Like many readers, Wendy H. says she makes a conscious effort to maintain the romantic spark in her relationship with her husband – an effort that includes taking breaks with him away from their baby. But their hectic schedules and stressed finances often put a dent in her best-laid plans. "We are still very much in love and want to do more together, but between him working 10-14 hour days five days a week, and trying to make ends meet, plus having another baby on the way, by the end of the day we have no time, energy or money."
So the couple made a pact a while back to have a "date night" at least once a month. They're cutting expenses by recruiting family members or friends to babysit, and they plan something simple like a movie. "If we have a couple of bucks we'll go out (just the two of us)," she says."If we don't, there is plenty to do that doesn't cost anything." She adds with a wink that they sometimes bring the baby over to the babysitter's house and "just hang out at home."
This kind of relaxed approach to date night is the route many readers are going during stressful economic times. And many say that keeping expectations low-key is always wise for couples with young children, who become so used to their lives revolving around the kids that, that they forget, as Donna C. puts it, "how to handle just being a couple." Here, readers offer tips for giving yourselves opportunities to practice without breaking the bank.
1. Aim For at Least Once a Month
Every Saturday is too lofty a goal for most couples. Instead, Samantha D. and many moms aim for once a month. "A date night once a month is a MUST," she says. She and her husband usually sneak out on a Tuesday night to see a movie. "Don't be afraid to be creative."
2. Ask a Friend or Relative to Babysit
Paying for food, entertainment, and a babysitter can get expensive, so many readers ask family to step in and care for the kids. Adrianna W., who manages to get away with her husband for an entire weekend each month, taps various family friends as well as grandmas and aunts.
3. Keep Plans Low-key
You may not have the time or cash to plan a romantic dinner at a four-star eatery, but that doesn't mean you can't have a good time doing something low-key and inexpensive together. Kristin S. and her husband are so busy that, as she says, "we really just don't know what to do with ourselves when we get to relax," but they still try to grab a bite and then go for a walk, or "sometimes we manage to go for a ride on his motorcycle."
Some readers hold down the evening's costs by heading to the same fast food restaurants they take their kids. Charlotte N. confesses that "we usually end up going to McDonalds, KFC, Burger King, or a pub and then...walking around a huge supermarket in town. And conversation usually ends up revolving around our daughter." But as Aubree S., whose date nights are similarly low-key affairs, shares, "At least we get out!"
4. Create a Ritual
Several readers suggest designating a regular time for date night and making it a ritual. For Lindsay N. and her husband, Saturday nights are sacrosanct: "My husband and I always go out to dinner and a movie every Saturday night. He works a lot so I don't get to see him as much as I would like. So weeknights we have family time. Saturday is our night, I look forward to it! And it is much needed."
5. Grab Whatever Time You Can
Who says date nights have to happen at night? Couples like Donna C. and her husband take whatever time alone they can get, including mornings: "At least one morning a month we go out for breakfast." Cheyenne M. and her husband run errands together for a few hours every other Wednesday, squeezing in time for food or a movie while her mom watches the baby. "We are okay with the time we get together," she reports.
Alyssa B. recommends looking for times when you can grab even short breaks together: "If you have people around you who are willing to take your kids for a couple hours, take it."
6. Don't Feel Guilty
Tracy W. says her kids "are constantly interrupting my husband and I when we try to talk," but she still feels guilty about taking time away from them to reconnect as a couple. In response to moms with this concern, Sara H offers the reassuring reminder that "When you nurture your marriage, your children benefit...Children feel secure when mom and dad are happily in love, well rested, and taken care of." And Alyssa B. notes that "You need to have a stable marriage if you're going to get through kids and make it beyond!" Besides, she adds, "dates are so much fun."
How do you manage to take breaks with your partner?