One of the difficult things to do once you have kids is to find a moment with even a hint of romance in it. Come on, picture it with me. It is early evening and you and your husband have just gotten home from work. One of you had the pleasure of dealing with the joyful experience of picking up the children from aftercare complete with screaming, lost possessions and unfinished homework. The other one probably got stuck in endless traffic and has hours of work left to do once the kids are in bed. You are both tired, cranky and feeling a little hopeless. You have no idea what you are going to make for dinner, or how many iterations of dinner there will need to be based on current demeanor, pickiness and overall willingness to eat what has been put on the table. It is a total crapshoot.
Once you make it through the monumental effort that is dinner time and you have managed to clean the kitchen, made sure all homework has been finished - and actually put in the school bag, ensured that everyone has been bathed and given all necessary nighttime rituals (medical or otherwise), read multiple stories and returned the unruly scamps to their beds MULTIPLE times, you are ready to pass out. So, when exactly, is there time for romance in your life?
There are a few opportunities, but you will have to be shrewd about it. Are you in? All right! Let’s get started.
Pick one night a week to have takeout
Everyone loves the idea of takeout, right? No one has to worry about planning a meal, making sure that the necessary ingredients are in your pantry and best of all – there is no cleaning up! This is a massive stress reducer and time saver. As long as you pick a place that has food that your kids will eat, it’s a win-win situation. The last thing that you want to do is order take out for you and your spouse and then have to contend with a separate meal for the children. Especially when you have more than one child and they are just not in the mood for the same thing. (My children don’t even share the same food groups.)
So, if you and your husband have to eat a little fried food to please the kids, what’s the big deal? As long as you make sure that your remaining meals for the week are fairly healthy, you’re fine. Go ahead and enjoy your indulgence! (My money is on the fries…) Less time spent in the kitchen preparing and cleaning up, means more time for you and your spouse to see each other once the kids are in bed. You just have to make sure that the two of you actually spend time together instead of sitting next to each other in your king sized bed with your matching laptops. But that is another discussion altogether…
Let the kids have a picnic on the living room floor
Admittedly, this one scared the daylights out of me at first, but I got over it quickly. I discovered that if I spread a tablecloth on the living room floor, made my children monochromatic finger food (say that twenty times fast) and settled them down with sports bottles and a movie, my husband and I could have about forty-five minutes of peace. Once they were happily ensconced in their favorite make believe world, I sat down with my husband to a candle lit dinner with good food, a glass of wine and his undivided attention. In ten minute intervals. (The forty-five minutes of peace were not continuous, but you have to start somewhere.) It may not be the most romantic dinner you have ever had with your spouse, but sometimes having ten uninterrupted moments (or a group of them in succession) can make a huge difference in the connection that you feel to each other.
Arrange a dinner play date
There is nothing that my older son likes better than a good old fashioned dinner playdate. He is positively thrilled at the prospect of dining in the home of one of his friends. He will trot out his best table manners (which I have yet to see) and will eat a variety of foods that only garner the comment, “Ew” in my home. But let’s not focus on the disparity of behavior and choose to think about the fact that a dinner playdate means that your children are out of your house for a couple of hours. If you have a little one too like I do, then you will have to find someone who likes you a WHOLE lot to take them both. Three-year olds can be pretty damn cute, but they don’t’ generally make the most compliant dinner guests. The other option is to do a child exchange, in which you have the peace from sending your kids to someone else’s house for dinner one night and then have to go through the hell of hosting dinner another night for not only your own children, but also someone else’s. Hmm. It can still be a good choice. Having a couple hours of uninterrupted time with your spouse is a precious commodity, so robbing Peter to pay Paul is still worth it in the end in my book. Or you might be one of those lucky people who has local parents or in-laws who are just dying to have more time with your little munchkins. If so, my hat goes off to you! Make sure you call them over as often as you can - without them issuing a restraining order against you.
Put the little rascals to bed early
Let’s face it, is there really such a thing as too much sleep? Not possible. I am absolutely sure that my sons could benefit from a little more shut eye. Try as I might, they always seem to get to bed at nine pm. Remember the old adage that nothing worth having will come easy? It will take some careful planning and coaxing on your part, but you CAN get those kids to bed early. It may take a couple of nights to get it to happen, as children are extremely unpredictable, but do not lose faith! It is possible to get them into bed early if you want a little time alone with your spouse badly enough. I do not recommend implementing this plan on a day where either you or one of your little ones has had a particularly stressful experience. If your child had a rough day, going to bed is going to be a rough experience for both of you and will probably take much longer than you would like. And if you had a particularly bad day, you will most likely snap at your spouse during your long sought after “alone time.” At that point, you probably need to be completely alone; you know, so that no harm comes to your spouse.
But if, by some miracle, the planets align and you get your children into bed early (and they actually stay there), the payoff is pure bliss. Grab a bottle of wine and some chocolate and settle in with your spouse. Oh, and try not to make this the time that the two of you decide to binge watch your backlogged DVR playlist. My husband and I try to cut ourselves off after one show. Otherwise, before we know it, three hours have passed and we haven’t said more than ten words to each other. Kind of defeats the purpose, right?
And when none of the other options will work…
Call a babysitter!
This option is the one I end up using the least because a) it requires advanced planning and b) I am on a budget. In theory, my husband and I are supposed to have a date night once every couple of months. Sadly, even this feels out of our grasp sometimes. Between birthday parties, music lessons, martial arts training, play dates and family obligations, our weekends fill up quickly. Especially since I feel the need to say yes to every activity my children are included in. I don’t want them to miss out on a thing! Unfortunately, that means that my husband and I are spending our weekends shuttling the little tykes from here to there, hither and yon and back again. By the time we get back home, we barely have enough energy to acknowledge each other. After a few weeks of this you start to forget why you married each other in the first place and you realize that it is time to call that babysitter. Right now!
Once you finally make the arrangements for the sitter, choose the restaurant, get dressed up and find yourself enjoying a decadent meal with your spouse, be sure not to bring up your children. It may sound harsh, but once you do, your romantic dining experience becomes a business meeting. That’s right! It may be more casual than your average business meeting, but you are spending your dinner discussing the business of your kids. Totally thwarts the effort that you put into this whole arrangement – which isn’t going to be cheap!
So, what have we learned? Romantic moments are out there for you and your spouse! You just have to take the time to find (or possibly orchestrate) them. Plan ahead when possible, come up with creative solutions to distract your children and savor the few spontaneous moments of romance that you do get. They are priceless.