Weekly mom & dad date nights: how to go from dream to reality

Mar 19, 2010 at 3:36 p.m. ET

About three years ago I was on the phone with a friend trying to figure out a time we could get together. I suggested Tuesday morning at 10, but she declined. "That's my weekly date with my husband," she said. "That's so nice," I said, and she went on to explain that they had made the decision to treat their weekly date like any other business obligation – inviolate. They met during the day, when they could make the time, and they spent close to an hour together, just the two of them, away from their four kids and the rest of the world.

A weekly date for Mom and Dad! Almost everyone agrees that it's important for Mom and Dad to have time alone together, but making it happen isn't always easy. On the other hand, if you have time to watch even one TV show a week, you have time to spend with your spouse. It's a question of priorities. And at the end of the day, if Jack Shepherd means more to you than your husband, well, that's a different problem.

So, how can you reclaim the most important relationship in your life? It's easier than you think. You can start simply by deciding it matters. Once you make that decision, the rest falls into place pretty naturally. Here's how to make sure you get that weekly date night once you decide you want it.

Be Flexible

Think outside the box, and don't get locked into making arbitrary decisions. Like my friend, whose "date night" happens at 10 am on Tuesdays, don't lock yourself into thinking night time is the right time for dating. Yes, it might be more traditional, or more romantic, or more in line with your vision, but if the reality of a babysitter, the bedtime routine, the cost of dinner and a movie, or whatever is going to keep your dream firmly in the realm of fantasy, who are you really helping?

Cultivate a Relationship with a Great Babysitter

When you find someone you trust with your kids, do whatever you need to do to cement the relationship. For me, this meant committing to hire a close friend's daughter every Monday night for a 2-hour minimum at $7/hr. Even on the weeks that I didn't go out, I paid her, and I eventually trained her to give me first right of refusal on other nights of the week as well. Whenever anyone asked her to babysit, her reply was always. "I need to check with Abbi first." This was fantastic, right up until she moved out of the country.

Keep Your End Goal in Mind

The idea here is quality time with your spouse. So anything that gets you to that place is fair game. In other words, if your date is cooking and enjoying a gourmet meal at home when the kids are at a weekly sleepover, that's cool. If your date is a leisurely stroll through the grocery store late on a Saturday night, fantastic. You don't have to live up to someone else's version of a great date night. You just have to find what works for you.

A weekly date night is an important part of a healthy marriage. Make it a priority in yours, and let your kids know why it matters. It's a lesson that will serve them well for the rest of their lives.?


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