Sometimes I get a little sick of dinner-and-a-movie dates. And when I do, I search the interwebs for new ideas.
One time in particular, I stumbled upon the article When You Don’t Have Kids, Every Night is Date Night written by Julia Pelly, a working mom/blogger.
Julia begins her post with “To my childless friends”.
A little background info: I try to keep an open mind in most situations. My goal is to listen to all sides of an argument. Even if I do not personally agree, I look to understand how others might. Even when I read articles addressing the childfree from the prospective of a parent, I do my very best to understand. I want to understand. I would say I’m fairly successful in doing so.
My mindset for this article was no different. After reading though, I did feel the need to separate fact from fiction regarding the childless and childfree. Here goes…
…the thing you might not realize, the thing I sure didn’t realize before I had my son, is that when you don’t have kids, your whole life is a date night.
Is it, though?
My husband and I both work full-time, spending four days a week, ten hours a day, at our jobs. This doesn’t include the over-time he works on an as-needed basis nor my mandatory overtime each and every month. Once a week after work, we also attend a religious service together. On the other weeknights, we spend our time writing content for our website and researching data. This is all, of course, in addition to commuting through traffic, cooking dinner, and doing the necessary cleaning up that comes with it.
We generally plop down on the couch at around eight o’clock on the nights that aren’t consumed by other things and watch an episode or two of Curb Your Enthusiasm. Can you see why I’m hesitant to call these “date nights”?
Really though, all that’s required to call something a date is that you’re spending one-on-one time with the one you love.
This I agree with, to an extent. A date need not be elaborate in order to be considered a date. But again, consider sitting down with your husband after a long day of work and mindless watching a comedy. It’s something both of us would probably also chose to do by ourselves but we just happen to both be home and watching it at the same time.
Going out for pizza because you’re too tired to cook? That’s a date night! Grabbing frozen yogurt on the way home from dinner with friends? That’s a date!
This is where we start to differ in opinion again. One of the perks of being childfree is freedom, yes. But we’re not so free that our entire lives are one giant date night. I can’t speak for every childfree person out there but I’m sure a lot of us wake early for work, have pets we wouldn’t dream of leaving alone overnight, as well as a host of other commitments that prevent us from driving to NYC or LA or <insert any other city initials here> just because we don’t have kids.
Think of it this way: You no doubt converse with your coworkers on a daily basis, but you wouldn’t consider these conversations on par with a work conference, even though you’re essentially being paid the same amount for both. I look at shoveling pizza into my mouth while laughing at Larry David in the same sense. It’s just not a date.
That’s not to say dates can’t be casual. On the contrary, they can be simple and executed on a whim. It is my opinion, though, that even spontaneous dates should be intentional. Deliberate. Your focus should be set on one another.
Spending time in the same general area doesn’t count. Colin and I go to our tax appointment together. We also schedule our teeth cleaning appointments for the same day and time. I think you’d agree that it would be quite a stretch to dub it a date.
I know you’re probably tired of people telling you about how hard kids are and how tired they make you and how you should appreciate your freedom before becoming parents, but, well, having kids is hard and it makes you tired and you just don’t have the same freedom you did pre-baby.
Pelly acknowledges how tiring it is to raise kids and how tired the childfree, er- childless, are of hearing about it. But here’s the thing: we’re not just tired from hearing about it. We’re tired in general. Everyone everywhere is tired. I have yet to meet a well-rested human being ever, and it really didn’t matter if they married or not, working full-time or not, raising a family or very much not; To be tired is to be human.
Pelly is correct in writing parents do not have the same freedom as they once did. But what meaning, if any, does this have for the childless and the childfree?
So my advice, dear childless friends, is that before you decide to become parents, you should enjoy those date nights. Or should I say, date-lives?
Despite my desire to keep an open mind, I can get defensive when I’m given lifestyle advice from someone living a completely different lifestyle. This is not unique to the childfree, of course. A woman doesn’t want to hear how she could be a better woman from a man and vice versa. Pelly’s article did make me realize that this kind of advice-giving is something we all do.
Maybe to be human also means filling others with guilt for their life choices. I hope not, but I can remember saying to my animal-less friends, “Just wait ’til you get a dog,” followed by warnings given in jest. I love my dogs and I can’t forsee a life without pets, so why is that I would only share the negative aspects? Why is it that we all tend to do this?
In essence we’re saying, Enjoy your life now because it’s about to change for the worse. Also, you should probably feel bad about how good your life is at this very moment because that’s not how my life is.
And when we do this, we assume two things- that the person we’re talking to is 1) going to change their lifestyle and 2) they will have an identical outcome to ours. There’s really no proof that this will work. So again, why do we do this?
Well, Pelly’s own post was written after seeing a picture of her childless/childfree friend on a date with her husband. Perhaps our rants are then fueled by jealousy. That’s one possibility.
A strange phenomenon happens once the circumstances in our lives change- whether we’ve just gone through a move, a marriage, or the birth of a baby- for whatever reason, we reminisce fondly on our past. Perhaps it is more likely that, instead of of being jealous, we become more empathetic. Maybe we want others to have the same life experiences so they can experience the same emotions. In some sense, maybe we think we will be able to foster a deeper connection if we live similar lives. I prefer this version as it is a kinder view into us as human beings.
I am also comforted by this notion. In the final episode of the series The Office, Ed Helms’ character Andy Bernard says to the camera, “I wish there was a way to know you were in the good old days before you actually left them.”
I’ve always liked this quote but it wasn’t until after reading Pelly’s article that I realized something important. I may very well be in this stage of life now. Perhaps it looks a little different, a little less carefree, than the perception parents have. My childfree days are not filled with 24/7 spontaneous adventures or extravagant dates, but I still have no plans on leaving my good old days.
Agree or disagree? Tell me below.