"Date your spouse!" the experts always say. "Just because you're married with a family doesn't mean the spark has to die down. Flirt with each other! Keep the romance alive!"
That's great advice. Really, it is. It sounds fantastic... in theory. Kind of like before you have kids when you swear you're never going to feed them processed food or let them play with your phone to keep them quiet for 10 minutes. But when you try to put it into practice? Well, sometimes it just isn't practical. I mean, I'm pretty sure that when I'm brushing my teeth while wearing food-encrusted pajamas and telling my husband how I accidentally got poop under my fingernail while changing a diaper and oh by the way did we pay the sewer bill last month?, I'm the last person he wants to flirt with.
I'm not saying it isn't important to try to keep a connection as a couple -- it is. And relationships take work. But so do kids, and all the obligations that come with them. And when you're trying to juggle all of that, it's not usually the children who are shoved to the back burner. Even when you try to keep the spark burning, it's a whole different ball game when you're married with kids. Going on a date, for example, only remotely resembles the dates you used to go on. Let's break it down.
Non-parents: Take a leisurely stroll around the mall because you'd like to pick up a new outfit for tonight. Oh, and maybe a new eyeliner or something at the department store. Throw in a manicure if you've got time. Arrive home, soak in a tub, deep-condition and exfoliate and moisturize, shave every shave-able body part while blasting your favorite music. It's like a spa up in here. Spend ample time perfecting your makeup, hair, and outfit. Put on cute underwear. Be excited because tonight is going to be awesome.
Parents: Rummage through your closet to find something flattering that you don't wear every day. Get pissed off. Settle for something. Wish you could take a leisurely stroll around the mall to buy a new outfit. Realize the kids have used your eyeliner as a crayon; make a mad dash to Target. Arrive home, look at the clock, freak out because the trip to Target seriously ate into your time budget. Shower quickly, swiping over your legs with a razor, hitting up your pits and bikini line if you have a couple extra seconds. Ignore kids pounding on door. Decide whether to blow-dry your hair or just put it up wet. Slap on some makeup. Squeeze into some sort of fat-reducing underwear. Hope you don't sweat through your blouse with all this dashing around. Be excited because as soon as you're able to leave the house, tonight is going to be awesome.
LEAVING THE HOUSE
Non-parents: Grab purse, cell phone, keys. One last quick mirror check. Open door. Exit.
Parents: Make sure the kids are fed and the kitchen isn't a wreck. Leave emergency numbers and special instructions for the sitter. Tell the kids goodbye. Wonder why the hell they're acting like you're about to permanently abandon them. Give hugs and kisses and try not to get food or snot all over your decent outfit. Pry clingy children from legs. Slip out the door. Realize you forgot your phone. Come back in and repeat clingy-children debacle.
Non-parents: Go to a high-end restaurant or an upscale bar. Order without looking at prices. Enjoy laughs and animated conversation about movies and current events. Check your phone periodically to see if anyone has "liked" your check-in on Facebook. Discuss where to go next; the night is young and the options are endless!
Parents: Go to a chain restaurant because you have a coupon (or go to a high-end restaurant, but order the chicken because it's cheap). Feel frivolous because you order an apple-tini with your meal. Rejoice in the fact that you don't actually have to cut up anybody's food, or tell anyone to get out from under the table or stop blowing bubbles in their chocolate milk. Check your phone periodically to make sure the sitter hasn't called. Promise you won't talk about the kids. End up talking about the kids. Keep checking the time because you're paying the sitter by the hour, and anyway, you're getting tired because 11:00 is way past your bedtime and the kids woke you up at six this morning.
AFTER THE DATE
Non-parents: Return home; decide whether to end the date or take it further. If it ends there, go inside, remove makeup, put on comfy clothes, let out the fart you've been holding in. Go to bed. Sleep peacefully. Wake up whenever. If it goes further... light candles, pour wine, put on soft music, and reveal that cute underwear and those nicely shaved legs. Bow chicka wow wow!
Parents: Return home. Fork over cash to sitter, trying not to cringe about how much money you've spent on this date in total. Look at children sleeping and marvel that you missed them, even though you were excited to be away. Remove makeup, peel yourself out of fat-reducing underwear, put on comfy clothes. Yawn. Decide whether or not to devote a few minutes to "spousal intimacy" or just go right to sleep. Drool all over pillow until child wakes you up in the middle of the night for a drink/to tell you about a nightmare/to tell you there's pee in the bed. Wake up at the crack of dawn to make breakfast for hungry children because, duh, who else is going to do it?
So you see? Bringing romance into your relationship is important, but becomes slightly tricky when kids -- and everything attached to having them -- are thrown into the mix.
I think until they're older, I'll just be thankful for Netflix and popcorn, and the fact that my husband doesn't care so much if my legs are stubbly or my outfit is old.
Just as long as there's no poop under my fingernails.