Once you become a parent, everyone will tell you that you have to go on weekly “date nights” to keep your marriage alive. A night out with your husband, remembering what it was like pre-children, discussing something other than your kids sleeping habits, eating schedule, or bowel movements is an absolute necessity to keep the love strong. It really is a glorious event; having a laugh, maybe a glass (or bottle) of wine and just being a couple for a few hours can help provide new perspective on parenting. You return to your children nicer and ready to take on the next week, and plus, you remember why you married your husband.
Thanks to social media and “Insta,” you are bombarded with boomerangs images of cheers glasses with a cute little sticker proclaiming #datenight, #nokids, #parentsnightout… Or even “instastories” documenting weekend getaways with your BAE. Every parent should have the opportunity to get away because honestly, parenting is really freakin’ hard.
I am one of those parents who loves to have a night out with my husband or even a weekend getaway. We have three beautiful daughters ranging in age from one to nine, and between their dance, soccer, school, nursing, and social schedule we are pretty booked up. But like I said, it’s important to make those nights away happen. Unfortunately, for our family and many others like ours, date nights are not quite as easy and carefree as they should be.
My daughter was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes at the age of 13 months. Yes, we had 13 romantic months where we could take semi-worry-free “date nights.” But as most parents know, especially with their first child, leaving them with anyone their first year of life is challenging, so really I wouldn’t even count the first year. I don’t mean to complain, but over the past eight years that we have lived with this high-maintenance disease, I have had multiple nights of what I would affectionately call “date night envy.”
Truly, I am happy for all those parents who can call a babysitter at a moment’s notice or drop their kids off at “parents nights out” at the local YMCA. Unfortunately, that is not the reality for families that have “medically complex” kids such as ours. You see, my child comes with a set of instructions… a long set! Like a set of IKEA instructions!
For those of you who may not be familiar with type 1 diabetes, it is an autoimmune disorder that causes your body to attack itself, therefore your insulin (the stuff that breaks down the sugar in your blood from all the carbohydrates you eat) no longer works. Translation: your pancreas is now a useless organ, and in lieu of that useless organ you must now inject synthetic insulin into your body multiple times a day to ensure that your blood sugar doesn’t get too high.
That means that everything — I mean everything — that my daughter ingests must be monitored so that the person acting as the pancreas (us) can administer the right amount of insulin. Too little insulin can cause high blood sugar which has devastating effects on her future health, or too much insulin which can cause loss of consciousness and death. So you see it’s a very tricky little disease that has many factors at play.
Entrusting a babysitter or caretaker who is not familiar with type 1 to administer insulin, quite literally a medication that saves lives but can also kill you if dosed incorrectly, is very hard to do. Not only does it place a great amount of burden on the caretaker but it also creates stress on the parents and child. That is not to say that we have not had our fair share of date nights since her diagnosis eight years ago. We have had family members learn diabetic care and even a couple of trustworthy babysitters. And of course, thanks to the blessing of technology, I can now monitor her blood sugar from my iPhone, which makes life easier (thank you #dexcomg6).
I know I’m not alone in this “date night envy.” Many families have kids who are considered to be “medically complex.” So I can assume they can empathize with those fleeting moments where we are truly envious of our neighbors or family members who take carefree nights away, staycations just because, and are able to drop their kids at Grandma’s for the weekend. This is not our reality. When we go out, very specific arrangements must be made, trainings on technology must be done, and constant communication must be maintained in case anything were to go wrong.
Please don’t get me wrong, I would not change my life for anything. Our daughter is such an incredible blessing and an image of strength and perseverance. I am truly in awe of her resilience and positive attitude. There are times, however, when I feel the “date night envy” take hold, and I can begin to self loathe. I am only human, but what I have learned is that this is such a small moment in time. I know that one day my daughter will be able to care for herself and she will no longer need me to be her pancreas (though I will always worry). At that time, I am sure my husband and I can double down on the date nights that type 1 has taken from us. For now, watching a show on the couch after the kids go to bed is our way to connect. And that’s okay.
Type 1 diabetes is hard and all consuming, but it has created an intense bond within our family that I wouldn’t trade for anything… even a carefree date night.