One of the most commonly-relayed pieces of advice I’ve heard about nurturing a marriage is for the married couple to go on regular dates with each other. Sounds good. I would buy that advice in a heartbeat — if I could afford it. I have nothing but nostalgia for the days when my wife and I were cheap dates.
Before Addie was born, Casey and I went on dates regularly together. In fact, our finances back then would indicate that we went on too many dates together, but we both loved being out together. Although Addie’s birth threw a bit of wrench in our consistent dating life, it still wasn’t too difficult to drop Addie off with some relatives for an evening or for a day so we could get out and do something alone as a married couple. Back then we didn’t realize how fortunate we were to have family living so close who wanted to spend time with Addie. Then we moved to Indiana where our closest relative lives a nice 15 hour drive away.
Not having family nearby has made it difficult to make consistent dating a reality. There are other options out there, but they haven’t really worked out either. We have friends who have little babysitting like clubs where four or five couples get together and agree that every four or five weekends the other couples will drop their kids off at that couple’s house for a date night. The couple who babysits all the kids gets rotated on a weekly basis so that each takes a turn with the kids. Although we’ve seen a lot of those little babysitting arrangements, we’ve never been asked to be a part of one (that’s not Casey’s fault, that’s all on me — the unsociable one).
We have been lucky enough to find local teenagers to pay as babysitters when we’re in a crunch, but using a babysitter on a weekly basis is a little too pricey for our budget. A babysitter for our two girls at their ages costs us about $25 for an evening out. Then add in a dinner at $25-$45, maybe a movie or bowling or something like that at another $25, and date night turns into a $75-$95 event. Multiply that by 4 times per month and the cost comes near $400 per month.
Luckily we have a few friends who live close by who have been able to step in and give us a break every month or so by taking Addie and Vivi for a night or two, but I wish we had more options available. Casey and I were able to go on a date this last weekend, and it was a good reminder of why dates are so important to a marriage.
Our date started out by having a quick dinner in a mall food court — not exactly a stellar start to date night, but we first met in a mall so there was some reminiscing there. Then we went to the symphony followed by some frozen yogurt and a stay in a local hotel. The date was great, and it could have consisted of a night shoveling snow in the driveway together and I still would have enjoyed it. Getting to spend time alone with this lady is a good reminder of what it was like when it was just the two of us. It gives us the chance to put our parenting role on the back burner and focus on our friendship, and that’s why going on consistent dates as a married couple is so important. It’s too easy to forget that parenting isn’t our only function and it isn’t the reason we still live with each other. Deep down tucked behind all that parenting that we have to do, is the friendship we built that is the real reason we got together and will hopefully be the real reason we stay together. Parenting is just a phase of our marriage that will hopefully in the end make us more bonded to each other than we were when we first got married.
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