When I was growing up, I remember my parents going to Napa Valley for a business trip which they turned into a mini vacation. They left us at home with a babysitter. No big deal, right? Wrong! I remember our babysitter didn't even have her drivers license at the time. That means, my parents left their 4 precious children at home with another human that was not even 16 years old. What on earth were they thinking?
The times are different now! Not only is our generation way more wary about who watches our kids, the people who are willing and responsible to watch our offspring are few and far between and because of the most basic principle of economics: supply vs. demand, they are hella expensive. I'm talking $12-$15/hr. That's for a high schooler with basic CPR training and a drivers license. Not that we would ever let them drive our kids anywhere, but at least we don't have to pick them up or bring them home.
Now back to that $12-$15/hr. Say you go somewhere swanky for dinner. The cocktails cost $12. And with each cocktail comes an hour of conversation with you lover (yes, I said love.. get over it). So two cocktails at $12 each + an extra hour of babysitting at $12/hr = $36. This is after the other set of cocktails, dinner and two hours you already have on the books for the evening. Do you really want to spend another $36?
Guys, babysitters are expensive. Almost expensive enough to keep parents from going on dates. Let me tell you that dates are important though. I am an advocate for dates with my husband. We both need them. We both share the love language of quality time.
I shared on my instagram recently about a date night Nate and I had. It was amazing and fun, but pretty normal for us because we always like to have fun together. I was surprised by the comments and messages I received from women who said they hadn't taken dates in YEARS with their kids because they either couldn't afford a sitter or didn't trust anyone to watch their kids. Mamas, this absolutely breaks my heart into a million pieces. Your marriage has to come first in your home if you want to raise healthy and functioning kids. When you date your hubby, it is good for everyone involved. ESPECIALLY you.
So no more excuses. I have put together a list of creative ways to make date nights happen when you can't afford a babysitter:
1. Ask family members
Big duh here! This is first because I wanted to get it out of the way, because it's super obvious. We are super lucky to have family in town and we are really conscious about not taking advantage of anyone. Every couple months or so, we check in with our moms to make sure that they are okay with us asking them and to let them know that they can say "no" at any time. This helps keep relationships healthy.
We also have some siblings who, while they love our kids, refuse to do diapers and would be overwhelmed at the idea of having to feed them and put them down for bed. So often times, we'll opt for a later date or a cocktail only date so we can put the kids to bed ourselves and one of our siblings will come over and just do homework or watch movies at our house while the kids sleep. They can handle any emergencies that could come up, but the likelihood of there being an emergency in the first place is slim.
2. Bring them to the childcare at the gym and have a date at the gym
I'm not saying you have to work out, because...gross, but you can spend time together at the gym. We go to a gym that offers up to 2 hours childcare a day, so sometimes during a Saturday morning or afternoon, we'll drop the kids off and hit a yoga class together. Other times, we'll just sit and work side-by-side or grab a smoothie or cup of coffee at the cafe area. Our gym membership is definitely a luxury, but one we use every single day (well, Nate uses it every day, and since the Bible says we are "one" that technically means I use it every single day too, right?).
3. Put them in Sunday School and find a quiet spot in church to connect and catch the sermon online later
On your way to church, drive through Starbucks and grab your favorite drink. Then go into church and drop your kids off at their class then find a quiet corner in the church to enjoy your coffee together. Most churches offer the sermons online so you can catch the actual message later if you want. It's a great way to get 45-60 uninterrupted minutes to yourself with your spouse.
4. Date night trade
Find another family in your life who has kids similar ages to yours and suggest doing a date night trade off. Maybe every Tuesday is the night you commit to this so that you can guarantee getting a date night in every other week. I find that is easiest to persuade a family that has the same number or at least one more child than your family is because it feels like a fair trade. If you have 4 kids and you want to trade with someone who has 1 kid, it can seem like more of an imposition and likely won't work as a long term solution.
5. If it's during the school year, cash in a day of Paid Time Off and have a day date
You can use your PTO (Paid Time Off) however the heck you want. Using it for a date day is a valuable use of that time. Send your kids off to school or day camp (if it's the summer) and spend the entire day with your spouse. Go to brunch. Walk around a Lake. Go to lunch. See a movie. Have some shower sex. Have a snack. Pick the kids up and call it a day. Our kids aren't school age yet, but we've had family members who have been sweet enough to take the kids during the day so we can go for an adventure instead of having to have a date at night after we are tired and ready to go to sleep!
6. Have date night at home
Put the kids down for bed early, or put on a movie in the other room that you know will hold their attention. Then, make a special dinner for just you two or (if you are like me) order take-out and enjoy a glass of wine and uninterrupted conversation. I'm also an advocate for couch dates which we try to have a couple times a week, where we sip cocktails on our couch and just talk about whatever we want. No phones. No TV. Just us.
7. Include your kids on your date
Hear me out here. I don't recommend this for every date, but it's good every now and again. You can model to your kids how to have fun and make meaningful connections with the people they love. It's important for your kids to see you enjoying each others company and enjoying time with them. Family life can get really task oriented sometimes (so I hear, I am way too whimsical to care about tasks, which is why my house is a mess all the time), but it's important to take a step back and just enjoy each other.
8. Find a local Parent's Night Out
May churches or organizations (gyms like Lifetime and The Y) offer a Parent's Night Out where for a low cost ($5/kid) they will keep your kids entertained and safe for several hours to have a date. Usually lasts from about 5-9pm and they have LOTS of volunteers, games, crafts, gym time, bouncy houses, etc. You can go out and have a good time knowing your kids are having a GREAT time.
No more excuses
Mamas, I know it's hard sometimes. Life is busy. Things come up and get in the way, but if you don't make date nights a priority, they simply will not happen.
One more tip:
Don't wait for you husband to plan a date
Some husbands are really good at planning dates. Some husbands just don't think of it. Some husbands get so stressed out at the idea of planning a date that they are paralyzed and just never do it even if they have good intentions. Our men are tired and busy and need date nights just as much as we do. Take initiative and don't be hurt if you are ALWAYS the one planning the date. He will probably appreciate it.
If you are waiting for your husband to make the first move, quit it and make your own damn move. Put on some makeup and heels, feel like a woman and go on a date with the sexy man you call your husband.