My husband and I haven’t had a Date Night since our baby was born, about six months ago. I’m okay with that; in fact, Date Night is the last thing I want to do right now. But it’s the first thing my husband wants to do. (You can guess what’s second.)
Even though I don’t feel like it, I know Date Night is important. But I’m teary-eyed just thinking about leaving my daughter with someone else. How can I find a babysitter that I trust?
Dear Overprotective Mom,
Let’s just agree up front about one thing: Men don’t get it. They can’t. When a baby grows inside your body, you are literally and physically connected. From the first fluttering of movement to the hiccups and stretching at the end, you feel it every time your baby moves. And the baby feels you: When you walk, it lulls her to sleep. When you go to bed, she wakes up. When you drink orange juice, she rolls and dances. So when your baby is finally, magically born, you – Mommy – are prepared to love her physically as well as emotionally.
This is not to say that a father doesn’t love his baby fiercely, beyond life itself. It’s just different. While the baby’s birth is the first separation and parting from Mommy, it’s the first time Daddy holds the baby; the first time he feels physically connected. But until now, the object of your husband’s physical love has been you. So while you’re on Planet Baby, he’s suddenly on Planet Who Stole My Wife? So yes, maybe you’re the tiniest wee little bit overprotective of the baby. But perhaps your husband is also overprotective – of your marriage. As nervous as you are about losing your baby, he may be nervous about losing you.
When my Little Guy was a Little Baby, he was always – always – within my reach. We slept together, showered together, ate together, and watched Oprah together. At first my husband looked upon us with a loving smile, doting on his sweet family the way I doted on our baby. But eventually he started missing his wife, not to mention the Italian food down the street.
Here’s the part where I say that I also missed Italian food and, of course, my husband. But the truth is I didn’t. That first Date Night was entirely my husband’s idea, and we had more than a few arguments about whether it could wait until the baby was old enough to drive. Like you, I almost couldn’t breathe when I imagined being more than one room away, and I couldn’t think of a single person that I trusted with my angel. Eventually my sister came to the rescue, driving three hours just to give us a single Date Night, three blocks away, for 45 minutes (most of which I spent crying). But the good news is the next time was a little easier, and the third time even easier.
So start there. Think about walking down the street, and while you’re at it, think creatively. Date Night doesn’t have to be a late movie at the Cineplex 20 miles away. It doesn’t even have to be Date Night. Maybe it’s Date Morning, or Date Day. And forget the old dinner and movie scenario. Maybe you’d feel more relaxed about a simple walk in the park, or dessert and decaf at a coffee shop, or watching the sunset from a hilltop. Put simply, it’s not the When or Where that counts. It’s the Who – you and your partner, together, reconnecting.
As for the other Who – a babysitter – don’t ask yourself who you trust, because when it comes to that first Date Night the answer will be an all caps “NOBODY.” So who do you trust the most? Again, think creatively. Don’t even consider the local teenage girl who seems perfectly nice but is still a big unknown. Who is your closest friend? Do you have a “mother’s helper” that you can trust for just half an hour? A postpartum doula? A friendly neighbor? A family member within driving distance (even three hours)?
Finally – it’s okay if you cry, if your arms feel empty and your breasts too full. It’s okay if you spend Date Night standing on the street corner staring at your house. And it’s okay if your husband thinks you’re insane – because maybe you are, just a little. That’s what motherhood is.