Social media makes it easy for trolls to voice negative comments and personal attacks. First came body shaming and, now, date night shaming. Yup, that’s the latest trend among online smack talkers. And it has me puzzled because I love date nights! Don’t you?
Plenty of celebrities have been bashed for post-baby date nights, like model Chrissy Teigen, singer Beyoncé and, most recently, actress Megan Gale. These moms were criticized for going out too soon after giving birth. And I’m not going to mention that the dads weren’t bashed… whoops, OK I guess I just acknowledged the sexism. But I really want to understand why date night shaming has become a thing (for any gender) at all.
I’ve experienced it – twice actually – and I’m clearly no Queen Bey. No one is writing nasty comments on my date night Facebook photos, but friends and family alike have made passive comments that were, well, pretty much date night shaming.
Shame Me Once…
During the initial infant stage, my husband and I were too sleep-deprived for anything other than survival basics (eat, sleep, shower, repeat), and especially not gung-ho for date night. It was, of course, just a phase. Once we were ready to start reconnecting as a couple, we hired a babysitter. Jacqui was a sweet twenty-something who, aside from great Care.com credentials, sat for the children of my husband’s boss. That raving personal reference was key for us. Nonetheless, many of my mommy friends balked at the idea of having a “stranger,” aka non-family member, watch our son. And some were surprised that I was even ready to leave my baby altogether (he was about one when Jacqui started coming once to twice monthly). They proclaimed they could never do that and questioned why I wanted to. Don’t get me wrong, it wasn’t easy – and it’s still not – but my husband and I needed to make our marriage (aside from co-parenting) a priority again. And, for us, date night was an essential for that.
Couples are happier and more connected when they spend quality time together. In fact, scientific research attests to the physical and psychological benefits of healthy relationships that include quality time and, more specifically, date night. Should I have felt ashamed for wanting to just be with my husband and not with my baby for a few hours? I didn’t think so, but those shamers offered doubt.
Shame Me Twice…
Last month, my husband and I took our first post-baby vacation without our now two-year-old. My in-laws watched him for five days. It was challenging to be away from my mini-me but, at the same time, incredibly necessary and rewarding for our marriage. Awww, just the two of us, and near our 13th wedding anniversary.
I told my mother-in-law that if she lived closer (than four hours away), we’d ask for babysitting help VERY often so we could enjoy date nights (and without the expense of babysitting fees). She shared that, while she resides in the same city as my brother-in-law, she’s never babysat his three kids (her other grandchildren) because “they [my brother and sister-in-law] are too connected as a family, so they don’t go out on dates.” Wait, what? Sure, I can read into comments, but is she implying that only couples who are “not connected” need date nights? Does she think my husband and I have a weaker relationship compared to others because we want, no need, to have a night out without the baby? Because that couldn’t be further from the truth. She (unintentionally) date night shamed me.
You Do You!
The Date Night Opportunity study published by the University of Virginia found that regular date nights add value to relationships by generating “higher levels of communication, sexual satisfaction and commitment” among couples. I want that! I want my husband! I want “us” to be happy! And I shouldn’t be ashamed of that. And no one should. So why, as a society, do we so easily judge and shame one another? From fat-shaming to parental shaming and beyond? Whether direct or passive, judgments hurt and are, frankly, unnecessary.
If date night is your thing… do it. If not, then don’t. In fact, maybe that’ll free up a reservation space for me! I guess we judge out of misunderstanding because we all don’t operate the same way or want and need the same things. But, to the contrary, I’m not shaming my couch potato friends who don’t do regular date nights. OK, well, maybe just a pinch… just kidding.
Date night is, of course, not the only thing that makes for a happy marriage. But it is one tool that I plan to use often to build up my own marriage. That works for me… and I have no shame!
Nancy DeVault is the managing editor of Date Night Guide and a contributor to publications such as Babble, AmeriDisability Services Magazine and Orlando Magazine. She enjoys outdoor adventures with her husband and toddler.