Thursday 22 February 2018

Save the date

Sometimes socialising seems like too much effort, but new mum Siobhan O'Dowd says the pay back in terms of quality 'baby time' is huge

Siobhan O'Dowd
Siobhan O'Dowd

Socialising for me has changed. It used to mean getting out and about, trying new restaurants and going back to favourite ones. Meeting friends in pubs or for brunch with lashings of mimosas and wine and oodles of chats, then emails the next morning about how awful our heads were. Now socialising is generally some kind of baby-related enterprise where our daughter Charlotte meets other kids and is exposed to new environments in order to socialise her and prevent possible future meltdowns.

My husband John and I were trying to remember the last time we went for dinner on 'date night' and one that wasn't an early bird with four watchful eyes on a squirming baby in a high chair, trying to entertain and feed her in between our own forkfuls. This is all midst praying that we're not ruining the other diners' experiences. A proper 'date night' with just me, John and a bottle of wine? That was back in March.

Now don't get me wrong, we've been out and on individual 'work nights' out but romance has definitely taken a bit of a hit.

I want to have nights out but because the only time I really have to hang out with Charlotte is after I pick her up from the minder at 5.30pm until her bedtime at 8pm, I don't really want to leave her with a sitter. And after doing a full day's work and then the evening feeding/playing/bathing/bedtime shift, there's still the baby food to be made, laundry to be done, and other essential household chores. When all that's done, the idea of putting on a nice dress and going out just seems like way too much work.

But then I'm utterly convinced and jealous that all of my friends and everyone I know are out every night having a grand old time, eating in fabulous new restaurants I haven't even heard about and drinking lots of yummy wine. It's a catch 22 really because even on a recent girls' weekend in London, the night itself was amazing, but the only thing worse than feeling a little delicate on the plane journey home is really missing your baby while you're on a night out, and stressing about whether your husband is doing it 'right' and dreading the inevitability of her being out of her routine when you arrive back.

When I'm up to my elbows in Johnsons & Johnsons in the sink (we did away with the designer baby bath about three weeks in) at 7pm, I wish more than anything in the whole world I was getting on the glad rags and warpaint and jumping in a taxi to go anywhere. But if and when I'm in that taxi, I feel like my make-up isn't working because my tired skin is resisting it; my outfit is all wrong because I don't even know what people wear on nights out any more and I'd kill to turn the taxi around and just go back to bed.

I don't know what the answer is. I think it changes depending on how much sleep I've had and how green the grass is on the other side at any given point. But I also think it's important to make the effort - and it is an effort - because the easy option is staying home. There comes a certain point when you can't remember the last time you texted your husband about something other than an addition to the SuperValu shopping list. And until the first glass of vino hits home, a night out is stressy, with all the guilt that motherhood brings. Yes, the next morning, when the coos and gurgles start at 7am, is not going to be the easy but 99 times out of 100, when you're actually out, it's a tonic that sets you up for going back into 'the routine' with a smile on your face (that's when when the paracetemol is kicking in). It's good to miss your 'mum and baby' time because that's so much better than being with them and wanting to get away from them. Date night, with your significant other, and no matter how tired or un-glam you feel, is an investment into high-quality baby hang out time.

Irish Independent

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