Before we had kids Dr M and I often wouldn’t eat dinner until at least 8:30pm. Okay, sometimes 10pm.
Even when we just had E, we’d call her our little party-baby and take her with us everywhere, anytime. She’d sit beside us in cafes often late into the night in her little capsule, nestled into her blanket, blissfully unaware of time as we worked on study or writing deadlines.
Now we eat at 5:45pm, sometimes earlier. We often reach 7:30 and remark to one another that it feels so much later. Like midnight. Living in parent-time is like following another timezone altogether. Nights are so often interrupted by one or more offspring waking and needing attention that a straight stretch of sleep is like a mirage in a distant desert. And there are no more sleep-ins to compensate.
But does this mean we have no longer have a social life? Is it dead? A thing of our past sans kids?
Maybe. In it’s old form. But I’m discovering that the simplifying required at this life stage can actually yield some unlikely benefits in the form of unexpected and previously unknown goods.
Lowered expectations means less disappointment
In my early 20’s Friday and Saturday nights were most often spent going out. While there was a lot of fun to be had, and I cherish the bountiful time spent with girlfriends who I am now lucky to see maybe once every few months, there was also a lot of effort required. And let’s be honest, a lot of angst! Dressing up for one thing. Remember those things called heals? And makeup? And of course the relational dramas and pressures. Enter boy of the moment. Does he like me? Yes/no.
A night out looks very different now. First of all, a night out, any night out at all, is a win. A couple of weeks ago Dr M and I went to the supermarket together with only Baby J in tow, after dropping the older two at Dr M’s parents for the night. We ran those grocery aisles like we were running through a sunlit field. What ease and freedom. All those shelves to peruse, and no little voices pestering and demanding from below. We split up at one point and each went our own way. I spent at least 10 minutes staring at cereal varieties. As Dr M said, the experience was almost ‘meditative.’ And then, when we thought it couldn’t get much better, we ran into some old friends, also out for a late night supermarket jaunt, and had uninterrupted adult conversation in front of the fresh produce section for at least 15 minutes.
Sound sad? It was actually pretty fun.I can guarantee that before kids the supermarket would not have held out half so much potential for possibility.
Simplifying can be surprisingly enlarging.
Dr M and I have always loved the outdoors. We are definitely not adrenal junkies, we prefer to ponder nature, rather than ride, jump, run, or swim through it. But pre kids we would have been far more likely to take in the view from a cafe window than a park bench. There’s something about kids that gives you access to a whole new world of nature. You are literally forced to stop and smell the flowers (and watch as they are pulled off, apart, and then squished into carseats and carpets).
Take a few Saturdays ago. We’d all been on the virus-train for a couple of weeks and unfortunately had been too sick to celebrate Dr M’s birthday on his actual birthday. But a week later we were feeling a little steadier so we decided to venture out late afternoon for a bit of a casual celebration. After packing our only average sized car full of every imaginable item needed for more than an hour away from the house with 3 kids, we decided to drive to one of our new favourite spots: the simultaneously hip and naturally beautifully suburb of Balmain.
While I fed Baby J in the car with the kids, Dr M went to our new favourite cafe and picked up some decadent cupcakes (for E and J) and homemade mini-cakes for us. He then proceeded to source and purchase his own candles as well as some basic picnic gear. Returning invigorated and refreshed from his victorious solo-mission into society he suggested we eat our birthday afternoon/evening tea in a park overlooking the harbour so we could watch the sunset.
Now, Dr M and I have lived in or around Sydney almost our whole marriage, we have celebrated many a birthday together, but this is the first time we have held a sunset-evening- tea in a park overlooking the harbour.
I hardly need to say the kids enjoyed themselves running free and wild in the wind, but what was perhaps surprising was the level of peace and pleasure Dr M and I derived from sitting on the rocks eating cake, drinking mineral water (ok, coconut water for me) looking out over the changing colours of sky and water.
Simple, but celebratory.
Not a night-life exactly —we went home after the sun set— but a wonderful end to a special day.