Going Out Before Kids Was So Much Easier!
My husband Ian and I recently attended his work's Winter Gala. While it was a lovely affair -- the highlights of the evening being a delicious meal (that I didn't even have to prepare myself!!), intelligent adult conversation, and meeting wonderful new, like-minded people -- getting to the point of actually arriving at the restaurant was a heinous process. This was in large part thanks to my thoughtful husband, who announced to me a few short days before the event (on the weekend, incidentally, when the office is closed) that he was fairly certain that his work was having their Winter "do" on the following Wednesday. He wasn't positive that that was the day (it did seem odd to hold an event like that on a Wednesday), nor did he know where it would be, or at what time. Not even what type of event: Supper only? Dance? And he didn't want to email and ask for more details so close to the date, because then he would look silly for not knowing.
In other words, I was left to arrange babysitting (believe me, this is not that easy a feat as our in-laws are babysat-out, my mother finds it too difficult to look after all the kids on her own, and our close friends nearby that we could have asked (remember, it was on a Wednesday (!?)) needed to remain on call for a family emergency and couldn't commit), but I couldn't tell our potential sitter an exact time or yet confirm the date definitively. I also needed to find something appropriate to wear to what I presumed would be a formal supper (but might not be), and could also include a dance. Once again, thanks for that, Muffin.
It seems to me that "Going out" was a much simpler affair pre-children. For a multitude of reasons, some of which I will explore below. Please feel free to add your own comparisons in the comments, in case I've missed some. We get to go out so rarely that it's hard to remember what it's like from one time to the next.
The "money" factor
Once upon a time, if we were invited somewhere, or if either my husband or myself simply wanted to attend an event, all it took was wanting to go for it to become a reality. "Sure!"... and away we went. There wasn't any consideration other than our will, really, within reasonable limits. Now, when we want to go out, we have to plan a month ahead (or more, ideally). We have to see A) if we are able to arrange babysitting (bear in mind that we have trust issues and only allow grandparents and very close friends to watch our kids, a fact which significantly limits our options) and B) if we are able to work it into the budget. Many times we can't justify the expense, and on the odd occasion when we do it anyway, we usually feel too guilty to fully enjoy ourselves. Well, I do anyway.
The "time" factor
I remember, in our first apartment that was just around the corner from the biggest and (at the time) hottest nightclub in town. Friends would show up around 9, have a few drinks, and then we would all walk over around 10:30. We'd come home in the wee hours of the morning because it was Friday night and we didn't have to get up the next day. Now every day might as well be a weekday, because we get up at the crack of stupid regardless of what the calendar says. I exaggerate slightly -- most days they don't wake up until around 7. But the effect is still the same: by 10 pm, my husband and I both start looking at our watches, with a slightly crazed look of panic in our eyes. And then we begin calculating... if we leave right now, it will take 15 minutes to be on our way, 45 min to drive home, 15 min to say good-bye to the babysitters, then 20 min to get ready for bed. That means we can be in bed within 2 hours... which gives us about 6 hours of sleep give or take... which means that tomorrow's big project will be that much more difficult. Sometimes it's just easier to stay home. We're fuddy-duddies now.
The "outfit" factor
Back in the day, I had time to plan out an outfit ahead of time. I'm not a girly-girl by any stretch of the imagination. (I think I might actually be missing some 'girl' genes, because I am clueless when it comes to hair, make-up, clothes, etc. Or is it that I don't care? I don't remember anymore.) This means that it's not because I could or even because I wanted to spend that long thinking about clothes. It's that I needed to. I would attempt to match one of the random somewhat dressy bottoms I had with a top borrowed from a friend or sister, or vice versa, until I came up with something appropriate. Occasionally I would even invest in a dress, to save myself trouble for the next formal event. Now? Getting dressed for the other night's "gala" involved an hour of me frantically trying on every blouse and skirt I owned. Not because I'm vain -- well, maybe a little. Mostly because I had a hell of a time finding a top that didn't have a) food stains) or b) baby spit-up stains on it. I keep having babies and then dressing up and bringing the with me to academic conferences shortly after they are born. This means that they have thrown up on all my nice stuff.
The "complicated" factor
Going out can be quite the ordeal. It requires the planning skills of a professional coordinator, the patience of a saint, the negotiating skills of a hardened businessperson, as well as various assorted super ninja-mom skills. When we had one child, finding a sitter was no problem. With two there was much more hesitation, but it was still doable. When we asked people to watch the kids when there were three of them, they would just sort of laugh uneasily, as if we had made a joke. With four, we really just don't bother asking most of the time. And people don't offer. I can't imagine why...it's not like I blog about all their shenanigans or anything :D So most of the time it's easier for us to take turns attending events. But occasionally there is an event we both really want to go to. In these circumstances, we need to put our best foot forward and make things as easy on the sitter as possible. Which means that I still need to prepare a supper for everyone (except Ian and I) to eat before leaving. I have to make our event schedule coincide with the schedules of two different people (because let's face it, nobody will watch all 4 alone, and I don't blame them: I hate it when I'm alone for bath and bedtime). And then we need to give all sorts of instructions regarding bedtime routines, etc. By the time everything is said and done, we're usually exhausted before we step out the door. I can vaguely recall a time when going out involved putting on my coat and shoes, grabbing my purse, and walking out the door.
The "food" factor
In this same era, my husband and I savored our meals. We lingered over long, occasionally even romantic, meals. We appreciated the interplay of the various tastes and textures. Because we could. Nowadays we laugh at ourselves as we realize how conditioned we've become to scarfing down our vitals at chow-time, in the most efficient way possible, in order to leave our hands free to assist others with their meals. The last time Ian was out for supper at a restaurant with just other adults, he told me afterward that his friends (none had children at the time) got a big laugh out of the fact that within two minutes of his meal arriving at the table, he had it all cut into bite-size pieces. Naturally -- one hand to use a fork, another to feed a baby. Except that there was no baby there. The last time that he and I sat at an adult-only supper table, we had both nearly finished our meal as others were just beginning. It was a tad embarrassing. Apparently we have to retrain ourselves to be able to eat like adults instead of parents.
I feel the need to include a disclaimer on this post, in case there are any Judgey McJdgersons out there. I love my kids with all my heart. I have no regrets regarding our decision to have so many children, or the fact that they are so close in age. And I'd rather be broke and surrounded by people I love than be able to go out whenever I like. BUT...I can't help but notice the differences when it comes time to get ready to "go out," like we did last week.
Originally posted at: http://fourunder4plustwo.blogspot.com
Photo Credit: sunshinecity.