My Wife and I Just Had a Date at Walmart

Early last year, my wife and I were enjoying a typical evening out on the town. After a nice dinner, we headed to the mall, mainly to check out the bookstore. See, our evenings were wide open; we didn’t have kids then. In fact, children weren’t even on our radar.

While at the mall, we ran into some friends. They were new parents enjoying their first date night without their daughter. Their plans for the evening were to make a quick stop at the mall (check!), then go to Lowe’s. They were iffy on whether they’d eat dinner while they were out. After a brief chat, we said our good-byes and walked away. That’s when my wife turned to me and whispered, “Promise me that we’ll never run errands as a date night.”

Flash forward 18 months: my wife and I just got home from a baby-free date night at Walmart. A dose of reality is never more clear than when you compare a typical, pre-baby date night with the one we just had, as follows:

1. Getting ready to leave

Pre-baby:
The getting-ready-to-leave ritual is veiled in mystery. Wife is getting ready upstairs while I’m already downstairs wearing the outfit she set out for me. When she finally makes her way downstairs, she reveals herself in a way that’s both exciting and sexy. She’s dressed in an outfit I haven’t seen her wear before, something that accentuates all of her best features.

Post-baby:
There’s a lot of running around upstairs. We take turns putting on pants. Each step of getting ready is done in shifts so we can pass an increasingly-fussy baby back and forth. While my wife puts on makeup, I take the baby downstairs to change her diaper. On the way, baby spits up, leaving a white streak down the front of my shirt. I spend way too long deciding whether it’s worth changing. After an hour, we head out the door, all arms full of supplies. I absently wonder if I remembered to put on a belt.

2. Arriving at babysitter’s

Pre-baby:
This step does not apply. Wife and I head directly to the restaurant. We are able to sit down with no extra tasks. No wiping down the table, no assembling a booster seat, no arguments over whether or not a baby wants to be held or left alone. We just sit and browse the menus.

Post-baby:
We walk inside the babysitter’s house and decide that perhaps it’s a good idea for my wife to feed the baby once more before we leave. While this maximizes our chances at having a longer time away before the baby gets hungry again, it ironically reduces the time we’ll have on our date before bedtime.

3. Eating dinner

Pre-baby:
We enjoy the “fine” aspect of fine dining. We celebrate this particular date night because we haven’t had one in awhile, when in actuality, we’ve had a date night every night for the past six years. It’s just that this time, dinner’s a bit more expensive, so we splurge on an appetizer and maybe a side salad.

Post-baby:
We arrive at a restaurant that fits firmly between fine dining and Bob Evans. This is one of those Mongolian Grill places, and we spend at least five minutes deciding whether or not we’ll get our money’s worth out of an extra four dollars for the big bowl instead of the small. We both settle on small, promising each other that we’ll get ice cream later if we’re still hungry.

Pre-baby:
Dinner conversation includes funny anecdotes heard at work, plans for future vacations, how much we should budget for upgrades to our home. There is much laughing, and through dinner, we fall a little bit more in love with each other.

Post-baby:
We start planning our will.

4. After-Dinner Entertainment

Pre-baby:
We have plans to see a movie, but because it’s such a nice night, we decide to postpone it, instead deciding to take a leisurely walk downtown. After all, if we don’t see the movie tonight, we can always see it tomorrow.

Post-baby:
The restaurant is within walking distance to Walmart. We need toothpaste and toilet paper. We decide to enjoy the nice weather by acknowledging it verbally, then getting in our car and driving over.

Pre-baby:
We walk down the sidewalk, hand-in-hand. The sun is setting, illuminating the sky in a gorgeous deep crimson, dotted with an array of cumulus clouds in front of an altostratus backdrop. I enjoy telling my wife all about clouds because I recently learned more about them. When you have free time every evening, you literally have to make up things to do. Today was clouds. The day before, I learned how to fix a telescope.

Post-baby:
After mulling over toilet paper brands for twelve minutes, we pass the toy section on our way to the toothpaste aisle. We debate the most appropriate Christmas present for our infant daughter and discuss the merits of both a small electronic drum kit or a lamp that plays nursery rhymes. We each play with a toy, then trade. Ultimately, we decide that it’s October and too early to really care. We walk to the toothpaste aisle and get excited when we discover that the two-pack is on sale. But the sale price requires the purchase of a second set, which generates a debate.

5. End-of-Date Activities

Pre-baby:
Well…you know.

Post-baby:
We pick up the baby from the sitter. Baby’s a little fussy, probably a mix of hungry and sleepy. I can relate. We spend an extra half hour at the sitter’s house because my wife has fallen asleep on the couch. Once we finally make it home, my wife puts the baby to bed, then falls asleep upstairs. I fall asleep in my chair watching Cheers on Netflix.

6. Date-Reflection Period

Pre-baby:
We reflect nights like tonight and wonder how babies could ever fit in the picture. We focus so much on what we’d give up that we actively avoid thoughts of having one someday.

Post-baby:
In the course of going on a baby-free date, we discover a part of us is missing when we’re without our daughter. We miss her so much and only feel complete once we’re back with her, though we have a revelation. We remember the friends we ran into 18 months ago – the ones on the sad mall/Home Depot date – and we get it. Dates now mean something new. It’s not about how we spend our time, but instead, it’s about the chance to celebrate each other. We connect in an entirely different way. Our dates are a reminder of why we’re a great couple and how amazing our family has become. When we focused on that, it didn’t matter if the date was at Ruth’s Chris Steak House or Walmart; all that mattered was that we spent time together, just the two of us.

 

date Night (1)

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