Eight benefits of a couple’s retreat after becoming parents
Over the weekend, Jenna and I went to Champneys, which was a pretty strange experience. And not just because you get surrounded by strangers walking around in nothing more than robes.
We first went there during the 36th week of pregnancy back in mid-May for our babymoon, then Roma went on to arrive just a fortnight later!
Meanwhile, the festive return marked our first night away from Roma together.
Jenna had a girls’ weekend to Liverpool back in September, which I mopped up with a local lads’ night a couple of weeks later, after which I crashed at my mate’s house, but we haven’t both been away overnight at the same time.
We’ve had the rare night where I’ve managed to prise Jenna away from Roma to go cinema, but largely we’ve done everything as a family.
I’m not for a minute saying that’s a bad thing. I love that we’re able to continue doing so many things, albeit as a family unit – festivals, cinema, road trips. I’ve been instrumental in ensuring we get as much time in as a squad to make up for the 50 odd hours a week I’m at work or trapped on trains getting there and back.
Initially when I floated the option of going back to Champneys, Jenna didn’t want to stay overnight and suggested we go for the day.
“Should we both willingly separate ourselves from Roma for the night? Is there a right time to do so and, if so, when is it?!”
My counter point was this: “If we go for the day, we’re going to get in the car at the end of it and you’re going to have the cheek to say, ‘wish we were staying overnight’.”
She knew there was truth in what I said.
Not just that, but we’re very fortunate that our parents would all happily have a Royal Rumble to take on babysitting duties at a moment’s notice, so managing childcare for an evening would never be an issue.
Still, there was part of me that Jenna had rattled. Should we both willingly separate ourselves from Roma for the night? Is there a right time to do so and, if so, when is it?!
I have no choice in the matter when it comes to work, so shouldn’t I spend each moment with my daughter when I can?
I dismissed the notion and shook off the guilt.
Working is the mother of all catch-22s. I’m able to put food on the table and feed my child, albeit at the expense of missing out on time with her – it’s a situation the majority of parents find themselves in. But going to work each day has also given me the ability to remove myself from the baby bubble. It doesn’t mean I forget I’m a dad, that I enjoy leaving the house or want to, it’s simply matter of fact that I’ve adapted because I’ve had to.
For Jenna though, she’s with Roma virtually every minute of every day. With that logic, in theory it should be easier to remove herself from the baby bubble, I would assume.
But I realise that she hasn’t had to. Being with Roma is all-consuming each day and she ends up worrying and feeling like something is missing when she’s separated – essentially the way I felt after paternity leave.
In the same way that I’ve realised it’s important for parents to make room for personal time and hobbies though, fitness in my case, it also means it’s equally key we get time as a couple too, so I thought the night away would be good for the pair of us.
Here’s what I took away from it.
Before we became parents, we were a couple. Sounds like a ridiculous statement, but as I write this, it’s suddenly occurred to me we’ve just transformed from couple to a family faster than Optimus Prime folding up into a lorry. At its most basic, the weekend away gave us an opportunity to get some alone time to enjoy each other’s company like we used to.
We could do little things like go to the toilet without having one ear open for any sounds of alarm. We could go to sleep without muslins draping over our faces or finding soft talking toys wedged up our backsides.
(3) Undivided attention
Aside from the distraction of technology, we could have uninterrupted conversation without things, like changing a nappy five minutes after changing a nappy, breaking the flow of whatever we may have been… What was I saying?
(4) Unbroken sleep
Jenna didn’t sleep well, probably something to do with watching The Purge before we went to sleep/not hearing our daughter screaming her lungs out in the middle of the night, but I slept soundly until interrupted by the sound of the alarm in the morning, which alerted me it was time for brekkie. Even better since it was Saturday and I was set to be on the night shift.
(5) Doing something we love
We have a shared enthusiasm for fitness, but I’ve taken to training in the morning before work and Jenna the evenings when I’m home from work, so exercising together rarely happens. With an overnight, we were able to squeeze in a gym session on Saturday and a spinning class (never known anything so uncomfortable) the Sunday morning.
(6) Big kids
Ironically, being child-free allowed us – okay, me – to act like overgrown kids, messing around and playing tricks on each other without worrying about waking up the sleeping dragon baby.
(7) Recharging the batteries
The nature of being at Champneys itself allowed us to unwind without any stresses beyond deciding when we would eat, what we’d eat, and which spa facilities we’d make use of first. And as you can see from the header image, we’re pretty stress-free!
(8) I was right
Perhaps the most important of all these points, Jenna told me I was right to convince her the night stay was a good shout. Who am I to argue?!
The break was an opportunity not just to be with each other, but to rest mentally and physically, returning home full of life to give Roma the best versions of us, as well as an overdose of hugs to make up for the time apart.
The brief separation was also a chance to appreciate just how special being a parent really is – as well developing as the knowledge we can disappear for a few hours without the world ending when we fancy keeping an outfit free of spit-up.