This weekend, I’m going on a date with my husband.
We’re going to catch a film, then head to the Chinese place we’ve been going to since we started dating 10 years ago.
There used to be more dates, but since having kids our relationship has had to take a back seat – especially whilst they’re so young. We know that once they grow up and move out, we’ll have more freedom to be us again, but for now, the vast majority of our time and energy is spent raising our two insane children.
Because the children are our priority, and we both work full time, date nights are really special. We dress up, book ahead. We try to make time for each other once a month. Every other night, though, is spent cooking dinner, hanging out with the kids, watching TV and taking it in turns to put them to bed.
This is everyday life – the time we spend with our kids. Which is why I find the idea of ‘daddy daughter dates’ – where fathers take their young daughters out as a treat – so deeply troubling.
Of course, my daughter looks forward to spending time with him – but it’s something she gets to do every day, because he’s a hands-on dad who is present in both of his children’s lives, just like I am.
And quite apart from the fact that I find the idea to be somewhat insulting, isn’t the notion of a date between a father and his daughter just a little – well – creepy? Sure, take her to the cinema, but call it what it is, for god’s sake. Don’t glamourise it for the sake of making your little girl feel special – shouldn’t she be able to feel that without the reassurance of daddy’s attention?
Think about it: as adults, when we’re on a date, we’re pretending to be the best version of ourselves, right? We’re all about scintillating conversations, culture and charisma. Especially for us ladies, we’re told that in order to be attractive we have to be absolutely flawless – it’s a long way to go to trackies and takeaways on the sofa, which is the most real version of us.
It just seems so damaging to me to imply to my daughter that she should be anything other than authentic around her own father. When she grows up and starts going on real dates, she’ll be burdened with the stifling expectation that she has to maintain the utmost level of ‘face’ and pretend to be something she isn’t. It all just feels a little 1950s for my liking. We both want to teach our little girl that being herself is her biggest value.
So yes, my dates with my husband are a special occasion, but the time he spends with his daughter absolutely should not be. This is the mundane routine of every day life. I don’t want to teach my five year old that time with her daddy comes at some kind of price, that she shouldn’t expect anything more from him than occasional fun days out to the park or the theatre or for ice-cream.
He is her father, not a suitor – and his role is the same as mine. He has to be there for the tantrums, the long car journeys, and the inevitable teenage backlash (I remember being a teenage girl, and it will definitely come…). He can’t just be there for the glamorous bits of pretend parenting. I would resent that, he wouldn’t enjoy his experience so much and worst of all, my daughter would grow up to believe that his time is more valuable than mine. No one wants to be the ‘mean parent’ or the ‘strict parent’ or the ‘boring parent’ – best share out the boring parts equally, hey?
Besides, my children are always happiest when they’re at home, tumbling round the living room with mum and dad on the sofa, watching old Disney films. That’s the best kind of ‘date’ night, and it’s one we can enjoy as a family.