Date night is not a substitute for personal self-care.
There, I said it.
I know I’m going to get a lot of “but’s” for this one, but I adamantly believe this and you should, too.
I am not anti-date night. On the contrary, I wish I had more date nights with my husband. In the past few months, our date nights have consisted of watching an episode of Star Trek on the couch a couple of nights a week while I nurse our youngest child. If we’re getting really wild, we watch 2 episodes in a row! I know, I know…fancy stuff.
Leaving the house is harder when you have a small human frequently attached to your body to feed. And keeping your eyes open in a darker than average room after 4pm feels nearly impossible when you are still woken up at least twice during the night by one or both of your children.
My hubby and I went on our first “out of the house” date, post-baby #2 a few days ago. It was an-all-expenses paid trip to see Cirque Du Soleil, including babysitting, compliments of my parents. Hallelujah for grandparents who live nearby!
I left the house without bringing a baby-carrier with me. It was a big moment.
We had a blast. I did have trouble keeping my eyes open in the dark tent and it was only 2pm, but I managed. I cuddled up next to my husband, watched some incredible feats of human ability, and had uninterrupted adult conversations with my favorite adult person.
It was a wonderful date.
It was also not self-care.
Let’s get really clear on what self-care is.
Self-care is a bit of a buzzword these days. Everyone is talking about it and everyone wants more of it, but what actually constitutes an act of self-care?
In my opinion, self-care is any act that a person does to or for themselves, which nourishes body, mind, and/or spirit. Self-care is an action that enables a person to connect back to herself and her needs. Self-care helps a person establish the actions, practices, routines, and habits that make her feel more whole.
When self-care is established on a daily basis, you lay the foundation of your basic needs that make you feel well taken care of. Once you establish your basic self-care needs – the every day actions that bring balance and support to your system – then you can add self-care actions that might not be as immediate but still support you. These are actions or practices you maintain weekly, monthly, or even yearly.
The best thing about self-care? You don’t really need anyone to do it for you. In fact, it doesn’t work the same way if someone else does it for you. The more people that are involved in your self-care practice, the more removed it is from self-care.
Let me back up and make this slight modifier:
Your daily self-care practices are the ones that are small but significant. No one else can do them to or for you.
The further you step out into weekly or monthly practices, the more “assistance” you might require. So for example, some people consider getting a massage self-care. I tend to agree, although you wouldn’t get a massage every day would you? That would be cost prohibitive, not to mention time prohibitive. Instead, you might get a massage once a month or once every 2 months. Some people get a full body massage once a week, which sounds absolutely decadent to me.
I do think that scheduling a massage for yourself qualifies as self-care because at it’s root, you are choosing to make time for yourself. Making time for yourself is something no one else can do for you.
This is huge.
Most of the moms I know want to do this, but are reluctant to do this. Many of those moms think that making time just for them is taking away from quality time they could be spending with their kids.
I disagree. We all need time to and for ourselves alone. Even kids. Even babies. We all do. If I’m not making time for myself, the quality of care I am giving to my kids is going to be significantly less than it could be BECAUSE I have given nothing to myself. I’ve done nothing to stock up my own resources.
I need to take good care of myself so I can take better care of my kids and my husband. I need time just for me EVERY SINGLE DAY in part so that I don’t go completely insane, but in part because it allows me to be more fully present when my kids need my full attention.
This is why date night is not self-care. Date night is, without a doubt, good relationship care. Incidentally, this is also why sex with your partner is not self-care. An important relationship practice but unless it’s solo, sex is not self-care.
So I’m going to give you a quick little checklist to help you get a handle on your self-care situation.
1. Are you making time just for you to do this action? 1 minute or 10 minutes or 100 minutes doesn’t matter. Are you making time for yourself to do this?
2. Does this make you feel more connected to your own needs? Meaning, in choosing to do this action, are you listening to what you body, mind, or spirit needs?
3. When you complete this action, do you feel more stress or more relief? (hint: if you feel more stress, it’s probably not self-care)
4. If you didn’t do this routine or practice, would you miss it? Another way to look at this question is, would skipping this habit impact your personal health, well-being, or happiness?
More than anything, the biggest takeaway here should be: make time for yourself. You matter. And when you demonstrate to your kids that YOU matter, they learn that THEY matter, too. Plus, you are teaching them, through example, a valuable skills that will last a lifetime.
So go on lots of dates with your beloved. But also make some regular dates with yourself.