Escape from reality

Dan and I made it to The Dark Knight on Saturday finally. It was the first time we left Nathan, three weeks after his birth. (He was with Grandma and Grandpa, so not very “left behind,” really. My review of Batman in a nutshell: “How soon can I own this movie?”)

I realized after the movie that my relationship to movies has fundamentally changed, now that I have a child. Movies are now an escape from reality for me. I don’t mean that in the traditional way in which movies are often characterized as escapism, i.e., that movies function as vehicles for imagination that let the viewer identify with the characters and try on different psychological personas for awhile. I mean it quite literally: a movie is an opportunity to escape parenthood for a little while.

Up until now, Dan and I went to the movies willy-nilly. It was almost a hobby for us. If we had nothing else to do on a weekend, we’d go see a movie. We didn’t even care if it was a good movie or not. On more than one occasion, I’ve remarked that I’d be willing to pay $6 a week just to watch previews and eat popcorn. I liked going to the movies just for the sake of going to the movies.

Suddenly, however, going to the movies is a huge luxury. It has to be planned out. It’s not something we’ll be doing very frequently, and it certainly won’t be wasted on any old movie. When we walked out of the movies on Saturday, I realized that I had been a different person for the 2.5 hours we were in there. For 2.5 hours, I was not the mommy tied to Nathan’s eating schedule, home-bound because of C-section recovery. Instead, I was still a person who can go to the movies when she wants to. It was a huge relief; I felt like a normal human for the first time in, oh, about three weeks.

I feel conflicted about that. On the one hand, I really enjoyed the movie itself and the whole experience. But I also felt guilty about “stealing” that time away from Nate, only three weeks after his birth (and only two weeks after he was allowed to come home). Saturday was supposed to be “date night” for us, and we had sort of planned to go to dinner after the movie, but I couldn’t conscience being away from Nate for another hour and a half, knowing that he was supposed to eat again and get his bath and get to bed, etc. We picked up to-go at the Cheesecake Factory and ate it at my parents’ house when we picked Nathan up. I just knew that I would have been antsy all through dinner if we had gone out. In essence, I enjoyed the escape, but then felt guilty about enjoying it. I’m sure this is not news to any parents reading this, but maybe it can serve as preparation for my friends who don’t yet have kids. (Female friends, that is. From what I understand, dads do not feel this same kind of constant guilt. Lucky bastards.)

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