Got Kids? Get a Date Night!

17 Sep

We have a full house.  We’ve got five between the two of us – a mine, yours and ours combination that ranges from teen to toddler.  DH’s daughters are with us every other weekend (EOW), so you can imagine the mayhem that ensues when four girls close in age are competing for the same toys (my teenage son flees when they arrive, smart boy). 

When DH jumped into my life, he quickly realized that the kids and I were never home after school.  Between swim practice, hula, ballet, youth group and play dates, our evenings were booked solid.  Two months into our relationship, DH suggested a weekly “date night”, knowing that having a busy tribe of children would equal no time alone, which in turn would plunge us into relationship demise.  He wanted to commit to date night to help us grow our relationship without the distraction of the children.  The only thing I had to do was coordinate everyone’s schedule and find a babysitter that was willing to commit to a weekly gig indefinitely.

That was over four years ago.  I’m proud to say that we’ve only missed two date nights in that time (not counting the three weeks after I gave birth to our daughter).  We’ve found that it’s strengthened our relationship and helped us build a firm foundation for our family. 

Let’s get real for a second: stepfamilies are ready-made families.  You don’t have the “luxury” of just being a couple for a few years because you are immediately thrust into family mode.  If problems arise early on, sometimes it’s easier to throw all your energy into the kids than it is to address what it is that’s bothering you.  Couples need to learn to be couples so that when the kids do leave the nest, they won’t look at each other and say, “Um, excuse me, but do I know you?”  I think it’s imperative that couples (especially stepcouples) schedule a date night and stick to it…for eternity.

Here are some tips on how to make it happen:

  • Map it out.  It takes some scheduling and planning prowess. In our particular case, we needed to consider our work schedules and my ex’s and DH’s mid-week visits.  Once we took all that into consideration, our date night turned out to be a mid-week night.  The advantage is that it’s day that’s not very crowded and it’s really easy to find a babysitter (because it’s not a Friday or Saturday night).  The disadvantage is that things aren’t open very late. 
  • Find a great sitter.  This can often be a challenge.  Ask your friends, family and neighbors.  I’ve found our sitters (who have been with us for four years and whom we consider part of our family) at my daughter’s day care.  The advantage is that they’ve had background checks and have been trained in first aid and CPR.  If you have family in town, ask grandparents to help out.  They love the one-on-one time with the grandkids.
  • Pay your sitters well.  This goes without saying.  If you want them to stick with you, pay them well and treat them like family. 
  • Keep it fresh.  The old “dinner and movie” stand-by can get kind of stale after a few weeks.  Mix it up.  Check out a museum or some local theater.  Drive to a scenic viewpoint and make out like teenagers. Take a cooking or a dance class together.  Be creative and opt for activities where you have to interact.
  • Have conversation flexibility.  Many couples set ground rules about topics of conversations that are to be avoided on date night (ie children and ex-spouses), but remember that uninterrupted time alone might be a good time to really get into a deep discussion and iron out issues.
  • Put it in your budget.  Let’s get real, the economy sucks and many of us are struggling.  I’ve had girlfriends ask me, “How can you afford a weekly date night?”  We budget it in like a bill.  It might take some budget cuts here or there (goodbye daily Starbucks latte), but it’s worth it.

Date night is a good thing, yet it quickly falls to the wayside when you let schedules get in the way.  Stay committed and keep the day sacred!  If you have children (regardless if you’re a first family or stepfamily), make date night and connecting with your spouse a priority.  You’ll build a strong relationship and an even stronger family.

For more information on strengthening your relationship as a stepcouple, check out Susan Wisdom’s website and blog  Stepcoupling.

5 Responses to “Got Kids? Get a Date Night!”

  1. michelle September 17, 2010 at 10:11 am #

    We have been kind of lax on our date night! While pregnant DH worked so much so he could take the entire month of August off with pay!

    I do agree that date night is important to your relationship, it is just as important as sex. A couple needs to continue to know how to be a couple.

    I can’t wait to start date night again, I just need to get over myself & my fear of leaving the baby! I am breast feeding, and don’t have a pumped supply built up yet, so…
    We do have a mandatory date night coming up in October, it is our good friend’s wedding, no children are allowed so I am going to be leaving the littles. I hope it is wonderful for the both of us, I am looking forward to it!

    • BioStep September 17, 2010 at 10:35 am #

      I understand your reluctance to leave a nursing baby! Our first night out after our daughter was born was when she was three weeks old. I made sure her “tank” was full before I left. She had a little bit of pumped milk in the fridge and a backup of formula (only in case of extreme emergency). She was my third baby, so I knew she wasn’t going to starve in the 3 hours we were gone 😉 We left and she happily slept the entire time. It was great to have that time to just the two of us.

      Have fun at the wedding!!!

  2. Stepmom Central September 17, 2010 at 10:22 am #

    This is something I am a firm believer in! It does wonders for your relationship and marriage.
    Because of my husbands random work schedule we are unable to make it for a specific time or day but usually it turns out to be Friday evenings because thats they night the kids like to visit their grandma.
    We are bad about “keeping it fresh” we do DO dinner and movies alot only because eating dinner together is so refreshing when we don’t have 3 kids interrupting our conversation every 30 seconds.
    We also do mini-vacays by ourselves where we get away to the beach for the weekend even if we get a cheap motel.

    • BioStep September 17, 2010 at 11:08 am #

      We go on “dinner and a movie” binges occassionally. It IS refreshing to have an uninterrupted conversation and to see a movie without 3D glasses, isn’t it???

  3. Deesha September 17, 2010 at 9:21 pm #

    Even long distance, we strive for a regular date night. Even if it means Internet scrabble. :=)

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