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I Wonder .... What Did My Husband And I Do Together Before We Had Kids?

(Spoiler alert: It doesn’t matter.)

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Haleigh Mun
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A year ago, when our nest officially became empty, my husband of over 26 years and I looked at each other and said, “OK, so now what?” But really, for 24 years we’d been parents and had kind of forgotten what it was like to exist as just the two of us.

Happily, our relationship has remained strong, but it was hard to remember who we were as a couple before being besieged with diapers, dance classes and Disney.

“What did we used to do for fun?” I asked my husband a few days after we’d returned from dropping off our youngest at college and were sitting on the couch in stunned silence.

After more than two decades of almost all of our free waking (and sleeping) moments being focused on our girls, it was a real — and weirdly challenging — question. “Besides each other?” he winked. “I actually don’t remember.”

My husband and I met in college, got married a couple of years after we graduated, and had our first daughter two years later. We were babies ourselves right before we had babies of our own. Our nights were still consumed with homework as we worked on graduate degrees. We splurged on dinners at Red Robin and bottles of white Zinfandel, and planned vacations around those towns that had motels for which we had been given coupons or campsites where we could pitch a tent.

We watched “must-see TV” on Thursdays and trolled the sample tables at Costco for free food on weekends. We were playing house with real money and jumping headfirst into new careers, all the while still in the breathless afterglow of newly married life. And then we had kids and the years passed by in a blur. Parenting became an all-consuming time and energy suck, and even though we adored the family we created and loved the life we’d worked hard for, it often didn’t leave us much time and energy to offer each other. Sure, we’d go out for date nights and take the occasional anniversary trip, but more often than not, our conversation — and a lot of our attention — was still focused on our kids.

Where does that leave us then, when the nest is empty? Are we supposed to recreate the life we had before? I don’t think so.

Considering our kids grew into totally different people while we weren’t looking, it’s important to acknowledge the possibility that we did, too. I mean, I’d rather have a root canal right now than go camping.

So, maybe we can’t remember exactly what we used to do for fun before we became parents. Who cares? We don’t need to. Rather than trying to recapture what we were, we’re focusing our time exploring who we are now, as well as many of the things we didn’t have time to before. We finally bought snowshoes, and now, for the first time in over 20 years, aren’t dreading winter. We binge-watch docuseries and hate-watch The Bachelor. We take advantage of the miles of trails our beautiful state has to offer, on our bikes or by foot. We dream of moving to a brand new house somewhere we’ve always wanted to live, and then redecorate a room when we realize that’s not an option. We give each other space to explore new interests and we support each other’s passions, both of which are equally as important as the things we do together.

Of course, we still talk about our kids — they’re the best things we ever did, after all — but the conversation isn’t as all-consuming as it once was. And it’s not like we’ve given up on who we were before. We’ve relearned backgammon, a game we think we enjoyed in college. But now we play it at a local bookstore on weekend mornings, relishing in the fact that we don’t have anywhere to be. Until noon, of course, when we head to Costco for free food.