After our first kid was born, it took us quite a while before my wife and I both spent a night away from her. Part of that seems like it’s due to the fact that our parents live in different states, so there aren’t any family member childcare options nearby. Breastfeeding certainly played a role as well. Also in the mix were inertia, and the extra work it took to try and line up a night away.
I should add here, “a night away” can mean a couple of different things – either a “date night,” where you return home afterwards, or an evening-to-morning period where you and your kids sleep in different buildings. I think both are important. In our case, the first date night happened much earlier post-kid than the first full night away.
There are plenty of articles and books out there about maintaining a relationship with your partner after having kids (some with awful titles, like “How to Not Hate Your Husband After Kids”). A lot of them start with the same basic premise: while building your relationship with your kid can feel automatic, you usually need to spend time working on your relationship with your partner, particularly after having kids. There’s a good kernel of truth to that idea, though I don’t really like the framing of “work” on you relationship. Sure, sometimes building a relationship involves effort and work, but sometimes it can feel pretty effortless under the right conditions.
Often, the “right conditions” involve having a conversation while not being badgered for more dino chicken nuggets by someone crawling under the table.
A night away from your kids gives you a chance to have longer, slower conversations that aren’t being continuously interrupted. Conversations where you can ask, out loud, whether it’s “normal” for a three-year-old to hurl building blocks at you if she gets mad. And where you can have these “adult” conversations at a time of the evening when you’re not beat from going through another bedtime routine that went sideways because someone took a 10 minute nap in the car. Those are the conversations that let your relationship flourish.
Then, once you get a few of those date nights under your belt, go for a full night away. Doesn’t matter a lot where to – at one point we had a great evening at an AirBnB (with hot tub!) just a few miles from our house. A night away is a different experience, since you’re no longer wondering whether the sitter is going to get the kid(s) to bed by the time you get home, or otherwise watching the clock. Hopefully, you’re watching each other.