Redefining Date Night

Five-minute fun, 30-minute getaways, scootering around Seoul

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Sunny days ahead: Sophia’s first walk/stroller adventure on the Han River, the week we returned home from the birthing center during Michal’s paternity leave.

There is such a thing as “new parent bliss.”

The moment right after my fairly fast, non-medicated delivery, I was riding off of an adrenaline high from the strength and empowerment I had due to endurance of the worst physical pain I’ve felt. I actually proclaimed “I could totally do that again” and “I feel like I could run a marathon or climb Everest.”

My husband – who was fully involved through the whole process of labor –  was impressed at this superhuman feat only possible by God’s design and he was in admiration of the natural grace I had when nursing our little one. I had mutual respect for him as he took great care of Sophia when changing diapers, burping and swaying her to sleep.

This honeymoon stage continued for a few days while we fell madly in love with our sweet bundle of joy, sharing the good news with all our family through Skype video calls and watching her look around in amazement at visiting friends and co-workers.

Sleepy-eyed Sophia: In Michal’s arms, right after she was born.

Then the thrill of new parent bliss ended with the harsh reality setting in once my husband prepared to go back to work. I began my new 24-hour/day job as a stay-at-home mom, and he began to try to balance work and family. The first month was a difficult time of transition for our relationship, as it is for most. Not to mention, I was still recovering from childbirth, my hormones were all out of whack, I was figuring out how breastfeeding worked best, etc.

When times got tough, we were grateful we not only worked on preparing for our baby but also worked on preparing our marriage for the road ahead.

We often try to remind ourselves that we are a team in parenthood. The motto from our wedding, Ecclesiastes 4:12: “a rope of three cords is not easily broken” in which the three cords symbolize me, my husband and God, sits on our bookshelf in our office.

I also saved and framed the Bible passages/birth affirmations we originally had posted on the walls of our room at the birthing center to help provide comfort and solace when we are most tired. The framed quotes rest on the bookshelf in nursery next to the crib.


When Michal and I are having an especially trying time with our little one (AKA fussiness due to growing pains at six weeks old), we feel the urge to escape or we get easily frustrated with each other.

That’s when we know it’s time to pull out an idea from our list of “five-minute date nights” or “thirty-minute vacations” in our “Operation Save Our Marriage Before It Fails” box, safely stowed away in our nursery’s closet – ready for these emergency situations.

When you have five minutes to spare during the day what do you do?

What about thirty minutes?

Three experiences contributed to the creation of “Operation Save Our Marriage Before It Fails.”

Moment of Inspiration 1: Amid the sessions on Dunstan Baby Language and diaper changing, one of the best pieces of advice we got during one of our childcare classes was to make sure to do five-minute dates as often as possible. Our textbook noted it briefly and our instructor said it in passing and the concept actually sounded quite cheesy, but the idea still stuck with me…

Moment of Inspiration 2: During the nesting stage of my pregnancy, Michal and I marathon-watched a bunch of TV shows including “Master of None.” One episode focused on friends of Aziz Ansari’s main character Dev who recently had a child. The couple was overtired, low on patience and on the road to divorce. Dev and his single buddies rejoiced in not being in the same sad state.

Moment of Inspiration 3: Of the dozen books I read on pregnancy, childbirth and childcare, all had an underlying theme of “this baby will make or break your marriage.” In the book Brain Rules for Baby, author and developmental molecular biologist John Medina says somberly,

“Marital quality, which peaks in the last trimester of a first pregnancy, decreases anywhere from 40 percent to 67 percent in the infant’s first year. More recent studies, asking different questions, put the figure closer to 90 percent.”

In that last trimester, I switched from full-time work to part-time work as a substitute teacher. I used the extra time I had to create envelopes containing our date nights and getaways. Here are a few we’ve already done. (I won’t share all of them because Michal doesn’t know everything in the envelopes and I’d rather keep them as surprises for him!)


5-minute date night ideas:

  • Slow-dance to the first dance song from our wedding
  • Give each other a foot or back massage
  • Pray for each other
  • Make a cocktail
  • Look up a song on Youtube and sing along to it Karaoke-style
  • Play the “Coordination Challenge” game from Cedar Village apartment days (Inside joke alert – Michal and his undergrad college roommates invented this game where they play catch with random objects like blocks of ice and packzi.)
  • Play “Categories” (shorter, easier version of Scattergories where we go back and forth listing items in a particular category like types of cheese or brands of beer. A twist to this game is to incorporate the Love Language of “Words of Affirmation” by listing reasons we fell love with our spouse or something like that.)

30-minute vacation ideas:

These are usually a grab bag of items that emulate a particular type of travel adventure we have had in the past. The items usually include something to eat/drink, a scent, music suggestions and something to do. (I’ll again only disclose a few details as we haven’t gone through all of them yet.)

  • Tropical paradise
  • Spa retreat
  • Camping in the woods – A package of glow-in-the-dark stars for star-gazing, ingredients to make smores and pine-scented candles
  • Romance in Italy – A bottle of wine to drink along with dark chocolate, tea light candles, suggestion for Youtubed music from Venice and photos from a past trip

Monthly splurge – A true date night:

In addition to these frequent mini-escapes, we’ve tried to build in times we go out without baby – at least once per month.

When my mother was visiting from the U.S., we were grateful she gladly baby sat! Michal and I wanted to go somewhere for dinner and drinks that would allow us to be outside on a terrace or on a rooftop as summer was just beginning. We thought of swanky places in Gangnam or hip places in Hongdae, but decided that time was too precious and we didn’t want to waste the majority of the little amount we had by sitting in traffic.

Michal recently purchased a scooter (mostly used during the week for his work commute as we have a car) so we opted to ride around our neighborhood in the hills and back-streets of Itaewon/Hannam, discovering new places for apps and drinks.

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By using the scooter, we avoided traffic and easily found parking. Plus, the ride on a summer evening was part of the date itself as it was fun to travel outdoors instead of feeling stuck in a car or smushed into a sweaty crowd on a subway/bus. Being on the scooter was freeing!

Night out on the town: After cruising around on the scooter, we stopped at a recently opened bar in our neighborhood with a New Orleans speak easy theme.

Although new parent bliss has faded, our marriage has changed for the better with the addition of our little one because we are forced to discover new ways to develop our relationship with each other, with God and with her.

Got any suggestions for date nights, especially for young married couples/new parents in Seoul? Please share!



One Month Update: A Time of Transition


As a former teacher, I am used to living my life according to increments of the school year. But now as a first-time parent, I no longer mark my days this way.

Life before parenthood (when my job more or less defined how I spent my time):

Three months of summer vacation. One quarter left of the school year. Three weeks between Thanksgiving Break and Winter Vacation. 50 minutes bell to bell for each class period.

Life after giving birth to my daughter (when my identity and priorities changed forever):

The traditional concept of time no longer exists for me.

Day and night blur together as newborns feed around the clock, from anywhere between every half hour to two hours. As a result, I recently discovered how it is possible for me to sleep while awake, as I’ve found myself not remembering with clarity what happened in past two-hour periods even if I was doing something active in a public place like eating at a restaurant or walking in a park.

Walk in the park: One of our favorite family activities is to do a stroller walk along the Han River. When my mom came from the U.S., we also did a picnic near the Banpo Bridge.

As the mother of a newborn, I still find myself thinking a lot in terms of deadlines and numbers as I’m dutifully tracking everything on my phone app. Eight to ten diaper changes per day. Forty minutes to breastfeed or 80 to 150 ml of pumped breast milk per feeding. ½ kilo to 1 kilo of weight gain per month.

Between sleeping and awake periods – minus feeding/burping/diaper changing/rocking or swaying time – I am left with less than two hours to select from the following for myself: Sleep, eat, clean, shower, call a friend, maybe even go on Facebook?

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Seoul Food: We were grateful to not have to cook for the first couple weeks after returning home from the birthing center because our friends made/delivered us delicious meals!

And we have begun celebrating milestones at one week, two weeks, three weeks, one month and are looking forward to three months, six months, nine months, one year and so on!

With the passage of my little one’s first month of life, I am not only rejoicing in her continuing healthy development (especially after working hard to lower her high bilirubin count in those first couple weeks) but I am also recognizing the accomplishment of surviving the most difficult 30 days of my life.

Blessings for Baby: Celebrating our sweet Sophia’s first month with a sweet treat!

To be honest, I focused a majority of my energy and time during my pregnancy on preparing for my labor/delivery, but it ended up being not as difficult or long as I imagined. (Admitted at 4 centimeters dilated at 5:30 p.m. and gave birth at 11:40 p.m. with a natural delivery – no medical interventions.) As cliche as it sounds, no amount of planning and research (even for a Type A personality as myself) could have prepared me for what was to come after the baby arrived.

In this past month, I have let a lot go, asked for a lot of help, and learned how to live life within a whole new timeline – neither decided by me nor my career –.but one that is dictated by my baby.

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Seoul Mates: We enjoyed welcoming visitors and introducing them to Sophia.

Happy one month to my sweet Sophia! Thank you for teaching me what is most important and for reminding me to continually live life according to Proverbs 16:9.