What Parents Should Do About Valentine's Day

It isn't about the baby.

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Just because you're a parent (or will be soon) doesn't mean you should toss out the lingerie, slinky dress and plans for a romantic dinner. In fact, even though you'll soon be shopping for boxes of 28 mini-Valentines with cartoon characters, princesses and puppies on them, sticking to the original sentiment of Valentine's Day is even more important than ever. Valentine's Day is for lovers.

Some people argue that Valentine's Day is just another nonsense holiday created to sell cards, candy and flowers (they say the same thing about Mother's day too), but it actually has a lot of historical significance. People have been celebrating February as a month for lovers since way back when. One story says it dates back to ancient Roman times when Emperor Claudius outlawed marriage because he thought single men made better warriors than married men and fathers. That ruling didn't go over so well with local lovers so a priest, named Valentine, conducted secret marriages. Valentine was ultimately put to death for defying the emperor's orders.

Another story says the first Valentine card was sent in the 1400s from a condemned duke to his wife on the night before his execution. When you consider what these guys went through in the spirit of true romance, don't you think you owe it to them to show up on Valentine's Day with loving on your mind? It's not going to kill you.

But, those romantic devils were dead hundreds of years ago. Why do we still celebrate it in February? Maybe because it's winter, dark, dreary and we need a little inspiration to remember that we truly love the person we're married to, living with or hope to be with for the foreseeable future. We need that inspiration even more once we're parents because without a good deal of effort to keep the romance alive, having and raising kids can throw cold water on your love life.

Kids have a natural knack for waking up at the moment when you finally find ten minutes (hey, sorry, sometimes ten minutes is all you get) to have sex. Or, they barf on your shoulder when you're wearing your one non-milk stained blouse. Or, they throw a massive tantrum on the night you finally get a reliable babysitter and you're on your way out the door for a date. Or they cling to you 24/7 and cry whenever you put them down, so every moment is spent being touched and grabbed by your child. After a day like that, the last thing you want to do when they finally let go and sleep in their own bed, is to cling to, touch and grab somebody else. Or they take up so much of your time, energy and brainpower that you barely notice your lover at all. Kids will do that to you if you let them.

Some people say you don't need a holiday to tell you when to be romantic and pay extra attention to your lover. That's true, you can and should do that whenever possible, but when you're elbow deep in diapers and tired to the point of hysteria, it helps to have a date circled on the calendar. Why not look at it as an opportunity to go above and beyond and really let your lover know how much you appreciate, enjoy and continue to love him/her? If you do it again the next day, the next week and the rest of your life—hey, all the better. But if that seems unrealistic while you're juggling diaper bags as fast as you can, then just focus on this one day. And make it more about your lover than about your child.

While there's nothing wrong with giving your kids a card and some candy on February 14, try to keep your Valentine's day focused on it's true meaning—a day to honor, nurture and celebrate your love life. Hire a babysitter, put on your hottest dress or nicest outfit, make reservations and go out, just the two of you. Then, when you come home, light some candles, put on some music and if you you're lucky, find ten minutes to do your best. Those ten minutes might be just the ones that keep you coming back for more for years and decades to come. Because in the end, when you're finished raising the child you made together, it'll be just the two of you again and if you play your cards right (and some of those should be Valentine cards), you'll still be the loves of each others lives.

Jeanne Faulkner, R.N., lives in Portland, Oregon with her husband and five children. Got a question for Jeanne? E-mail it to labornurse@fitpregnancy.com and it may be answered in a future blog post."¨"¨

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