I’m sure you’ve all heard the advice to keep your marriage strong by continuing to date your husband. Don’t let yourselves fall so far into the routine of daily life that you become roommates – keep working to recreate that initial spark by getting away from the kids and away from the house on regular dates.
Look, that sounds awesome. It really does. I’d love to continue dating my husband.
But we’re poor.
Okay, not poor. I’m exaggerating.
But the fact is, there’s just no room in our budget to recreate the dating life we knew before kids. Even if we could afford to eat out or see a movie once in a while, we’d pretty much have to take out a second mortgage to hire a regular babysitter.
Dating as we knew it is not a possibility. But yet dating is important.
So we have to get creative.
Six months ago we started a date night babysitting swap. The swap gives us the opportunity to go out for regular dates without paying for a babysitter.
Here’s how we do it:
I babysit swap with another young mom of three (almost four) kids. When it’s our turn for a date, my friend comes over and babysits while we go out, leaving her husband at home with her kids. When it’s my turn to babysit, I go over to her house while they go out, leaving my husband home with our kids.
Easy enough, right?
Because I’m still nursing and our kids go to bed early anyway, we choose to put our kids to bed before going out. This means we don’t leave the house until a little after 7pm for our date, but it also means when I’m on babysitting duty I don’t have to put the kids I’m watching to bed – they’re already in bed when I arrive.
When our kids are older and we are no longer nursing, I could see us coming up with a different arrangement – maybe heading over closer to 6pm and doing dinner, baths, and bed for the other person, but at our particular stage of life putting our own kids to bed works best.
The frequency is also flexible. Initially we were swapping every week, but recently things have gotten too busy and we’ve moved to more of an every other week model. That means once a month I babysit and once a month I go on a date. In the future we will probably go back to an every week swap whereby one week I babysit and the next week is our date night.
What do we do on our dates?
The truth is that both date nights and babysitting nights are pretty enjoyable. On date nights we get a few hours away from the kids and away from the house to connect and enjoy each other’s company. On babysitting nights I get a few hours of uninterrupted reading or TV watching in a quiet home.
On our date nights, my husband and I choose different activities based on our budget for the month. Sometimes there is money to do things, and sometimes there’s not. When we have money set aside, we like to go grab a drink and play pool or visit a local brewery. When there’s no money, we either do free activities or we get creative with gift cards we have laying around. On our last date we brought our own dessert to Starbucks and used a gift card from Christmas to share a venti latte. This week I’m thinking of finding a place to night hike. The couple we date swap with likes to go to Barnes and Noble and just peruse the shelves together. Really, it’s not hard to find enjoyable things to do on the cheap – the fact is that anything we do away from the house together but without kids feels like a treat.
How do you get started?
Find a friend in a similar stage of life and ask them if they want to start a swap! Ideally, you’re looking for someone who lives close, puts their kids down for bed early, and is dependable. If you have more than one friend interested, you could even start a 3-way swap.
Keeping the spark going in a marriage that’s packed to the max with kids, work, schedules and activities takes work. Having a regularly scheduled (and FREE!) opportunity to connect with your husband distraction free is important. Go find yourself a friend who’s willing to swap.
Today everyone from the BFBN is posting about marriage. Be sure to check out what they’ve written!