I used to love going out. And really, I still love it. Sometimes. A well-earned girls’ night or a date with my husband are the things I daydream about when I’m sitting on my living room floor covered in Cheerios and folding the same pile of washing for the third time that day. Because toddlers don’t enjoy snacks as much if they aren’t throwing them at their mums while eating, and because piles of folded laundry are much more fun for small people when they’ve been dismantled and strewn all over the floor.
And yet, and yet! While a night on the town is always a treat, I’m not so up for frequent hangouts anymore. Even when a babysitter can be found, and despite the fact that my husband is pretty much always up to watch the kid solo and let me have a night off, I don’t often want one. Am I nuts? Maybe, but often when I have something on the calendar, it feels a little bit like a storm cloud hanging over my head.
Why? Days as a working stay-at-home mum are spent balancing every hour among separate pulls — healthy meal prep, household jobs, running errands, fun activities, work deadlines. Even though I do spend a lot of time with my toddler, many nights I go to bed feeling like I should have actually enjoyed more of it. Shouldn’t have turned on that TV show for her so I could get through a work call. Shouldn’t have spent half an hour reorganising a random wardrobe while she napped when I could have been doing the dishes that confront me when I go downstairs for a midnight snack. Should I have been more in the moment with her during the day.
But at night, when my husband has come home and the dinner has been served, when the pyjamas are on and the cuddling commences, I feel so full of love and satisfaction. Our end-of-the-day routine makes all the chaos worth it. Hanging out with my little family is the kind of chill time I never knew I was missing until I had it. And call me a sappy loser, but my mind often wanders to how few nights like this I have left.
Soon, she won’t find all the comfort and joy she needs in the world while sitting on my lap. One day I’ll blink and she’ll be asking for the keys to my car so she can go pick up her friends. One day not long after that, she’ll move out and nights like these will be a thing of the distant past.
It’s not that I begrudge my little girl for growing, but just that I want to enjoy as much of the time as I can with her, now. Yes, toddlers are exhausting. Sure, there are plenty of times when all I want in the world is to throw on a pair of heels and have a glass of wine (or two!) without even the remote possibility of having to change a nappy that night. Some nights. But very few. Because for the most part, I would rather be here, where I’m needed and wanted.
There are over 100 ways to explain away a turn-downed night out. Blaming the baby is of course the most popular, and that can be done via feigned illness, exaggerated teething issues, and/or a general lack of sleep. Or trouble finding a babysitter can be claimed, of course. I’ve done it all to get out of a plan I never intended to make, or got backed into, and admitting this fills me with shame. Maybe I’m not a great friend anymore, or maybe I just need to be more selective about when I make my escapes.
Recently I’ve stopped cancelling and have learned to be upfront and say no when I know I have too much going on that month and will prefer not to go. And I still do make fun adult plans, sometimes, because I do love my friends and I do look forward to alone time with my husband. I cherish these needed breaks when they come and I’m up for it. But usually I’m just not.
Most nights, the agenda I prefer includes a family meal at home, music playing in the kitchen, and the dog begging at our feet for scraps from the table. Flannel pyjamas and dim lights on while we wrap up in blankets and read a book or watch something on TV that she likes. The simple life, maybe much simpler than I ever dreamed it would be. It might not be glamorous, but these are the moments I’ll miss later on. So, please forgive me for not making it out tonight — I have somewhere else to be.