I’m married, but I still date.
Before you run and tell my husband that I’m cheating on him, let me be clear- I still date my husband.
You know what drives me crazy? When I hop on the interwebs and see cute little couples with no kids all giddy like, “We’re going on a date tonight! So excited!” #datenight #itsbeentoolong
And I just want to yell “You have no kids! Every night is a flipping date night!”
They know nothing of the woes of date nights after kids. They spend hours in the bathroom getting ready, uninterrupted by little people drawing on the walls with crayon or needing you to wipe their butts or spilling juice on the floor or getting stuck behind the bed. They get all dolled up and waltz out of the house without having to debrief the sitter on what to do if a child climbs over the fence or tries to eat dog food or what TV shows they can watch or how to coax them into going to bed. They hop in their clean cars (because they have no kids to spill cereal or leave weeds that they thought were “flowers” sitting in the floorboards) and drive off to dinner and a movie without constantly checking their phones to make sure there are no texts from the sitter saying that someone threw up or the microwave caught on fire or everyone revolted and is refusing to go to bed. They enjoy their peaceful and romantic evening together, and get to come home to a house that isn’t trashed from the evening’s activities (because, let’s face it, it’s hard to find a sitter who cleans up too) where they are able to snuggle in the peace and quiet without having to put kids to bed that refused to sleep without a kiss from mom and dad, pick up leftover food off the counter so the dog doesn’t get it and throw up everywhere, and scrub the spill on the carpet that the sitter either “didn’t see” or ignored completely. Those couples can have whatever happily-ever-after they choose because no straggler will be climbing in the bed with them at any moment to sleep between mom and dad, thrashing around like a madman while you and the husband wearily look at each other and wonder why you had kids in the first place.
No, they have no idea.
Date night is hard to come by for most of us. In a poll I took on my Facebook page, many moms admitted that they haven’t had a date night in over a year. (In which I would be wearing black every day as I mourned the loss of my sanity and love life.) It takes effort and sometimes the effort just almost doesn’t seem worth it. But let’s be honest, girls, is there anything more precious or valuable on this earth than our marriages? Is there anything else more deserving of the sacrifice and investment than the person that we vowed “to love and to cherish until death do us part”?
That handsome guy in that picture above? He is God’s greatest gift to me. And in the times when I may not have all the romantic feel-goods about him, I made a commitment to love him unconditionally for the rest of my life. If my marriage falls apart, everything else unravels with it. So I am determined to do whatever it takes to keep our relationship sacred, healthy and growing.
But it can be hard.
For many of us, it’s the money. Because let’s be honest, by the time you hire a sitter $$ go to dinner $$$ and see a movie $$$$ you are spending an easy $100 for a few hours away. For some, it’s finding the time. Between work schedules and kids activities and church and family, finding a spare night to go out can be next to impossible. For a lot of us, a sitter is hard to come by. Maybe you don’t know a teenager that you trust (or that can handle the madness that is your kids). Many people don’t have the luxury of having family close by to keep their brood. Or maybe, like me, you’re just afraid that no one is quite up for the challenge of being thrown to the wolves… ahem…littles for an evening without being scarred for life and telling the world how out-of-control your kids are.
I totally get the excuses of why date night doesn’t happen. I have so been there (and find myself there again often.) But when we make excuses instead of making it happen, our marriages suffer. It may not seem like they are, but when else do we have time to just sit down with our significant others, look into their eyes and remember why we fell in love with them in the first place? When we prioritize time with each other, we are essentially saying, “You are important to me. This is important to me.”
When the hubs and I first got married, I naïvely expected him to plan date nights. My 10-year married self looks back on my newlywed self and laughs at how comical that thought was. I would sit around and mope, waiting for him to plan some extravagant, romantic evening thatneverhappened. God love him. So a couple years into it I got wise and decided that if we were going to have date nights, it didn’t really matter who planned it. It just mattered that it happened.
Three kids and ten years later, date nights are nothing magical or extravagant for us. Sometimes it’s a drive thru meal and a movie. Sometimes it’s a new restaurant we’ve been wanting to try. Sometimes it’s a late movie after the kids have gone to bed so the sitter doesn’t have to wrestle the kids to sleep. But whatever it is, it’s always worth it. We talk. We hold hands. We have dinner where we don’t spend half the time telling our kids not to run around or taking someone to the bathroom or cutting up someone’s food. We get to actually taste what we’re eating (hallelujah) and give each other our undivided attention.
Now, I know some of you are thinking, “That’s great for you, but I just can’t swing it. Date night isn’t in the cards for me.”
Well, I am going to share a couple of ideas with you that just might help put a little fire under your seat to start planning your next date night. These are some practical tips to just make it happen. Because it’s important. Because it’s needed. Because you deserve it!
1. Schedule it. If you say there is no time, it might be because you haven’t made time. Sit down and look at your calendars. Pick a night/day that you both have a slot of time and write that baby down. Schedule it just like you would a meeting or a doctor’s appointment. And we all know date night is way better than both of those!
2. Do a childcare swap. If the sitter is the issue, find another couple with kids who you love and trust and swap childcare once a month. You watch their kids for an evening and they watch your kids for an evening. It doesn’t cost anything, gives the kids something to look forward to, and blesses your friends as well.
3. Have a date night at home. When our kids were newborns, or when we first brought our adopted son home and couldn’t leave him with someone, we had to make the best of it. So we’d pick a night, pick a movie, put the kids to bed early and make date night happen at home. You can order the kids pizza, feed them and put them to bed. Then either order out from your favorite restaurant and one of you pick it up, or cook something yummy together in the kitchen (which is actually a lot of fun and quite romantic), then sit down to a quiet meal just the two of you. Put on a movie or skip the movie all together and… you get the idea. Date night at home can be whatever you want it to be, and can be just as romantic as going out, without all the fuss. And you can do one as often as you want!
4. Make a Date Night Fund. Have a designated drawer or jar where you dump spare change/dollars to save up for a night out. Set an amount that it has to get to before you pull it out. Figure up the cost of the sitter, your favorite restaurant, show or a night at the movies and keep track of how much you’re putting in. Make it visible so you’re thinking about it often. Chances are, you’ll make a greater effort to hang onto that cash so you can make your date night happen!
5. Check the local events in your area. Many times there are festivals, shows and other things going on that are either cheap or free that you can attend if you’re looking for an inexpensive date night. Dates don’t always have to be dinner and a movie. You can eat dinner at home with the kids and then head out to a free event and the only cost is your sitter (if you have to pay for it). Experience the local flavor and culture of where you live while having a night out at the same time! Groupon and Living Social are also great avenues for finding deals for things going on in your area.
Mamas, your marriage needs you just as much as your kids do. Our littles need to see us having fun in our marriage. They need to see us make our spouses a priority. It may seem impossible, but it’s not! Stop the excuses. Get creative. Brainstorm together. Plan and prepare and create a night that is memorable and fun. I promise it is so worth the effort!
There is hope, friends! Date night is possible. Pull out those heels and your favorite dress and start planning! If you have other ideas on how to make date night happen, please share them in the comments!