Feeling the Valentine’s Day pressure? There are easy ways to make it work.
Let’s face it, Valentine’s Day is a different beast for parents than it is for those not blessed (and burdened) with children.
For dads, it can be an especially stressful time. You want to show the mother/partner of your children how much they mean to you, but that is no longer as easy as it once was. Meals and gifts are expensive, and money might be tighter than it has ever been. Baby sitters don’t come cheap, either. A romantic weekend in Paris might seem as realistic as Champagne and caviar on the moon.
Oh, and you’re both probably very, very tired.
So with the big day almost upon us, what should a desperate dad do? Here are a few sensible tips and ideas.
Match your expectations
According to psychologist and marriage counsellor Marie Hartwell-Walker, the key to a successful day is matching expectations. If she expects diamonds and you turn up with chocolate, that’s a downer. Similarly, if you plan a big romantic night out, and all she wants to do is curl up at home in front of a good film, everybody will be disappointed.
You’re parents, you have children to think about, and even Valentine’s Day needs some degree of planning and mutual agreement, however unromantic that might sound.
“To prevent the heartbreak of disappointment or a serious misstep on what is supposed to be the day of love, have a clear conversation ahead of time about what you would both feel is appropriate to honour the day,” Maria states. Given Valentine’s Day is this week, have that conversation now.
To prevent the heartbreak of disappointment or a serious misstep on what is supposed to be the day of love, have a clear conversation
Valentine’s Day can be any day
But it doesn’t have to be this week. At risk of repeating ourselves, as parents you have limited time and you spend a lot of it tired. Valentine’s Day is on Thursday, which means one or both of you may have school or nursery runs the next morning, plus a full day of work and childcare.
So why not take your personal Valentine’s Day over the weekend, or take a day off work later in the month? You don’t have to follow random rules. Do whatever you’re going to do on a day that suits you both, and really enjoy it. The other advantage of this is that you can have a lovely meal out on a day when prices have returned to non-Valentine’s Day levels!
Give the gift of ease
Even then, you might not be able to afford a meal out, or anything else that involves significant expense. But that isn’t necessarily what parents want anyway. What most of us want is a bit more time, and a bit more of it devoted to our own relaxation. So let your Valentine’s Day gift reflect that.
A take-away means nobody has to cook and nobody has to wash up. An hour or two in the local pub is time together that doesn’t involve travel, queues, crowds or hassle. In other words, make Valentine’s Day a day out of the parenting routine, and (most importantly) a day of relative ease.
In other words, make Valentine’s Day a day out of the parenting routine, and (most importantly) a day of relative ease
Get the children involved
Valentine’s Day is, at its core, a celebration of love. For parents, love is shared between partners and children, so get the kids involved. If they’re old enough, a handmade card for mum from dad and the kids is sure to be appreciated. If they’re capable of baking a cookie (with your help if necessary), so much the better.
Make it a habit
According to psychologist Stacey Ball, doing something together as partners as well as parents is important, but can be as simple as having a cup of tea together, going for a walk or having a conversation without phones, screens or children present. You could try micro dating.
But whichever it is, she believes these activities should not be limited to 14 February. Self-care is vital for parents and often not a priority, so she advises we make these simple activities one of our regular relationship habits: “No matter how you do it, do it, and do it often. You’re making yourself a better parent, ‘filling your cup’ so you’re always ready to fill your child’s cup,” Stacey adds.