As new parents crash exhausted into bed each night at 9.00pm, the last thing on their minds is the prospect of going out in clothes without stains on to have a meal for a couple of hours. That level of decadence is surely consigned to the time of ‘Life Before Baby’ and won’t come back until the said baby has left home to go to college.
I exaggerate, but many people believe either that it cannot be possible to go out and leave their baby, or they feel guilty for even thinking it might be possible. They need to just stay at home, which is after all much the easiest option. It is true that going out will involve some level of organisation and preparation, that might seem far too much effort, but it is very important to carve some time away from your baby to remind yourself you are people too.
Part of being a good mother (and father too) is cherishing yourself in order to give the best to your baby. A mother who is completely ragged and adrift from her partner because they haven’t had any time alone together will not make a very good parent. If you don’t value and make time for your relationship with each other, then this can have a detrimental effect in the long term.
You are obviously very in tune with your baby, so it is understandable to be anxious about them being left with somebody else who doesn’t know them so well or that you are not there when they need you. Finding the right babysitter is therefore extremely important. For the first time, your parent or other family member or close friend is the best bet. Before you plan a night out, you might want to do a test run going out for a short time during the day, so it is not such a shock and will help you get your checklist clear when you leave for the evening.
Get everything prepared before going: expressed breast milk, or ready mixed formula with clear written instructions, nappies, soothing techniques if your baby wakes, your phone number. The first time it is probably easier for the baby to be asleep when you go. You will undoubtedly feel a wrench when leaving as if you’ve left something behind – which you have! – but it will subside.
Try to resist phoning home to check everything’s ok. You might pick the exact time the baby has woken for a feed and the sound of their cries will make you instantly want to rush back guiltily. If your babysitter really needs you, they will call. Enjoy the opportunity to savour your food with no thought of clearing up. Take time to ask about other things that have been going on for each other. New parenthood is a very insular time so you may well marvel how out of touch with the world you are, but share your hopes, worries and fears.
And of course, talk about your baby, but rather than a rundown of what is happening now, which you have both had at infinitum, make plans for the future. What holidays you might take, what you would like to teach or share with your child, what places would be good to visit.
When it is time to return to your little one, tell each other how you have appreciated this time with them and make sure to plan the next night out before the whirlwind starts again.
One new mother mused on this topic.
How is it that we spend more time together than we ever did but I still miss him? We have a shared pride about our baby but no time for the old intimacy of life before him. We’ve been through this huge experience together, but no time to digest it, share it together. I miss our weekend mornings eating croissants and reading the papers. How exotic that time seems now. I have no idea when we will have it again.