In an age of ever-busier schedules and increasing digital distractions, a date is often recommended as a good way to keep your relationships connected and strong.
We’re all familiar with the concept of weekly date night with your spouse or planning special one-on-one dates with kids. But have you ever thought about taking yourself on a date?
The idea of a date with myself first came to me through Julia Cameron’s book on creativity, The Artist’s Way. The book takes the reader through twelve weeks of tasks and reflections to help them get in touch with their creativity. But before diving into any of the weekly tasks, Cameron outlines some essential practices to fill the reader’s creative well. One of them is something she calls the “artist date.” She writes:
“The Artist Date is a once-weekly, festive, solo expedition to explore something that interests you. The Artist Date need not be overtly ‘artistic’ — think mischief more than mastery. Artist Dates fire up the imagination. They spark whimsy. They encourage play. Since art is about the play of ideas, they feed our creative work by replenishing our inner well of images and inspiration. When choosing an Artist Date, it is good to ask yourself, ‘what sounds fun?’ — and then allow yourself to try it.”
When Julia Cameron wrote this, she was imagining musicians and writers and artists filling their creative well, but I think this principle can be applied to anyone who needs more color and joy in their lives.
Whether or not we consider ourselves to be creative people, we make big sacrifices both as parents and as members of military families. Often, we are putting ourselves last and filling multiple roles with limited support. We may not be trying to fill a creative well, but our personal wells of joy and play could most likely use a refill.
I’ll tell you that when I first read about Artist Dates, I rolled my eyes. Clearly this woman doesn’t live in the same universe that I do, I thought. I was a full-time working mother with a toddler and a baby on the way, and my husband was finishing graduate school before becoming active duty. The thought of getting away for a few hours by myself felt unattainable once a month, much less once a week. Cameron’s lofty artistic demands dictate that these Artist Dates take place once a week and always by oneself, but we are taking this concept and bending it to fit our lives, not the other way around.
So if you laughed out loud at the possibility of getting away by yourself for a few hours a week, don’t stop reading quite yet. There are many ways you can squeeze in some time to do something that you want to do.
Bring your kids with you.
I’ll admit, sometimes I write something off right away if I think I need to haul my smelly minivan full of mini-mes with me. It takes effort to plan activities that involve unpredictable little people’s schedules and whims, and it can feel easier to sit on the couch and scroll or just stay in the daily routine. But if you can get yourself over that hump of effort, you can experience something you really want to do, whether that’s trying a new dessert place, checking out a boutique, or taking a day trip to a nearby destination you’ve been longing to visit.
Swap babysitting with someone else.
This has become one of my favorite ways to get some time alone because it blesses me doubly. I get a couple of hours of legitimate time to myself when my kids are at their friends’ house, and when it’s my turn to host the kids, I often get more done because my kids are happily playing with their friends instead of chasing me around asking for more fruit snacks.
Use hourly child care.
If you live on or near base, you can take advantage of hourly care to get some precious alone time. It can be tempting to use all of that time productively, but sometimes we are actually more productive once we’ve given ourselves some time to enjoy life.
Use school time.
If you have some time when everyone is at school and work, it is prime “date” time for you to do something you love.
Use the evenings.
I don’t know what I do half the time in the evenings. I’m typically too tired to be productive but not yet ready to give in to the oblivion of sleep. I wind up sitting on my couch scrolling the internet and procrastinating dinner cleanup. Eventually, I crash into bed, both face and dishes unwashed and wondering where the last two hours went. If this sounds like you, try and find something you genuinely enjoy to do some evening. Watch a favorite movie, bake something you’ve been wanting to try, leave the house for a late-night shopping session…whatever it is, do it.
Once you’ve found a time to take yourself on a date, the next hurdle is deciding what to do.
I’ve heard many of my friends bemoan that after giving so much of themselves to their families, they don’t know what they like to do anymore. Let this be your chance to experiment and find out.
Have you always liked dance? Find a studio that teaches adult classes.
Is crafting your thing? Find a local class, or take yourself to the store and pick out supplies to make something.
Love music? Go on a walk and listen to an entire album, or find a time to sit down at the piano or pull out that guitar you used to play in college.
Walk though an antique or thrift shop and find something that will make your house feel more like home.
Find a local hike, or try a new dessert shop.
There’s no wrong way to do it. The only requirement is that you’re doing something for no other reason than that you love it.
I’m in a season where, for a few mornings a week, I have time by myself. It’s been shocking to discover how quickly that time fills with doctor’s appointments, errands, and work projects. But as I’ve set aside a morning every few weeks to take myself on a date, I’ve felt happier in my day-to-day life and responsibilities. Taking myself on a date gives me something to look forward to. I’ve tried out a salt cave spa (highly recommend) and rented a kayak. I’ve gone to a local chocolatier. Sometimes, I just want to make the drive to the Trader Joe’s several towns away and wander the aisles to see what’s new.
We all try to prioritize our relationships with our spouses, children, and friends. Why not prioritize your relationship with yourself, too?
Take yourself out on a date and let us know how it goes. You just might remember how much you enjoy your own company.