Mom and dad’s ‘first date’

10 months after their son’s birth, writer Chris Hunt and his partner, Angela, went out for their first post-baby “date night”, which started rather awkwardly.

By Chris Hunt

chris-hunt-march14My son Riley was 10 months old the first time his mother Angela and I had some significant alone time. For her birthday, her mother’s husband Joe had arranged a romantic dinner for us at a gourmet pasta place in Aylmer.

It was a night just for us, he said. He and Angela’s mother were going to babysit for the entire evening. We could have dinner, and then maybe go for a walk by the marina, he said. Or go for ice cream, even. Or go for a walk after dinner to go get ice cream. He didn’t care.

His only instruction was to not come back too early and to not call incessantly.

I called them while standing on their front steps, seconds after leaving.

“Hey, it’s me. How’s Riley? Is he OK? You sure? Do you need us to come home? You’re sure you’re sure? Okay then, I’ll call back in a few.”

When we arrived at the restaurant, everything seemed fine. At first. We wondered aloud how Riley was doing and if he was going to miss us. Was he running his grandmother ragged yet? Should we call to check in?

And then we started to talk about the restaurant. We debated how long it had been since we’d been there, what we were having, (we always get the same thing) and how delicious the bread was. And how pretty the napkins were. And how the menu had changed. Or may have changed, (it didn’t change at all.)

And then … nothing.

Well, not entirely nothing. This feeling of intense discomfort washed over me. I found myself tapping my feet, fiddling with my cutlery and I had to fight the urge to get up and pace. But I didn’t exactly know why.

This whole time I kept staring at my menu, despite knowing exactly what I wanted and I was very conscious that this was completely unnecessary. But I still didn’t put it down.

I looked over at Angela to see she too was reading her menu like it was an abridged edition of War and Peace.  And that’s when I said it.

“This is weird right?”

She glanced at me, exhaled a deep breath and gushed:  “Thank God! I thought it was just me.”

We were used to the roles of mother and father, and pretty much everything we had done for the past year was within that context. We had forgotten what it was like to interact as a couple.

It was surreal, like we were strangers who were familiar to each other. And who had seen each other without pants.

We clearly weren’t prepared for this moment. I mean, nobody told us we’d have to be anything other than mommy and daddy. At the time, we didn’t realize how important those adults-only moments are. They allow us time to relax, to rest or even just to breathe.

We now drop off Riley with his grandmother two or three nights a week so we can go to the gym. And it has had a huge impact on our day-to-day lives.

We fight less and we’re less stressed. If you’re new parents, I recommend setting aside at least an hour or two a week for yourself if you possibly can.

It can be hard at first, of course.

During that first night at dinner, we contemplated calling it a short night, but instead we stuck it out. We didn’t force anything, choosing to just let things flow at their own pace and soon enough (but longer than I thought it would take), things were much more organic.

We left looking forward to the next time we could have a few quiet hours to ourselves, but not nearly as much as I was looking forward to telling Joe how much of his money we had spent.