Parenting lesson #8: You cannot plan on being spontaneous anymore.

Our neighbor babysat for us on my 30th birthday, when Greg surprised me with a dinner at one of my favorite restaurants and about 40 friends. And Eliza was about 8-months-old.  See, you can still get out!

Before children, there is a spontaneity that even the most scheduled people get to enjoy in life.  Once baby arrives, the freedom to get home from a long day of work and decide, “Let’s try that new Asian fusion restaurant” goes right out the window.  Asian fusion becomes Chinese delivery, or if you’re lucky, Thai takeout – and you might get into a fight over who gets to go pick it up.

I remember before kids, Greg and I were spiffed up and heading out on a Friday night as a neighborhood family was playing out in the street together.  They whistled at us and asked what we were doing.  I said, “Oh, we’re just going to dinner and a movie.  It’s nothing special.”  And they replied, “Nothing special?  Just dinner and a movie?  For us, that’s Dominos and Netflix.”  We laughed.  But now, I so totally know what they meant.  A nice dinner and a movie date night would cost us at least $150, after paying for food, drinks, theater tickets, and a babysitter for 5 hours.

Getting out looks a little different now.  Last week, it was a bit sad to realize that our dinner date was a 5 p.m. visit to Outback Steakhouse with the kids and half of the geriatrics who live in Leisure World.  Eating with kids is already an experiment in trying to finish a conversation amid 46 interruptions.  But for some reason, your children know you really want them to behave in a restaurant, so they bring their A games of infighting, whining, and questioning.  (“WHaaa, I dropped my crayon!” “Mommy, can we get dessert?” “Why is that lady’s hair purple?” “Zach’s touching my picture!” “I want bread.  I want bread.  I WANT BREAD!!!”).  Not only that, but it’s a tough reminder of what your social life has become when you overhear, “What is Sangria?” at the table next to you.  (True story.)

I don’t think that before you have children you can plan for how potentially trapped you might feel by not being able to just “get up and go.”  But as I sat at Outback last week, I realized that almost exactly 4 years earlier, we were there for Greg’s birthday with 3-month-old Eliza.  And at that time, I felt trapped.  I was overwhelmed.  I was adjusting, rather poorly, to our new lifestyle.  Yet last week, despite all the reminders of how life changes with kids, I wouldn’t want it any other way.

So embrace chucking spontaneity out the window.  Sure, you have to remember diapers, wipes, bottles, formula or breast milk, spare outfits, burp cloths, pacifiers, and maybe even a pump for a restaurant visit.  And you might go to Outback instead of the hip new place where people will stare at kids being kids.  But getting out with a baby beats the alternative.  And hopefully you can count on good friends, neighbors or family to do some free babysitting so you can try the new Asian fusion place after all.  You just have to do a little advance planning.

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