“You don’t have to go on vacation in Italian wine country to keep the romance alive… You’ve just got to make it a point to do it yourself.”

My husband and I are homebodies. We do a lot together and usually take our 15-month old son with us – the grocery shopping, going for walks around the neighborhood (when it’s not too freaking hot) or walking around the mall (when it IS too freaking hot.) We take our son out to lunch/dinner at least once a week, probably. And we do try to get out once or twice a month, just the two of us, my husband and I.

A few months after our son was born last May, my husband got a new job. One of the things that he found out about very early on was the fact that his organization holds an annual conference – one year it’s here in the U.S., the next year it’s always somewhere abroad. The conference this year was in Singapore. As soon as I heard about it, I was already nervous about it, just picturing me all alone with our son while my husband was on the other side of the world. (Another post on that later. My husband left for his trip and all hell broke loose.) But I convinced myself that our son would be over a year old and that it would be just fine. We’d be okay without daddy for a week.

As my husband worked throughout the fall and winter, he learned that a lot of people in his organization use this annual conference abroad as a jumping-off point for big vacations. Some people were staying in Singapore and their spouses would join them after the conference; some were going to Thailand. Others were planning trips to other locations across Europe and Asia. So my husband suggested that we plan something, too.

My first thought was Fiji. Somewhere exotic. Somewhere with crappy wi-fi and blue skies and nothing to do but relax and lie in the sun and enjoy the beautiful scenery, and maybe, for the first time in a year, really, REALLY SLEEP.

As we talked about it, though, we decided we were too young to go somewhere and not DO anything. We didn’t want to go somewhere and come back not really having done a thing. We talked about Italy, France, Greece, Spain… We’re big wine lovers, so we kept coming back to Italy. And that’s what we decided to do. 5 days in Italy. A short vacation to Europe (some of the people that we talked to were amazed we were only going for a few days) but we had only left our son alone with someone else for nights out here and there, and overnight with his grandparents once. But we were going for it. We were really going to do it. And two non-refundable plane tickets later, there was no going back.

I was torn up at the thought of leaving my son behind for so long. As a WAHM, I’m with him all day. My life essentially happens between his naps. And what a change when he went down to one nap a day! But I love it! So I was terrified at the thought of leaving him. Not that I didn’t think he’d be in great hands with his grandparents or our family, but because I wasn’t sure how I would be. It should be said here that my husband was gone for his conference for a week prior to our trip, so he was going without seeing our son for two whole weeks. Also, the 12-hour difference between here and Singapore didn’t really make for easy FaceTime calls, (he’d be waking up and getting ready to go to breakfast or a meeting just as we were winding down and getting ready for bed) so it was definitely rough for him to be away for so long.

All of the worrying and anxiety aside… I was so excited to get away. I was much better once I was checked in at the airport and waiting for my flight. The exhaustion of the past week without my husband set in and I was asleep on the plane to Paris before we even took off. When I landed in France, I was going to meet up with my husband, who’d flown in from Singapore, and then we’d fly together to Florence. I was so glad to see him waiting for me in the airport. It brought back to mind all the times when we were doing the long-distance relationship thing; how he’d fly down to Florida or I’d fly to D.C. to visit. Or that one time that we both flew to Boston and met up with each other to fly the rest of the way to California wine country together.

Not that I didn’t think about my son constantly throughout the trip. Or talk about him. Or glance at his photos and videos on my phone. Or wait for updates from the grandparents. We both missed the kid something fierce.

But it was such a startling feeling to be just the two of us again. Just Tommy and Jess. Driving a rental car down the dusty, bumpy back roads of a small hill town in Italy in search of a tiny winery we’d read about somewhere online. Holding hands strolling through the streets of Florence. People watching and eating gelato on the Piazza del Campo in Siena a week after the Palio. On more than one occasion, sitting in a restaurant and lingering over dinner and drinks for two, two and a half hours… Who the hell has time for that these days?

And along with it being so great and so wonderful, for it to be just the two of us… It was also a little scary.

It made me realize how easy it is to let that all slip away after having a baby. To let us slip away.

Sure, we do everything together. We might not be the most uber-romantic or exciting couple these days because we both work and look after the kid, and we share the cooking and cleaning, and we’re usually just freaking exhausted. Sometimes it seems like too much of a bother to go out and do stuff because we’ve either got to take our son with us, which means working our plans around his nap schedule, or we have to arrange for a baby sitter. And when all’s said and done, we’re usually most often found just hanging out together in our office or in the living room together while our son naps upstairs. And we’re content with that. We’re happy with the ways our lives have changed after having our son.

But I don’t want us to slip away altogether. I don’t want to lose those feelings that I found rekindled in Italy. So from now on, when we’re walking our son in his stroller around the mall, I might just hold my husband’s hand and snuggle against him as if we were wandering through the streets of a tiny hill town again. When we go out to eat, even if it’s just our favorite local pizza place, I might just scoot my chair closer so that our legs touch under the table and we can smile big, goofy, lovey-dovey smiles at each other while he rests his hand on my knee like he did every night at dinner in Italy.

You see, what I realized is that you don’t have to go on vacation in Italian wine country to keep the romance alive… You’ve just got to make it a point to do it yourself.

romance-in-italy