What? Continue dating your spouse even with a ton of kids? Yep. I can relate to that sentiment!
My husband and I love Phil Vassar's song "Just Another Day in Paradise." I think we love it so much because it pretty much could be written about our lives. All the blessings and all the struggles. One verse is about the couple trying to have a date night and nothing is working out.
"Friday, you're late, Guess we'll never make our dinner date at the restaurant, you start to cry. Baby, we'll just improvise. Well, plan B looks like
Dominoes' pizza in the candle light..." (Here it is in case you aren't familiar with this song. Gotta love the late 90's vibes!)
I have to laugh because it wouldn't be date night around here if we didn't have something come up trying to mess it up. That's just how it is when you have a large flock. I bet you can relate, too, right? I mean, it's so important to work on your marriage and get some quality alone time. But the kids don't always make it so easy to do that. Or the finances for that matter.
When we just had one child, people lined up to watch her. We had plenty of date nights. But when we jumped from one child to 4 overnight, after adopting three kids who had significant behavioral issues, the offers stopped. Except for the brave offers of respite from my mother in law and occasionally from church members who saw how much we were struggling for air. But regular date nights stopped.
Continue Dating Your Spouse
We went through a period of 4 or 5 years when we added more kids, not so much with behavioral issues, as much as physical disabilities and medical issues. That scared away even more babysitters.
When we finally did get babysitters again, there was a high turnover rate. We knew we would only be able to keep a babysitter for a few dates before they quit. So, we used the dates sparingly. We've had many fantastic babysitters over the years, but nonetheless, we couldn't go on regular dates due to kids' behavior issues or medical complications. About two years ago, though, our current beloved babysitter entered the scene. Not only is she a nurse that doesn't shy away from our kids' medical issues, but she is quite capable handling behavioral issues. Praise Jesus! So the last couple of years have been quite the blessing for us, as we've gotten to go regular dates each month without any worry.
But during the ten years or so of nonexistent or sporadic babysitting, we did learn how to be fairly creative with our date nights. I'd love to share our top 3 favorite ideas with you, in case you are in that phase of your marriage and parenting as well.
1. Front Seat Dates
Okay, sometimes we do this still, just because it's just plain fun. And we're the kind of parents that love to embarrass our kids a little bit, so we like to be super sappy and affectionate. It's good for kids to see their parents like that, though. It makes them feel secure.
Usually we fed the kids at home and then buckled them into the car and got a movie or an audio book playing. And then Curtis and I just pretended like there weren't kids in the back seat watching us. Because honestly, they were paying attention to the movie anyway. Obviously if a fight broke out or something happened, we would respond, but otherwise we would just ignore them.
We'd usually hold hands and go through the drive through at a restaurant or coffee shop. And we'd just drive around town seeing the sights. This kind of date is especially fun around Christmas when you can go see Christmas lights.
And then after an hour or so, we'd head back home. It was just a nice time of connection and conversation. Temporarily we were transported to another place. Maybe holding hands on the beach instead? And the kids all get to see firsthand how much we value time with each other.
2. Canasta and Delilah
This variation on date night will forever hold a special place in my heart. I have so many wonderful memories of evenings spent playing Canasta and listening to Delilah on the radio. In fact, last weekend, the kids all went to their grandparents for the weekend, and Curtis and I were home alone without kids for the first time in 12 years. What did we do? We played Canasta. Yep...that's how fun these game nights are. In fact, we've kept a journal with our ongoing scores in them (my husband is winning in case you wondered) all the way back since 2005.
This kind of date night doesn't really need much explanation. If you like competition, this is so much fun! Plus, if you've ever read the book His Needs, Her Needs by Willard F. Harley, you know how important it is to have fun and recreation time together in a marriage.
Just serve the kids an early dinner, get them in bed, and spend some time playing a game together. It doesn't have to be Canasta. That's our favorite, though, because if it's late in the evening it doesn't require a ton of brain power. You could play a game of Scrabble or Gin or The Cones of Dunshire. (Okay, seriously, if you got that reference, you're my new BFF.) I would recommend not playing Boggle though, unless you want to wake up all the kids with all the shaking!
We also listened to Delilah on the radio. I have no clue if she's still got a show on the radio since I never listen to it. But you could have your special date night Pandora station or something else instead. Or you could sit in complete silence if that's what floats your boat.
3. The Trade-Off
We have gone through phases in our marriage where we traded off childcare with friends and let each other go on dates. The problem is that even the most welcoming of friends might be a bit overwhelmed by adding 5, 6, 7 or more kids to the mix when it's their turn to babysit. It almost didn't seem fair to feed and watch 2 extra kids, but then reciprocate by giving them our 8 kids.
So what we started doing was switching off with two couples. We would babysit for all their kids combined--because honestly, when you already have 8, what's another 6 kids for a few hours? It wasn't too overwhelming for us. And then when it was our turn for a date night, the two couples would come over to our house and babysit our kids. (It worked better for them to come to us since for a while we had a kid on oxygen at the time and were dealing with some destructive behaviors from other kids.) This gave us the confidence of having four adults watching all the kids. And they weren't overwhelmed too much with the addition of our 8.
So if you happen to have a close friend who also has a large family, you could consider doing some babysitting swaps. But if not, pairing up friends and creating a tag team babysitting calendar might just get you a date or two per month!
Do you have regular date nights with your spouse? What creative ideas have you come up with to make date night a priority?
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