There are so many different ways to parent. And it's so high stakes and personal that it's easy to have "right" and "wrong" take the place of different choices. Breastfeeding vs. formula, nanny vs. daycare, working mom vs. stay at home, oh the list does go on and it's surprisingly easy to feel judged by the choices you make. Also on this list is when parents feel comfortable leaving their baby with others. The range of experiences is as populated as the number of families out there.
For us, H started daycare at the tender age of 3 months. It was tremendously hard until (months later) I came to believe from experience that she was just fine in that environment. She's still at the same place (now on the "big kid side") and we've had nothing but positive experiences with it. On the other end of the spectrum, we've yet to employ a babysitter save my parents (who live close and are flexible and wonderful). And even with my parents nearby -- full disclosure here -- we've gone out alone together far fewer than 10 times in the two-and-a-half years we've been parents. That's not a lot. And, in several of those instances we scurried home quickly, set adrift by the separation. To me, it makes sense -- our work schedules keep us apart for so much of the week, we like to hang out together when we can. But grown-up alone time also makes sense, especially with the hope of maintaining a relationship that isn't purely based on being parents together (though goodness knows, she's still our main topic of conversation).
Last night we had a date night -- and it was fun. At first it seemed too complicated and crazy (I went from Manhattan to Brooklyn to pick her up and drop her at home with my parents, then back to Manhattan to meet up with David), but in the end we enjoyed dinner and a show and it felt, well, civilized. Maybe there's something to this whole date night thing. We're toying with the idea of making it monthly. That just seems decadent, but why not? Maybe it would be good for us and fun, too. I guess learning to be a good parent is just the same as learning to be a good and fulfilled person. It's a work in progress forever.