I suffer from Grandparent jealousy. Faces of my married friends with children frolicking about on a date or vacation sans children pop up in my Facebook feed and I sneer.
Yes, I’ll let it be known. I sneer.
I get that in my jealously, I am making far reaching assumptions on how great it is to have family living nearby to watch your children while you and your partner get away for a night or a weekend. I realize that having family near doesn’t mean you’re not still far from a family. My mind can make these rationalizations.
I realize that not every Grandparent, Aunt/Uncle, Sister/Brother can or even should care for your children.
But those happy. smiling faces of friends lounging on a beach, relaxing at a bar or out on an epic hike without their children can lead me to make the assumption that living near family is all puppy dogs and rainbows.
Finding dedicated for time for a date with your spouse can find itself perpetually placed on the back burner regardless if you are living far or near from family .
But adult time together is vitally important. For us as the adults and for the children.
I’ve recently posted on protecting and seeking more playtime, downtime and family time for my children but it is also important that my husband and I find time for playtime and downtime for ourselves and with each other.
For us, the challenge of committing to finding adult time together is not nearly as challenging as paying for that time is.
Traditional date nights in my family are few and far between but having the ability to be flexible and define the term “date” loosely allows me to have much more satisfaction in how my husband and I connect. Sometimes it’s just a matter of perspective.
Cook Together. Conversation just seems to flow easier when we are in the kitchen. Recently, our cooking together is happening on Sunday’s when we prepare foods for the entire week. We are reconnecting together and at the same time creating time later in the week for family time.
Eat Dinner Together…alone. Yes, go ahead make the kids Mac & Cheese as soon as you get home and then send them off to play while you share a nice, semi-quiet meal. Go ahead and make a nice meal together if you’re up for it; otherwise take-out or a plate of Nachos works well too.
Make a lunch date while kids are in daycare or school. This one doesn’t happen often for us as my husband is a teacher so he is in school while the kids are but during the summer when the kids are off at summer camps we take full advantage.
Have a picnic. Let the kids run about in the grass (or field or trees) while you enjoy a glass of wine, food and a card game with your spouse, out of town visitors or friends. Sure, there will be the eventual sibling fight that may need mending or a band-aid required but focus on enjoying time together and insist that the children play on their own.
Visit a Winery. Yes, find a family friendly winery that has outdoor space or toys for the kids to play while you enjoy a bottle of wine on the grass. Granted, the tasting portion will be rather quick but we could usually get the kids to sit quietly in a corner watching a movie while we had a few tastes. Don’t press your luck though…get outside as soon as possible.
Spend the morning snuggling. Saturday mornings are cartoon day. The kids enjoy getting up at their own pace, watching cartoons and eating cereal while we sleep in and snuggle. We started this routine very early in our children’s lives. When our oldest was two we would place the baby gate so that she could go between our bedroom and hers, I would set the tv in our bedroom to PBS and the night before I would prepare a bowl of dry cereal by our bed with a sippy cup of water. She would toddle in, I’d flip on PBS and she’d sit and eat her cold cereal. It worked well for us; it’s nice being able to spend an extra half-hour snuggling in the morning together.
Yes, there is the cereal mess to vacuum up and an even bigger mess those few times we forgot to put up the baby gate!
Watch a movie together. When we had two televisions we would put on a kids movie in the bedroom and we would watch a movie in the living room by the fire. Now that we have one t.v. they instead gather around a small tablet in their room. I don’t recommend putting on a never before seen movie for the children though! Twice, I rented movies that actually weren’t all that great for kids. Neither, Mr. Magorium’s Wonder Emporium or The Odd Life of Timothy Green (affiliate links) should be rented for the exclusive viewing of the under eight set. My bad!
Swap Childcare. I have faith that this works well for some people and families, I will admit we found swapping childcare difficult for many reasons. The primary reason being that the families we would swap childcare with often had their own family living nearby so they wouldn’t always need to swap childcare on a monthly basis. The second reason was that the number of children became unbalanced. The other families would have only one or two children while we had three children.
Exercise together. We belong to a YMCA that provides two free hours of childcare while it’s members are using the facility. While not romantic, we could certainly sit and have a cup of coffee together or even exercise together.
Kids Night Out. Many places from the YMCA to the Science Center to Gymnastics studios offer a monthly drop-in childcare option for families. For several years, we registered our children for a very affordable YMCA Kids Night Out on a monthly basis. Unfortunately, they changed their programming (and pricing) so with three kids we simply could no longer afford both a kids night out AND a parents night out. I still find it sad. We all enjoyed it.
Find Evening Playdates or Sleepovers. I usually have no problem finding a playdate or sleepover for my oldest daughter; especially since many of her friends are only children. It’s a larger stretch to find an evening playdate or overnight for my other two. But it has been accomplished with much success!
Bring a Child along on your date but certainly don’t bring more than one. Last summer, we had concert tickets and overnights arranged for two of the three children. The easiest option was to bring along our youngest and while I was disappointed going into the evening it was rather enjoyable because of not in spite of, having her along with us.
Group Date with other Parents. It still counts if you spend your date night with other adults while the children are in the background (hopefully). The kids have someone new to be entertained with so they are more likely to stay occupied. I also find it a group date beneficial because each adult can take turn parenting the children as a whole. Remember, my suggestion of visiting family friendly wineries? Visit with another set of parents and take turns watching the children outside while each couple in turn goes into the winery!
However you choose to spend the time, be sure to find the time for playtime and downtime with your spouse or special someone. Let go of the perceptions of how a date night should be and embrace this season of parenting with small children.
While the part with small children won’t last forever, you want your marriage to — so find the time now for playtime and downtime!