Yeah, there we are on a beach with champagne. Cuz that’s normal and happens all the time. Except not ever except for that one time. Most days, we live in our real world without sand and flutes and things that sparkle and every week, we move heaven and earth and babysitters to knock out a date if it kills us.
When I wrote 10 Things I’ve Learned About Marriage, I talked about date night and how having a weekly date night where we ask each other two magic questions has played a crucial role in our marriage. Some of you may be asking how on earth we find the time and money to have a weekly date night. Weekly? In the immortal words of Alicia Silverstone, AS IF!
Date night has varied throughout our marriage depending on our season and stage of life. Here are some ways we’ve squeezed, prodded, or stuffed in a date night to our schedule and budget.
1. Hunt for the deals.
Before we had kids, we knew every half price burger night in Alexandria, Virginia, and we would make the rounds. Many restaurants offer really great deals, and we’ve found that earlier in the week is better than the weekend for both deals and getting in without a long wait. Especially if you’re paying a babysitter, you don’t want to waste precious minutes waiting for a table.
2. Stick your date in front of another activity.
Right now we have a sitter come every week, and by piggybacking our date night and our couples’ group, we only have one night away from the kids. The sitter arrives, we go to dinner or for coffee by ourselves, then head over to our friends’ house to hang out with other couples. Dinner out every week can get expensive, so we alternate between having dinner and grabbing coffee. And it doesn’t have to be fancy. Frozen yogurt or a cup of soup together will do just fine. Date night doesn’t have to involve food either. Take a walk or sit on a park bench. I’ll never forget the night that I begged the hubby to speed walk around the lake with me and when we showed up for our couples’ group, he was dripping with sweat and super happy with me.
3. Have a date at home.
We’ve also had seasons where we couldn’t leave every single week and we committed to date night in front of our own fireplace with a glass of wine after the kids were in bed. Even though we didn’t even leave the house, we still had to be intentional about putting it on the calendar, clearing our schedule, and showing up to the couch undistracted and ready to talk.
I like leaving the house because it’s hard for me to relax sometimes when I’m staring at my own kitchen, but during those times when you just can’t get out, whether it’s because of finances or because your kids just aren’t in a place where you can leave them, carve out an hour sitting in your backyard together after the kids are in bed or getting up early for a cup of coffee together. Whatever it takes to have a weekly hour or two for each other where you can check in, ask your questions, and really listen to each other with no distractions.
4. Swap with a friend.
One way to accomplish a date night out of the house when you can’t afford a babysitter is to swap babysitting with a friend so you each get a night out. Swapping is also great for getting…are you ready for this…wait for it…an overnight. If you have trusted friends whom your kids love, you can take turns doing sleepovers so everyone gets a whole night. My kids love it when their friends get to spend the night, and it’s really almost zero extra work for me to have a few extra kids for a night. You can take the kids one night a month, then the next month you can have that glorious kidless overnight. One whole night when you aren’t racing back to pay the sitter…one whole night…there could be naked things. Just sayin’.
5. Go for a drive.
When we brought our daughter home from Ethiopia, we couldn’t leave her and we couldn’t go anywhere. But if you’ve had a baby or adopted a child or had any major upheaval in your life, you know that when it’s the hardest to schedule a date night, that’s when you need it the most. We had to get creative. This may be stretching the definition of “date,” but we used long drives in the car. Coffee in the cup holders, kids strapped in the seats, and we’d ask each other those two questions and have a “date” any way we could. It’s amazing how luxurious a stinky minivan can feel when you’re sharing precious time side by side with your spouse and no children hanging off of you.
I loved date night before kids, but date night after kids is even better, because I appreciate one-on-one time so much more than when I had it more often. It’s worth fighting for, so look at your schedule and budget, get creative, and knock out a date if it kills you.
What are some of your ninja tricks for getting in a date morning, nooner, or night?