A wise couple offered us sage advice when we got married, “Don’t forget to pak tor (read: date), especially when you have children!” It sounded simple enough at that time but when our first child was born, we were so overwhelmed by the change in our relationship dynamic that the simple act of making time to go on a date proved to be monumentally elusive.
We stumbled through our first year as parents overwhelmed with the daily care of an infant, additional household responsibilities and work, leaving little time for ourselves, let alone each other. With limited help available from busy, working grandparents, we were both exhausted and running on empty.
The turning point for us came when we reached out to close friends with our struggles and they suggested a double-date night in. It took a little bit of planning but we put our daughter to bed half an hour earlier than usual so that she would be sound asleep by the time our friends came over. Of course it really helped that our daughter was (and still is) a good sleeper. That night, the four of us enjoyed a movie and homemade popcorn in the comfort of our living room and for the first time in a long while, we were able to relax and appreciate each other’s company.
After that evening, I realised that I had held a misguided definition of “date night" this entire time.
I now know “date night” to mean setting aside time out from our busy schedules to spend exclusive time with our spouses. It doesn’t have to be elaborate or fancy. That evening with our friends was the first of many “date nights” at home. Since going out regularly without children was not always an option for us, we would improvise by watching a movie at home together, ordering a late-night dessert in or playing card games after the children had gone to bed.
“Making time at least once a week for one another helped rekindle our enjoyment of each other’s company…”
"Date night” doesn’t even have to be at night!
As we added more children to our family, we had to rework our “date nights” and, as the children grew older and started going to school, we would sometimes exchange “date nights” for early breakfast dates. Making time at least once a week for one another helped rekindle our enjoyment of each other’s company and facilitated the easy flow of conversation between us that seemed to have gotten lost when we first had children.
Don’t be shy to ask for help
Over the years, well-meaning friends and family have made offers to help babysit our children. The conservative Asian in me would always assume that their offers were just a form of courtesy and I would never take them up for fear of inconveniencing them. Again, it took good friends to assure us that they genuinely did not mind helping us out. Once more, we started small and decided to go out for a late supper nearby. Our friends came over after we put the children to bed while we stepped out for a couple of hours. We also made arrangements with the grandparents to help us out once a week, either on a Friday night or on a weekend afternoon so that we could have regular time to ourselves and they could have their time alone with the children, which both children and grandparents enjoyed thoroughly.
“This time alone has also made us better parents to our children.”
I’m so glad that our “date nights” have morphed into a form that I didn’t think possible all those years ago. Making time to spend with each other has enriched our marriage and helped us better weather the stress that we often face in work and daily life. This time alone has also made us better parents to our children. Not only do they understand that their parent’s marriage relationship is important, but it has helped them feel the security and assurance that comes from the knowledge that their parents are in a loving, stable relationship.
I’m thankful for that wise couple who reminded us to continue dating even after marriage because I know that this habit of making time for one another will continue long after our children are grown up.
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