Going Nuts? Go Out Instead
With four kids ranging in age from 2 to 12, Ann Douglas still manages to
steal romantic dinners with her husband -- candles, a bottle of wine, a movie
later -- even if they're only sitting at their kitchen table and just
pretending to be in some exotic restaurant.
She says it's a matter of self-preservation.
"When weeks go by without that kind of a break as a couple, you start to
get on each other's nerves, lose all connection and just feel like, 'Where's
this relationship headed?' " says Douglas, author of "The Unofficial
Guide to Childcare" (Macmillan, 1998).
Sure, there are tons of excuses for letting "date night" (or morning
or afternoon) opportunities slip by: Good babysitters are a hot commodity.
Sleep is all you want by the time your baby finally nods off. Or you may
worry about leaving your child, especially during that 6- to 18-months-old
separation anxiety kicks in.
But refueling your relationship with the other parent is important for your
kids, experts say, in large part because it's important for you.
"If you're not taking care of your own needs as an adult and as a
couple, you're in a much less healthy position to be of value to that young
child," says Dr. Daniel Kessler, director of developmental and behavioral
pediatrics at the
Children's Health Center of St. Joseph's Hospital in Phoenix. It makes
intuitive sense that a troubled
marriage can negatively affect a child's emotional, cognitive and physical
Getting Out the Door (or at Least Behind One)
The time you spend with your partner or spouse won't necessarily make or
break a marriage or a partnership, but it may help you manage the stresses that
new parenthood places on a relationship, says Jay Belsky, a professor of human
development at Pennsylvania State University. Among 250 new parents he tracked,
half reported that they had grown farther apart by their child's third
"Time together gives couples time to catch up on each other's lives and
experience the pleasure of each other's company," says Belsky, author of
"The Transition to Parenthood: How a First Child Changes a Marriage"
(Delacorte, 1994). Otherwise, "Before long they will just become a team of
parents, partnered in raising children."
As most parents will attest, leaving your baby for the first time is always
the hardest, so ease into it with a quick getaway, like dessert at a
coffeehouse or a walk in the park.
"Don't try to go for dinner and a movie if you're going to be a
basketcase by the time the entrée arrives," says Douglas, "and if
you're paranoid, call from the restaurant. Who cares if they think you're
obsessive? You're allowed. You're a parent."
If you can't get out, get creative. Some couples wait until the baby's down
for a three- or four-hour stretch, then order a nice meal, dim the lights, and
ignore the phone and other household distractions. There isn't anything magical
about Saturday nights, either -- take the time whenever you can.