When I had my first baby, all the reading said that the most precious thing in the world is rocking your baby to sleep. I didn't quite agree with that and taught my baby to feel peace and fall asleep on his own, but I was always there to actually lay him down in bed.
After my second son, I felt a strong need to get out more -- not because of him, but because I couldn't handle being home with two kids and no outlet of my own. Once, I joined a Moms Night Out event, where we each paid about $40 to go to a nice fondue restaurant. I had no idea it would be a 3+ hour meal. I had no idea that all the other moms would recount their birth stories in gruesome detail over dinner. Really, can't we talk about something else over melted cheese? Isn't there more to our lives than birth and kids?
I found out that my church had a team of artists who make stage sets and props. I joined that and began volunteering there each Wednesday night. I also joined a Life Group that meets each Sunday night. Those are two nights per week that I'm not home at bedtime, but am out with like-minded people who have become close friends. My husband has nights when he's not home, and we switch. Sometimes I'm gone even more. Sometimes, between work and evening activities, one of us doesn't see the kids at all for a day.
This might sound terrible and terrifying to someone reading this, but guess what? When we're not with our kids, they're with exactly who they need. From April until last Friday, I worked two jobs and volunteered a lot. My parents had just moved here from many states away and they filled in on childcare, and that ended up being exactly how things should be during that time.
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I have a friend whose work is intense and she loves it, and her baby girl is as excited to see her loving babysitter as she is to see her mama. And you know how my friend responds? Not with bitterness and sadness, but with true gratitude that her babysitter loves her baby girl and vice versa.
If you've never missed bedtime, I urge you to take a chance. Your kids know that you love them because you tell them a hundred other times each day. They learn new routines quickly, and husbands learn that a happy wife is a happy partner. Even if it's not smooth once, that doesn't mean your family can't adjust to you being gone one night a week for book club, dinner group, religious gathering, exercise, or a crazy night out at Target (isn't that where we all end up during alone time?).
I miss lots of bedtimes, and I love the other ones better for it.