As good showmos, my husband and I have a few theater subscriptions in Boston. When the show is kid-appropriate, we bring the children, but they aren’t ready for non-musical plays so more often than not we end up getting a sitter and heading to the city alone. We find that these theater subscriptions serve two key purposes:
- We are kept up-to-date with our theater experiences.
- We get a chance to speak to each other.
If we didn’t purchase these theater tickets 6-12 months in advance, we probably wouldn’t get out of the house. Weekdays consist of one of us taking the kids to gymnastics/dance/piano/soccer practice while the other one stays home so that dinner is ready when we come home from gymnastics/dance/piano/soccer practice. After dinner, we throw the kids in the bath, put them in pajamas, let them read for a bit and turn out the light. Soon after, we settle down on the sofa for me to catch up on my TV and my husband to catch up on some Z’s.
Weekends aren’t much different, except that Saturdays are consumed with soccer and Sundays are spent hitting the reset button for the coming week: laundry, groceries, hair braiding, homework, etc. After all that daytime activity, we’ll settle in for the same sofa routine that takes place on workdays. If we had to decide on a whim whether we were going out or not, we’d indubitably choose lounging on the sofa in our pajamas and hitting the sack by 9:00 pm.
Because of all of this, we almost never speak about anything of substance at home. The few times we try, we’re interrupted a thousand times by one of the kids, usually telling us something supremely important like “the pink Angry Bird is actually pretty mean.” We’ve tried sending them to the other room while we chat, but usually that ends in tears: “She said the red Angry Bird is meaner than the pink Angry Bird!” After the kids are in bed, we’re simply too exhausted to have a meaningful conversation that doesn’t end in one of us getting annoyed because the other one is too tired to follow an important line of thought.
Hence the theater nights.
Today, I worked all day (yes, I taught on a Saturday), raced home to attend our daughter’s piano recital up the street, and then stopped in at the house for an hour or two to make dinner while my husband fixed a broken toilet. Then tonight, a sitter will come over and we’ll have a little bit of time to chat in the car and grab a drink before tonight’s theatrical experience. It’s not our usual full pre-theater dining experience, but it will have to do since our sitter can’t be here until after dinner.
I used to feel guilty about wanting this time away from the kids. And I felt guilty about being too exhausted to explain to my husband what’s been ailing me at work during the week. But so many good friends who have made it through these fatiguing years of young children have helped us to understand that we shouldn’t begrudge ourselves any of these small pleasures or desires of isolation. We both work full time, and we both work really hard to raise these kids right. By my count, that’s two full time jobs. Maintaining a healthy marriage simply has to fly an auto-pilot most days, waiting for those refueling stops where we can ditch the kids and remind each other why we fell in love in the first place.
That’s our recipe for marital bliss while parenting young children: buy lots of theater tickets.