My married dating life is predictable, and I absolutely love it. My husband and I have been married almost 16 years, and we’ve been together for 21. Before kids, our weekends were spent sleeping in, then visiting family, eating out at restaurants, seeing a movie, and shopping.
One year we took a two-week road trip to the East Coast. Amish country, Hershey, the Outer Banks, and Niagara Falls. It was incredible and invigorating. Ice cream at 10:00 in the morning? Why not?
We did as we pleased.
Of course, having kids changes everything. We adopted three children in a span of four years. Date nights went swiftly out the door.
As we all know, it’s really freaking expensive to have a sitter care for three young children for even just a couple of hours. After paying the sitter and a restaurant tab, adding in a post-dinner movie is totally out of the question.
But we’d heard of the importance of dating each other. Giving up on putting on decent clothes and spending one-on-one time over wine and steak was supposed to be a one-way ticket to the demise of our marriage. Experts claimed that spouses must date one another to keep the “spark” and romance alive. We should all have a little bit of mystery and flirting in our lives, they tell us. We must make sure we were not just partners, but lovers, seeing each other as sexy and interesting.
Let me tell you, there’s nothing sexy about parenting three young kids. It’s a lot of poop, spills, baths, interrupted sleep, illness, and discipline. There is not enough coffee in the world.
I understand why it’s important to date my spouse. I would love to say we go out every Saturday night, breezing out the door while our kids are in the care of a competent, caring sitter.
But we don’t.
After we adopted our fourth child, we realized that the prescribed date nights were not going to happen. Period. We needed to stop feeling guilty about it and create an alternative plan. How could we date each other while not taking out a second mortgage to do so?
The solution is surprisingly simple. We decided that we would date each other at home.
You might be wondering, how is that exciting?
The truth is, it’s not exciting. It’s predictable. And we’re OK with that.
We get the kids to bed a little early and then my husband runs up to our favorite Thai restaurant to pick up our standard order. I take a much-needed shower and put on a t-shirt I’ve had since high school and worn pajama bottoms.
I pull wine for me and beer for him out of the fridge and lay out plates, forks, and napkins. When my husband arrives home, we dish out rice and noodles. Then we plop down on the couch and start the movie we rented, usually a drama or comedy.
And it is absolute bliss.
We love our big, chaotic family. We chose this life. But I’d be lying if I didn’t say that being a mom of four is exhausting. Yes, it’s physically exhausting, but it’s also mentally, emotionally, and spiritually exhausting too.
The idea of curling my hair, putting on a full face of makeup, and tugging on skinny jeans and a fancy top so my husband and I can go to dinner on a Saturday night doesn’t appeal to me. Not even a little bit.
Whenever we do try an away-from-home date night, I inevitably get a text or two from the sitter asking general questions like if my daughter can have a cookie or where can she find my son’s toothbrush. My husband and I will probably be seated by the biggest family in the restaurant and spend our two-hour dinner listening to kids whine while their parents sigh and argue.
We’ll probably talk, but it will be about the kids, of course. Or whether we can afford to go on a family vacation next summer. Or what’s going on with our own parents. Are we happy with our jobs?
We might bicker a bit. He asks the waitress twenty questions. I roll my eyes and then place my gluten-free, dairy-free, meat-free order. Sometimes the food is mediocre, but it costs a pretty penny. We leave, still hungry and slightly annoyed.
Then I know when I get home, I’ll go right back into being mom. Tucking a child into bed for the fourth time in a row and eyeballing the massive stack of dinner dishes by the sink.
Bottom line: Dates out of the house are just meh. Giving them up was a relief.
Now that we date at home, we can wear whatever we are comfortable in. We eat the exact food we like while watching a movie we enjoy. The total cost is under $25. And we even have leftovers for the next day.
Some might call us lazy or cheap, but I call it deliberate and cost-effective.
When you’re an “old married couple” with four kids like we are, we don’t need special and sparkling. We need relaxing.
We’ve expanded our dates-at-home in other ways. One year for our anniversary, we sent the kids to their grandparents’ and we had three days at home. A staycation. We had some projects we needed to tackle sans kids. We slept in and ate what we wanted when we wanted.
I also feel that date nights need not be the sole way that partners connect. Details matter. We check in with each other throughout the day. We know each other’s love languages. We get one another the way no one else does.
Dating at home is ridiculously practical. It saves time and money. And frankly, it saves a whole lot of effort for tired parents.
If you ask me, that’s pretty damn romantic.