As a working mom, I struggle when it comes to going out on the weekend. Both my husband and I have to leave the house on weekdays by 8am and don’t come home until 5:30pm. We get some limited quality time as a family in the morning, and a bit more between dinner and bedtime, but it’s hard to justify cutting out on them on a weekend evening just to get what equates to more grownup time. What’s more important, quality time as a couple or as a family?
There are two tricks to resolving this age-old paradox. The first: ditch the scales. If you’re trying to equally parse the limited, twisty thing called ‘your time’ between your professional life, your family life, and your personal life, you’re going to make yourself absolutely, positively crazy. All time isn’t equal! Quality time spent reconnecting with your spouse can’t be compared with time spent chasing your three year old around the kitchen island. Both are important. Both are needed. But both don’t necessarily take the same amount of time. Which brings us to the second trick: overthrow the tyranny of “OR”. What do we mean by that? The notion of EITHER/OR (as in I’m either doing the right thing, or I’m not) is limiting and confining. Rather than accepting that overly simple, black or white division, innovate! Are there things that you could do to that would enable you to get both quality time with your family AND quality time with your spouse and friends in the same evening?
Here are a few additional thoughts for making evenings out a little easier to swallow.
• Fun for you AND your kids. Rather than viewing a night out as something that diminishes the quality of their time, what kind of arrangements can you make for them so that they have a special evening as well? Are they old enough to arrange a sleepover at a friends’ house? If not, could they have a play date over for dinner? And if grandparents live nearby, I’d bet they’d jump at the chance to baby-sit (and spoil) their grandchildren! The point is, there are most certainly things that you can do to fill the time with fun, positive activities for your child. Just because you’re not physically there doesn’t mean they can’t have fun too.
• Break it up. Rather than scheduling every date night for a weekend evening, why not mix it up a bit and have one on a Tuesday evening. That will leave you completely free to free-form it with your children on the weekend, from wake-up time to bed time. It should also help relieve a bit of the stress that comes with the daily grind!
• Take a Family date. Spending some quality time out with your entire family can sometimes be as marriage-affirming, sweet, and romantic as a night out on your own. But rather than just staying home, break out of the routine and go on a family date. Hit a miniature golf course, take an early evening stroll, bring dinner to the ducks at the local pond, or go get some helium balloons for no reason at all and (after you’ve had some time with them) set them free with a secret wish. Just don’t forget to bring your camera.