I love scrolling through Instagram and checking out where all of my friends are going on their date nights. I love hearing about their child-free trips to anywhere from fancy restaurants to Home Depot. I am both blessed to witness and a little in awe of how many young families take regularly scheduled time to make sure their marriage is a priority, especially in that season of life where your kids need you so much. Speaking as a wife and mom who has one kid in college and another one in high school, I can tell you, when the kids are gone, it’s good to have your marriage in order.
My spouse and I didn’t have date nights. We lived far away from family when our kids were very young. Babysitters were cost-prohibitive. Our oldest didn’t communicate clearly until he was in kindergarten, making us fearful to leave him with others. As the kids got older and we moved closer to home, we used a neighborhood babysitter about three times and my parents for a couple of business trips where I tagged along. The time between dates was painfully long, and I knew it because Chuck and I drifted apart. We heard our friends, our church, and our family say we needed to make time for each other, but we didn’t know how to make that work. Fortunately, we loved each other enough to get creative. If you too are in a season of dateless-ness, take heart and get innovative. Here are my top three date night alternatives to get you started!
When the kids were little, we would occasionally move their evening routines up by an hour (or two when we could get away with it) and create a little extra evening time for ourselves. I would read the bedtime stories and get everyone tucked in while Chuck picked up dinner to go. We sat out on the back porch and were able to enjoy each other’s company knowing our kids were sleeping soundly inside.
Once the youngest was in preschool, Chuck and I would meet someplace for lunch two or three times a month. No work buddy tag-alongs were allowed, and we went places where the kids would never agree to eat. We didn’t have to spend money on a babysitter or buy more than two meals. We discovered most restaurants charge less for lunch and are conscious of getting you in and out in a timely manner. Not quite the same as a leisurely evening out but we were so happy to see each other mid-day and have the opportunity to talk uninterrupted about whatever was on our minds.
Sometimes schedules were tight. We had kids in activities, over-packed work schedules, and volunteer obligations. During those times we instituted what we called “couch time.” We set a timer, explained to the children that until that timer sounded, it was like we weren’t even there, and then Chuck and I could sit on the couch together and have some time “alone.” This did not work the first time. Or the second, to be honest. We had to put in some work to train all of us but eventually, this provided much needed decompression time almost daily and hopefully showed our kids that we were important to each other as well.
Throughout our marriage, Chuck and I have tried hard to make each other a priority. We strive for balance between parenting, work, friends, extended family, and each other. Some days we get it more balanced than others. While it was mostly our choice to not utilize date nights, it was still painfully hard at times to remember we were on each other’s team. It’s hard to wait, to know you’re in a season of no date nights. Being told it’s temporary, while true, doesn’t help when you’re just so.tired.
At the risk of sounding trite, please hang in there. Get started with the list above and then add your own variations. Keep your eye on the prize. A strong relationship with your spouse and children who grow into amazing adults can happen simultaneously.