Real Life Story of a Disabled Mom: Redefining Date Night

Posted by Kieran O'Brien Kern in Life After Paralysis on March 18, 2022 # Relationships

Kieran and Husband

As a mom of two, date night is extremely elusive, even pre-pandemic. Trying to find a common time that works for my husband and me is difficult, but having to play babysitter roulette, hoping that the marble will fall on grandma, yet inevitably falls on a blank, brings us back to the drawing board. Then COVID-19 hit. After nine months of sitting in various spots in my house to get a different perspective, it was Christmas 2020. I was shopping for subscription boxes for the kids to keep them busy when I couldn’t guarantee them a social life that was three-dimensional. Suddenly, it felt like the algorithm saw me and delivered date boxes to my screen at a fantastic discount. We weren’t ready to risk our littles’ health or ours to have a good time. It seemed like the answer to my pre-vaccinated high-risk dreams.

But while we underestimated our kid's bedtimes, we overestimated the energy we would have at the end of the evening once they actually fell asleep. Full contact bedtime routines left us crashing on the couch like zombies well past 9:30 PM, far too late to make crepes and play a game that comprised the first box, and the idea of bringing an unvaccinated newcomer into our home just so we could do activities in our home was ridiculous. The boxes piled up and became a sore spot. But the reality of our lives is most days involve at least 14 hours of work and childcare. At the end of that, we’re lucky. I just channeled my inner Elsa and “Let it Go.”

The summer months brought a reprieve in that we were both vaccinated and could walk into town for an evening dessert if my mom was here. We also took advantage of our screened-in porch, which has always been our oasis in nice weather. But in truth, we had yet to master an at-home date night that didn’t end up with one or both of us asleep on the couch or working.

With the return of the cold weather, we’ve been fighting the rinse and repeat of our time on the couch. This week we had an opportunity. Our neighbors were going away for a week and had forgotten to cancel their meal or rather a recipe subscription service. They offered it to us. Now I have wanted to try a recipe service out for years but thought that if my kids didn’t like the meals, I wasn’t about to make additional meals, nor was I going to invest in high-end kid meals. However, this box had literally fallen into our laps. And my husband was game to cook with me.

I love food, and I love to cook, but having cerebral palsy means that while my hands are extremely dexterous, they’re also extremely slow. Having my sweetheart as my sous chef not only meant I had an extra set of hands to help me slice, dice, chop, and mince, I had my partner there to talk to and joke and laugh. So not only would we not be eating at midnight if I was methodically chopping everything. We were working as a team, a well-oiled machine to get it done while having a great time while doing it. We got to try out three new recipes that will go into rotation at our house for the family. So yes, the kids were 20 feet away, and they certainly came in for snuggles and to have grievances refereed. But we also had to change our perception of what a date really was.

Pre-kids, our perception of a date took place over several hours, and when we go out, we can still practice that. When we are at home, though and want to take special time with each other, that can be broken up in 15-30 minute increments so that we can easily step into our parent role as needed. Sometimes the key to being a happy and engaged parent is to help stay engaged with your spouse, friend, or special someone.

I’m Kieran Bridget O’Brien Kern. Power is literally my middle name. When my husband and I became engaged, we agreed that parenthood was a two-person job. I am the primary caregiver to our children, but we all work as a team. From infancy onward, we have adapted and grown together. Every day there is a new challenge. Every new challenge is an opportunity to learn more about them and myself.

The National Paralysis Resource Center website is supported by the Administration for Community Living (ACL), U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) as part of a financial assistance award totaling $8,700,000 with 100 percent funding by ACL/HHS. The contents are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily represent the official views of, nor an endorsement, by ACL/HHS, or the U.S. Government.