When you ask people with small children what they are doing for Valentine's Day, most of them will answer, "What?! HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA…" Once they're finally done laughing, they'll tell you that children change everything. But Valentine's Day after children isn't all bad, it's just…different.
Then: Chocolates, roses, maybe a stuffed bear wearing expensive jewelry. Your card either features a beautiful romantic platitude or a raunchy innuendo. Either way, it is perfect for you. You keep it so you can look back on this treasured memory.
Now: Your box of chocolate looks like someone "tested" a few pieces and your card prominently features macaroni and glitter. You proudly display your cards on the refrigerator until the macaroni starts to fall all over the floor. You wait until no one's looking and stuff it to the bottom of the trash can, after treasuring its memory, of course.
Then: You spend hours fixing your hair. Your legs are as smooth as a baby seal and you smell incredible. Your underwear was purchased at a dimly lit store that exclusively sells lingerie.
Now: You hastily take a five-minute shower while your toddler yells about Paw Patrol through the door. You're pretty sure you shaved, but then you realize it was only your left leg and only up to your knee. The only clean underwear you can find is an old nursing bra from Target, but it is black, so that counts for something, right?
Then: A stunning dress and killer heels. Sure, the six layers of Spanx might make things awkward later, but you can always coyly excuse yourself to try to remove them without sounding like you're wrestling a steer in your bathroom.
Now: Your favorite maternity stretch pants and college hoodie. You could get all dressed up to watch Netflix on the couch, but do you really need to? It's nice to be completely comfortable with another person. And isn't that what true love is? Your partner should thank you for this pure expression of your undying love.
Then: Reservations at an expensive restaurant, which you had to make months in advance. Portion sizes are bafflingly small and you consider ordering a pizza for later. You stare into each other's eyes across the table all night long and smile for no reason. In the corner, a jazz combo softly plays, "Someone to Watch Over Me."
Now: Take out from the place around the corner. You can have all the food you want because your children refuse to eat anything but toast. You and your partner lock eyes for a moment across the table. You start to smile about the absurdity of it all, but then someone gags and you have to determine whether or not to Heimlich them. In the background, a malfunctioning Christmas toy plays, "Let It Go" on repeat.
Then: Drinks and dessert at a swanky new bar. You stroll lazily down the street for a while before finally calling it a night. When you get home, you put a small token from the night (a matchbook, ticket stub, etc.) in a box for sentimental safe keeping.
Now: You have dumped your special box because your 4-year-old needs it to make a valentine's mailbox for preschool. You end up doing most of the work while she scatters art supplies around your house like Martha Stewart on methamphetamine. When she covers the box in dinosaur stickers, you gently remind her that Valentine's Day is supposed to be about love. She replies, "Who doesn't love dinosaurs?!"
Then: There is a lot of pressure for this moment to be special, it is Valentine's Day after all. You struggle to remember what you read in that Cosmo article. Was it, "Hold the item in your hand and ask yourself: 'Does this bring me joy?" Or was that the de-cluttering article? You think maybe it was the de-cluttering article. It doesn't matter though, because you can't get out of your Spanx.
Now: There is no guessing now. You both know what the other wants, and you know exactly how they want it. In the bed, lying down, all night long—sleep.
Then: You spend hours fantasizing about your love story, which you are certain will some day be adapted into a Nicholas Sparks novel. Is this the greatest love there ever was? Hormones and youthful naivety tell you the answer is definitely yes. It's only up from here!
Now: Your love has been forged in a fire of sleepless nights, screaming babies, and doctor's appointments. It's definitely seen some things. But now you have little people who are the literal embodiment of your love for one another. You've fed them, clothed them, and somehow kept them alive—together! And those little people love you for it, more than anyone in the world.
Sure, V-Day not be the whirlwind of romance it once was. But if it's true that Valentine's Day is all about love, you have definitely come out on top.