Two nights ago I went out for pizza and wine with some girlfriends.
This is not a phrase I get to say very often. In fact, this was only the second time I’ve had a night out with the girls since Ruby was born. That’s in OVER SIX MONTHS! There have been various reasons for this, but the most prevalent is that with my second (and last) baby, I’ve been reluctant to hurry her to a place where I can leave her and head out for a night on the town. She still feeds to sleep (and doggedly refuses a bottle), she likes to be held by her mummy (whereas her big sister frankly prefers being put to bed by daddy), and I feel her babyhood slipping away all too quickly already – I’m in no hurry for it to end.
I’m not starved for company – I feel lucky that as a stay at home mum I have a fabulous group of mummy friends who are my sanity and my saviours when we get our kids together in the afternoons, drink tea and take turns yelling at them. BUT – in the same way Date Night for couples has to be so vital for a husband and wife, I now realise that setting aside a night every now and then to put on some makeup and slightly less practical shoes, leave the kids behind, and go out somewhere nice with your girlfriends is equally important.
It takes a bit of effort, true. The days of slapping on some lipstick and grabbing a clutch bad before breezing out the door are long gone. Preparing for the evening began in the early afternoon when I started to time Ruby’s feeds. I made sure I had dinner prepared for the family well in advance (nothing too messy so there was minimal clean-up), got bath time done early (although as we don’t have a bath in our temporary apartment it was actually more like shower time…), washed and blow dried my hair (ahh, luxury), chose an outfit and a back-up (babies and their spit-up always know when you don’t have a back-up) and left time to feed Ruby at the very last moment so she’d last through the hours I was out. But perfectly laid plans be damned. Annabel chose the one evening I was going out to request I put her to bed, Ruby didn’t want her night time feed so early, and when I dashed out the door 4 minutes after I was supposed to be seated at the table, I left two crying babes in the arms of their dad and felt like I was fleeing a crime scene.
I arrived at the restaurant a bit flustered to sympathetic queries and reassurances from the girls. Of course, we are first and foremost mothers – this is always our primary focus and if there’s something one of us is finding particularly difficult, we always want to know about it. But as the evening continued we started to relax into the people we were before our littles came along. Without the constant interruptions that come with caring for our kids in our daily lives, we could spend time being the women we once were – and have actually never stopped being. We talked feminism, we talked fashion, we talked fitness, we talked car insurance (no, really!), we talked about getting back into the job market and swapped contacts and ideas (and found that we actually have contacts and ideas!). We drank delicious wine and ate a tremendous amount of carbs, and I came away feeling more energised than I had been in months.
Because that little extra bit of effort was so worth it. It helped me reconnect with myself and the things that make me tick. It reminded me of the simple pleasure of being able to complete a conversation without having to break for a potty run or a time-out. It inspired me to talk to like minded women with interesting and intelligent perspectives and skills. It made me feel like I had something to contribute other than my theories on sleep training and tantrums. It was a brief release from a job that I love, but that doesn’t end when the sun goes down and from which there are no holidays. And a brief release was enough. The irony isn’t lost on me – taking a bit of time to not be a mum for a few hours has helped make me a happier woman and therefore, a better mum. Our girlfriends are vital. The things they remind us about ourselves are vital. Girly date night needs to become a habit.
When I got home, both girls were sleeping peacefully and their dad was cleaning the kitchen in his boxer shorts. And all was well with the world.