So my twenty-year (!) high school reunion was this past weekend, and while I had been a bit on the fence as to whether or not I was going to attend, I ultimately had a really great time catching up with people I don’t get to see often enough. Of course, the prevailing topic of discussion for me wasn’t “Where are you living?” or “What are you doing?” — it was, “How’s parenthood?”
Many of my classmates were aware I became a father this year, and some have even been following Miles’s early days pretty closely. And of course I relished being able to talk about Miles — how he sleeps through the night, how he doesn’t cry very much, how he’s the easiest kid to manage in his daycare class…
But one friend in particular, himself a parent, shifted gears and talked about a different aspect of raising a child. He talked about the first year, and being so caught up in the child that his relationship with his wife started to suffer. “We realized we weren’t making time for each other,” he said.
Jaclyn and I have obviously been employing babysitters pretty often, and we haven’t let the baby stop us from going out and seeing friends, but how much time are we actually getting to ourselves, with each other? Not a whole lot. Our nights out typically involve sitting somewhere dark and facing something, be it a stage or movie screen, that isn’t one another. And when we’re with the child, it’s alarmingly simple for us to virtually disregard one another. It’s definitely not a deliberate thing — more like the general lack of thought one gives to having arms or legs — and that’s probably what makes it so easy to overlook.
Even the times when we realize and talk about the unintended distance between us, the attention the baby requires (and, in all fairness, that we feel intrinsically rewarded providing) often makes acting on it a challenge. Our relationship has been an 11-year work-in-progress, and having a kid hasn’t changed the need to keep working at it.
Personally, I’m already making an effort to not just eat dinner together, but to keep my focus more on Jaclyn during that time. And hopefully we’ll find time for more date nights in the future. The hardest parts of being a parent often have little to do with the child itself — it’s what’s happening around the child that’s difficult to manage!