I’m not going to lie to you, dear reader: It was fantastic.
We stayed in a fancy downtown hotel several hours away. We ate out at some of the most amazing restaurants we’ve ever experienced. We took naps. We went window shopping. We did other things that married couples who celebrate anniversaries do but don’t talk about publicly. It was sweet. As I said to my partner during one delightfully romantic dinner, it was like being on a 48-hour date night. We didn’t have to worry about being home for our little girl’s naps. We didn’t have to lug a diaper bag everywhere. We weren’t chained to the house by 7:00 PM for her bedtime. We didn’t have to pick food up off the floor. (Well, we went to a chocolate boutique and my lovely but sometimes clumsy spouse dropped a chocolate pretzel on the floor, but in a place that nice the ten-second rule is automatically extended to at least fifty or sixty seconds.) It was a lovely, relaxing, adult weekend for both of us.
Of course, we missed her. We talked about her. We got text messages throughout the weekend from my mother who updated us on the goings-on at our house. (Example: “Good am nap, good lunch, down 4 pm nap. Total doll.”) And we were so eager to see her Sunday evening we were almost jumping out of our skin. But we both agreed that we could easily go for another 48-hour date night, just so long as we got to spend a little time with our sweet little girl in between.
We noticed a significant difference in how different we felt towards each other, which is the reason behind this blog raving about our vacation without our child. This is certainly not the first weekend getaway my partner and I have taken together; it’s been at least an annual occasion since we got married. But now that we are parents we both noticed how focused we were on each other. I mean, before our sweet little girl was around, a whole weekend focused on each other was, well, nearly too much. To be together for an entire 48-hour period was too intense, and our introverted selves would need some nurturing. Either I’d go off fishing by myself or spend some time doing some writing or drop her off to shop on her own. That happened a little during this trip, but less out of a need for some introverted “alone” time and more out of necessity. We split up once while shopping – she picking out designer beads, I browsing a record shop – in order to maximize our time, and on Saturday my spouse required a nap in order for us to have enough energy to enjoy the evening. But I didn’t find myself at any moment needing to indulge my inner introvert (is there such thing as an outer introvert?) and was delighted to simply spend time with my beloved partner. I can’t speak for her, but I would wager she would express similar feelings.
Being parents together is an amazing and blessed experience. I realize not everyone is fortunate enough to experience being a parent with another person who they love and treasure as a life partner and soulmate, and that makes me sad, although being a single parent is probably better than being co-parents in a toxic and bitter relationship. But becoming parents together has deepened and elevated the kind of relationship that my spouse and I share together. It’s a whole new ballgame, really. There are things we miss – the luxury of time together is the most obvious one, certainly. As a close friend of mine observed to us upon the birth of her daughter about eight months before our little girl was born, “I grieved for a day or two that it will no longer just be the two of us.” I’ve grieved that, too (as I wrote about it here). But the richness of sharing such a wild and joyful endeavor together takes that relationship to a completely new place.
Which does not in any way exclude the necessity of staying connected to your partner. In my profession, we refer to this as “self-care.” Any parent needs to spend time away from his or her child, connecting with friends and other adults and indulging in the necessary amounts of introverted time. A committed partnership is the same. So yeah, it was awesome to get away. Why was it so awesome? Because it helped us come back and be more present to the wonderful life as parents that we are leading together.
So, parent-partners out there: how do you get time away? A weekend getaway isn’t always the easiest thing to manage, time-wise or money-wise. But you can create that time at home in the middle of the week. Just last night, my spouse instructed me to “grab a foot” for us to massage each other’s feet while we watched TV. That’s only one example of what we try to do to stay connected as partners as well as parents. I hope you have your own ways that fit your schedules and lifestyles, because I believe it’s absolutely necessary. And it makes the joy of coming back to the life of parenthood even more rich. Because as incredible as it was to get away with my spouse for the weekend, the look of sheer happiness on our little girl’s face when we returned was just as incredible.