Few days back we celebrated our wedding anniversary. My hubby and I took a day off from work and decided to spend the day out together doing things we like. We watched a romantic movie. We went to our favourite fancy restaurant for a slow, leisure lunch. We went to a mall for some lazy strolls and window-shopping on a weekday afternoon. We sat wordlessly, sipping our coffee in a coffee shop while watching people go about their activities. Sounds like your distant past, doesn’t it??
Oh, yes! We do have a very active 3.5 yr old. How did we manage to do all these with her? We sent her to childcare while we went for our day-out. Our parents gasped and concluded that we were very selfish. They couldn’t appreciate that we were not taking her along. Not only parents, many of our well-wishers who learnt about our plan and asked about kiddo either expressed their sympathy or gave a smirk.
We do take out our kiddo a lot – family time, play-dates or family outing with other friends who have kids. But this was our special day!
Imagine how our day would have been with kiddo. First of all we would have to pack a big bag of things we would need to keep our kiddo occupied at the movies and restaurant. We would have to take change of clothes, some snacks, water bottle among many other things. We would have to pick a kid friendly movie, plop her in between us in the movie hall and continuously answer all her why questions. We would then only hope that she would sit through the movie. Once that is achieved, we would have to choose a kid-friendly cafe. We would take turns to monitor that kiddo behaves and that she eats her food. When at the mall, we would either be at kiddies’ playground or at the supermarket buying groceries. We would be so exhausted by the time we reach home that we try not to cross each other’s path lest we snap.
Date night is not part of Indian culture. Our parents and grand parents might not have heard the term at all. They took kids everywhere with them. They didn’t have freedom till the kids were grown up and out of house. By that time they would have forgotten what it is to be alone with their spouse.
Although I maintain that we needed to go out without kiddo to celebrate our wedding anniversary, deep down I felt guilty. Why do I have to feel guilty of going out with my own husband? What is with our culture that makes me guilty of spending time out without my kid? Why do I have to justify this? Why do I have to explain this to my mum or mum-in-law? Why am I being labeled selfish?
Before our first kid we were something else. We had some identity other than mom/dad. We were lovers. We were husband and wife. We met friends, we read books and we had some hobbies. What happens after a baby? We forget all other relations and we are just a mom/dad. Even when we are alone with our spouse, all we can talk is about kid(s). Should we be so attached to our kids sending them clear signals that we do not have any other purpose in life? Should we not draw clear lines to avoid getting totally taken for granted and let them walk all over us once they get independent!
With kids around, a lot of things will go wrong and that’s what usually happens on that all-important day. I had planned a lot (that included kiddo), this year, for my birthday. But my kiddo fell ill with conjunctivitis and high fever. I couldn’t have celebrated with her suffering. To me, that’s not done. But when things are all-right it’s okay to take time off. You can almost always avail help to take care of your kids. Use your support system of family, friends or childcare options.
I do not even want to start talking about the importance of date nights. You need a break from your parenting duties for the health of your marriage, for the health of your family. Your kids can manage just fine for that couple of hours without you I am sure.
Divya Rao is a mother to a 3.5 yr old bundle of joy. She has one eye set on growing her career and the other watching and enjoying her little one grow up.