Will Slater: 'Is is any wonder parents retreat and shut the door on the world?'

There was a time when going out was too exhausting to contemplate. Our youngest would get agitated when he discovered we were off and would howl, leaving us feeling awful as we slunk out the door and the baby-sitter wishing they hadn't said yes.

When we did manage it, inevitably I would have left my wallet or keys by the cot and have to crawl back into the room, desperately hoping I wouldn't undo all the good work. The baleful, reproachful look of a wide-awake baby looking down on you from their cot would be funny if it wasn't so serious.

And once you have fallen asleep at the cinema a couple of times, you start questioning the wisdom of paying for tickets when you could have just as easily fallen asleep on your sofa watching a DVD.

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The flip-side is that, with the baby-sitting meter running, many a parent can teach the alcopop generation a thing or two about binge drinking as they let months of pent-up frustration out in a four-hour frenzy.

And when you are at a party, if you want to create a total exclusion zone around yourself, just break into your friend's chat about the fabulous South American season at the Filmhouse or the amusing anecdote about cooking lobster to impress a hot date and see their eyes glaze over as you embark on a run-through about the problems of getting good childcare, the lack of tax relief on employing a nanny or how difficult it is to cover half-term holidays. Is is any wonder parents retreat and shut the door on the world?

The hunker-down mentality has many delights, but after several years there is a time to edge out into the real world. To dip a toe back in the cultural pool. To see a play that isn't a pantomime. To visit a gallery and actually look at the art rather than look where the children are.

We still don't go out as much as we'd like, but we are getting there. We can leave the children and not get any tears. In fact, they love it when we go out because they get to stay up and play games and have someone make a fuss about their art, reading or home-made Mr Smith (the computer from The Sarah Jane Adventures).

So this year we have seen a couple of plays, been to a wine-tasting, attended a book launch. It's a start. We aren't even going out once a month, but if any day is good enough for a resolution, I make one today. We are going to spend a little less time with our children.

This article was first published in Scotland On Sunday, 14 November, 2010