Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Conversation at the dog park today

JunkMale, Pearl, Luna, and I met a woman, her husband, and their dog (no baby) at the dog park today. The following is a rough transcription of the encounter.

Woman: What a beautiful baby! How old is she?

JunkMale: Almost 7 months.

Woman: Oh, they're so sweet at that age! I used to be nervous bringing our baby here when she was that young, but my husband didn't seem to mind as much.

Me: Yes, it's that way in our family, too. I'm always the nervous one.

Woman's husband: It's safe when you're holding them. The dogs can't jump up and get them.

Me: Yes, she's high enough now that she won't get scratched. [to the woman] How old is your baby?

Woman: Eighteen months. We're taking advantage of our day off of work when the baby is still in day care!


I know I said something back to her, but don't remember what it was because I was too busy wondering what kind of people think a day off from work is for spending with your dog and not your baby.

Is it just because my baby is six months old and still (nearly) exclusively breastfed and won't take a bottle that I was so horrified by this? Sure, let the baby stay with family - or even a close friend - for a day while you spend it with your spouse. Every now and then that's fine. And there's certainly nothing wrong with leaving your child with a babysitter for a couple of hours. But to leave your child in day care on a day you're not at work just to get away from them?? Because, you know, you're already getting so much family time that you couldn't possibly take any more.

I hope there's more to the story that we didn't hear, and there likely is. But, dear readers, I want to hear from you. Will JunkMale and I think differently when Pearl is older? Are days away from children good for the soul, or are they selfish? How does your family handle this?

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9 have poured out their souls in electronic text:

  • Alan

    I wonder about that family too -- but as you said there may be more to the story.

    I think a husband and wife do need time together away from the kids, but it can be hard, depending on the age and number of small children. A baby in the house can make it impossible. But eventually babies grow older, and you'll be sending the kids to the grandparents occasionally! Once Pearl reach a certain age (maybe 2?) you'll be able to leave her with someone else so you can have a date night with your husband.

  • Sara

    What's the difference between sending the baby to day care for a "date day" with your spouse and sending them off with family or friends? In many cases, people live so far away from family or close friends their day care provider IS the person they trust most with their child, at least locally. At 18 months, assuming the child has been in day care for at least a year, the day care provider is probably very close to the child and a stable prescense. The kid was probably quite happy to go to day care to play with her friends and stay within their comfortable routine, and Mom and Dad got a bonus day, just for themselves. Especially around the holidays, which can be an extraordinarily stressful, I can imagine they appreciated a day when it was just the two of them to do whatever they wanted, so they were refreshed and recharged and ready to be the best parents possible to their little one.

    Every family is different, but I think the best thing parents can do for their kids is to make sure they know that their parents love each other and are strong and united. I don't think you can do that without occasional breaks- personally, I can't imagine waiting 2 years for a date night with my husband- that seems like a great way to guarantee that you only see your spouse as "Mommy" or "Daddy" and you lose track of who you are as a couple and wake up to find yourself strangers who co-parenting on autopilot. Not good. Day-care doesn't work for every family, but it works quite well for many, many families and shouldn't be dismissed simply because you've found a balance that works for you that doesn't involve "day-care".

  • CappuccinoLife

    Oooooh, wow.

    I don't have any baby-babies anymore :( but I'd have been just as shocked.

    It's not shocking that a couple wants to enjoy some alone time. I have no problem with that.

    It's that their baby is in daycare *every* day and on their day off when they could be enjoying him, they left him there.

  • CappuccinoLife

    I should add, although I love my quiet hour at naptime every day, and insist that all the children take that rest time, I have never felt a need to leave them for a whole day, and certainly not overnight. Dh neither.

    Right now we are parents. That's the season we are in, and it is a wonderful thing to be doing. There will come a time, sooner than we would like, that our children will be grown and gone and we can take vacations or stare at each other over a fancy meal. Right now we travel with our kids and make eyes at each other over leftover casserole and three small noggins at the supper table, and that is just fine. :)

  • Marianne

    I think I commented on Facebook about this ... but I work outside the home and am SO grateful for the days that either my husband or I has off so that we can spend the whole day with Nathan. It's such a blessing. It also helps reaffirm that *this* life (two working parents) is not the life we want... and makes us work that much hard to change it.

  • Marianne

    ... I know there's some bad grammar in that comment above ... I'm crazy sleep deprived, so please don't judge me. :)

  • Anonymous

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  • Smockity Frocks

    I just wanted to add that you actually can, go two years or more without a "date" and love your spouse deeply and see him or her as something other than a parent.

    I have the 7 1/2 kids to prove it.

  • Headmistress, zookeeper

    I had date nights with my husband at home in our room after we put the kids to bed until our oldest child was 15 years old and I felt semi-comfortable leaving her to babysit. Even then I had a nursing little one, so I did not like to be far.
    Um, what we did is leave the kids at home, go pick up a milk shake, and then sit in the carport visiting until the baby was ready to nurse.
    Other times we got up early, before the kids, to read aloud together and visit.

    I never could (and still do not) understand why it's assumed that one cannot spend worthwhile time with your spouse unless you are not at home and somebody else is watching the kids.
    Makes no sense to me that I can only have a meaningful conversation and bonding time with my spouse if we are out on a typical North American middle class date. Seems to discount the meaningful experiences and relationships married couples have had for millenia outside of this narrow window of time and culture.

    When I did home daycare, I had a few parents who would do this because they were paying for the service anyway (my salaried teacher parents got paid the same whether they worked or not, so they paid me by the week, whether I kept their kids four days or five). I never really understood that sort of economizing with your kids.