My husband and I had our first two-night getaway back in August for a wedding.
It required two sets of fully-briefed grandparents tag teaming, a 12 hour journey to France (we needed to fit with childcare, which meant going via Amsterdam?!) and a stay in an old people’s home (literally a nursing home, some of the rooms had oxygen masks and the receptionist wore a white coat.).
But it was worth it.
Because for the first time in a LONG time, I pulled an all-nighter – and not because of a baby.
I got my mojo back – the mojo I hadn’t seen for about five years.
I felt like a person – in fact a sexy lady, instead of a mother.
And, instead of a tense journey, trying to haul children and car seats through airports, I leisurely sauntered, read a book, did some casual duty free shopping and laughed – actually laughed – at my husband’s jokes again.
Heading home, I felt this terrible sense of loss.
It dawned on me that for the past five years, I’ve been totally consumed by motherhood and my boys. Wrapped tight in the baby bubble, I’d lost myself. And I wept a little bit.
Probably because I was horribly hungover but also because I felt stupid for not making this happen sooner. For not booking more time for me – and my husband.
Oh and I also shed a little tear of guilt that I didn’t miss my dear children…not one bit!
And in that moment I realised I had to stop being a martyr and soldiering on. I needed to put myself (and my husband) first a bit more. To book more DATE NIGHTS.
And since then, we’ve sort of made it happen. Before France, my husband and I had probably had about four nights off together in four years. But now, we’re starting to aim for one a month (unlikely but here’s hoping). We’re actually getting quite good at it.
Here are some tips for parents who’ve been given a precious 24hrs of freedom but have forgotten how to date:
Date night no nos
Don’t peak too soon
A school boy error. This happened to us on our first date night since becoming a family of 4. We were on our knees – the only way to describe the exhaustion when your second baby still feeds at night and unexpectedly becomes mobile (he was an early crawler goddammit). We booked a night away to primarily catch up on some precious zzzzs but faced with champagne in a hot tub on a Cornish cliff, well, we didn’t stand a chance.
Don’t have an afternoon nap that you don’t wake up from
Date night gone. Poof. Just like that. And you now have jet lag.
Don’t forget your breast pump if you’re still feeding
Let’s just say spending most of the time milking myself in the bath was not how I’d planned to spend my time at the super sexy Adult-only Scarlet Hotel in Cornwall. Nice.
Don’t gorge yourself on too much curry
For obvious reasons. Who said romance was dead?
Date night dos
Order weekend papers
Probably one of the things that I miss most since having kids. I wasn’t even that big a newspaper reader pre-kids, but now I don’t have the option of spending whole Sundays leafing through a chunky weekend paper, I want it. More than ever.
Make a mental list of things you miss and do them: shopping, spa-ing, sleeping, lounging, dancing. Do it. Do it all. You will appreciate these simple pleasures more than ever before. One of our first nights away, I was so overwhelmed by the sudden freedom I couldn’t make up my mind what to do. Do I go for a swim? A walk? Read? Shower? I ended up sitting, paralysed with indecision, for a good few hours. Although doing nothing was probably exactly what I needed.
Prepare yourself for the grandparents telling you your children were angels and slept all night long. Because they will.
Tried and tested date nights
A slice of East London cool with lashings of Dartmoor drama. Weeke Barton is cosy, romantic and in a beautiful location. Choose the room with the freestanding bath for an extra treat. (We’ve not made it here without the smalls yet but you can read about how we hired Weeke Barton for a weekend with friends).
We stayed in this lovely hotel room (see right), next door to the vibrant St Austell Brewery pub. Clearly popular with locals because the food is delicious and atmosphere warm, friendly and fun. (You can read my review here).
Enjoy swanky cocktails at this city centre location. We had a very snazzy room with amazing views over Exeter. I felt a little bit Sex and the City when we stayed here.
Your archetypal English pub. Cool it ain’t but it’s not trying to be – it’s a gorgeously quaint thatched pub. Finish off your meal with a cheeseboard and Port, then stagger upstairs to a four-poster bed. (Or, alternatively, join in the curry night pub quiz like we did!)
The Scarlet, Cornwall
Totally decadent, adult-only trend spot. But with a pretty hefty price tag to accompany it. Book a hot tub on the cliffs with a bottle of bubbles – we scheduled ours for 7pm – one of the worst times of day as a parent (especially when you’re negotiating bed time with a toddler while simultaneously feeding a baby). That 7pm was the best ever. (Not so much fun for my poor sister babysitting).
Where have you been?