The other day, I was sitting with my one-year-old daughter at a cafe, and got chatting intermittently while we were there to the older woman at the table next to us. When we got up to go, she said something that both convicted and encouraged me deeply:
“It’s so lovely to see a young mother actually talk to her child instead of spending her time on her phone. I don’t see it often enough these days.”
She smiled kindly and thanked me for it, and my heart felt lighter. I’m not sure she knows just how much I needed to hear that that day.
You see, I’ve realized recently the importance for our family of budgeting a generous amount (when possible) for coffee shop visits. It might not be the case for every family, but despite a very modest income since we’ve been married, my husband and I have come to understand that this is not something frivolous, but essential to our family. It could go if we could no longer afford it, of course. But we try our hardest to make it possible.
So why is this so important for our family?
My husband and I are both introverts. Even more so since our daughter was born. We figured out early on in our marriage that communication with each other is not easy for us, mostly because we struggle to put into words exactly how we are feeling much of the time, because we process this internally and alone. But we did discover some things about ourselves that were incredibly useful in improving our communication and so improving our marriage.
One of these things was something neither of us had really noticed about ourselves before marriage – we both open up much more easily when we are outside of our house. It is not that we cannot communicate in our own home, and we do work hard to do so with a weekly no-tech night and making sure we eat dinner together at table most nights. But most of the time it is just so easy to get distracted at home. There are very obvious jobs that need to be done, computers are within reach, our daughter wants entertaining…
Making sure we set aside some money to go out for a coffee with our daughter regularly is vital to us in this sense. With only 3 nights out in the year since our daughter was born, and nobody we know well enough locally who could babysit, dinners and general evening activities are not an option. We cannot go for a walk just us, as there is no one to look after our daughter. So we go for evening walks together with her often, as she is usually happy and distracted and we get some much-needed couple time. But sometimes we don’t have the energy for a walk, and going out for coffee is a wonderful alternative. Our daughter loves to squeal excitedly at the people around, and we get to spend some quality time together again!
And part of this budget is for me and my daughter to go out together a couple of times a week, too. Being a stay-at-home-mum, I find it oh-so-easy to open the computer and get lost for a while, or to start doing household jobs and not notice the time fly by. This last year has passed so quickly it has really made me realize the importance of spending quality time with my daughter and enjoying these precious times that will never ever come round again. But things still need to be done, and it can be incredibly difficult to find the balance. The pressure the modern world puts on you as a mother to spend
every waking moment as much time as possible entertaining and playing with your children while somehow the house is magically kept clean and jobs are completed is often too much to bear. The “mum guilt” sets in the second you start doing anything other than doting on your children. But it can be hard to fully engage with them when the pile of laundry is starting to take over the entire hallway, when you can’t find the baby wipes in the pile of general chaos on the floor, or when your daughter starts trying to eat bits she’s picked up off the floor because it’s been so long since you hoovered.
I try hard to find a good balance between getting things done and making sure I enjoy my daughter, but it is never easy. And that’s where long walks and coffee shop trips come in. Like my husband and I, our daughter is often happier and better out of the house. She loves to people-watch and adores nature. We try to go for an evening walk together (or rather, I do my back in bending over to hold her hands so she can race across the garden) shortly before her dad gets home now that the weather is nice. She generally walks for a little while then chooses a spot to sit down and we sit and
I try to stop her eating leaves and daisies we play with leaves and daisies, and are usually joined by our cat and my husband when he gets home. It’s wonderful, quality time, and we both thrive off it.
But what has this got to do with coffee?
Well, usually about twice a week (sometimes more if it’s been a bit of a rough week or the pregnancy is exhausting me a little more), we end our daily morning walk when she’s in the pram by stopping off at one of the coffee shops near us. I plop her on a sofa next to me or get her a high chair, and she sips at her milk while I sip at my coffee. My phone gets stuffed in my bag, a toy or book comes out, and is then usually casually discarded in favour of chewing on straws and coffee stirrers and chatting (or screeching happily) at me or the people around us. This time is very precious to both of us. There is a lot of laughter for us both, and I can feel us getting closer and closer in a short space of time.
So when the kind grandmother next to us witnessed this time and commented on its beauty, my heart breathed a sigh of relief. It hit home for me why we budget for this, and why we will continue to as long as we are able to afford it. Because it really isn’t about coffee. We budget for quality time, for open communication between us as a couple and us as parents with our daughter, for great memories, a lot of laughter, and my daughter feeling cherished and enjoyed.
And that is worth every penny.