a tad awkward in the first moments without our girls, I quickly remembered why it was this girl I chose as the one to accompany me on my parenting journey. When we’re doing all the lovey-dovey crap (errr…whatever) that comes with dating, falling in love, the engagement, and marriage, we don’t often consider our partner’s ability to parent into the equation. I mean, sure, I liked my future wife, but I wasn’t all too contemplative of her abilities to mother; we were in our early twenties and I thought it’d be 75 years before we started having kids. Nevertheless, it turns out that oftentimes the next step after marriage is creating miniature humans (shocker there). And while I certainly considered myself lucky the day we met and the day we married, watching her care for our daughters makes me feel like I won the spousal jackpot.
Perhaps we don’t always look at each other with the exact same magic we once did, but I wholeheartedly believe that my affection for my wife has grown exponentially as I watch her care for, protect, and encourage our girls on a daily basis. I may not always do a great job of saying it, but I’d be lost without her—and not just because I refuse to use a GPS or GoogleMaps like she insists. We sometimes lose ourselves in our new identities as mothers and fathers and it takes deliberate effort to reclaim our roles in a loving couple. We have made a resolution to spend more time together this year, without kiddos, and I look forward to reconnecting with her more and without the smell of a blown out diaper hovering.