Mom and Pop Passion
Dad Going Nuts? Go Out Instead.
Despite having four school-aged kids, 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.
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 period when separation anxiety kicks
But refueling your relationship with the other parent is
important for your kids, experts say, in large part because it's important for
"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 Daniel Kessler, MD 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 health.
Getting Out the Door (or at Least <I>Behind</I> 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 further apart by their child's third birthday.
"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. 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 basket case 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