Date Nights and Choreplay

Dear Mr. Dad: My son turned one a few weeks ago and it’s been months since my wife and I have had even an hour to ourselves. She makes abstract plans (“We’ll do something this weekend”) but they never happen—she always comes up with some kind of excuse. I’ve complained, but that just upsets her. I’m trying to be understanding but I’m getting more and more frustrated. Help!

A. When you have a baby, going out for even a few hours can take a serious amount of planning. Theoretically, as your baby gets older, it should get easier and easier to get away, not harder, so I understand your frustration. That said, let’s try to figure out what’s really upsetting you. The big question is: what is it that you miss—simply going out or spending time alone with your wife? There’s a subtle but very important distinction.

If it’s a question of going out, no problem. But be prepared, if you really want it to happen, you’re going to have to take the lead. Start by doing a little research and find someone you can trust to watch your son. If you don’t already have a list of good babysitters, get some recommendations from friends or coworkers. This may not be as easy as it sounds. Good, reliable, reasonably priced sitters (especially with a driver’s license) are in short supply and your friends may not want to share their good fortune with you. If you’re having trouble, try a few websites, such as sittercity.com, care.com, babysitters4hire.com, and care4hire.com. Several of those sites also allow you do to background checks on prospective candidates. Do some preliminary interviews to narrow the field and bring your wife in to make the final selection(s).
As soon as you’ve found a sitter you can trust, get out your PDAs and schedule a regular date night. Every week or every other week is fine. Then start making dinner reservations. Having dates on the calendar reduces the chance that you or your wife will let your plans fall through (this is especially true if you’ve put the sitter on a retainer, meaning that you agree to pay her for a certain number of hours per month whether you use them or not). Keep in mind, though, that kids get sick and legitimate stuff happens, so be gracious if your plans do have to be canceled. You’re not the only one missing out on a good time.
Now, if the real issue is that you’re missing your wife, by all means tell her. And by that I mean come right out and say “Honey, I miss you. I miss talking with you and laughing with you.” The two of you can work together to figure out how to spend more quality time together. Maybe once a week you could order take-out so you can both enjoy a work-free, clean-up-free dinner where you can focus on each other instead of the evening chores.
During the rest of the week pay attention to where all your wife’s time and energy goes. Then, start pitching in—without being asked. Fold some laundry, fill the dishwasher, or maybe take over your son’s bedtime routine. Believe me, your wife will definitely notice what you’re doing and she’ll return the attention tenfold (which explains the term “choreplay”).

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