When it comes to the decision of whether you should include your kids in your fun activities or whether it’s couples only time, it can be a tough call. Do I date my spouse, or do I date my family?
I feel like this is a modern Shakespeare monologue that could be performed on stage.
Doth I date my family, or doth I date my spouse?
Before we were parents seemed to know a lot more about this subject than after we became parents (winking and shaking my head at my younger self here), and we swore up and down you had to have that couple time and a babysitter was a must. And then something happened, we had a baby we adored and we couldn’t imagine time away from that helpless smiley little thing. The plan to date my family and include kids as often as we went out as a couple felt like the right choice! Now that we’re in the two-year-old “Oh my word do you even belong in public? Wait I know you left the house wearing pants WHERE ARE YOUR PANTS?” phase, we rethink the times and places he belongs and if we should indeed go for a family date.
So we’ve started a bit of a litmus test in our family, and some rules that help us decide if an activity and the timing of our lives best merits a family date or a date alone as a couple. I thought for anyone struggling to balance quality time with kids and quality time with their spouse, these tips can help you as they’ve helped us!
Date my family or date my spouse?
- Does one parent stay at home or work at home and spend most of their time with the children?If so, defer to their feelings and emotional needs.I’m a work-at-home mom that only leaves for a few hours a week to work from a coffee shop. My husband travels a fair amount for work, and often those out-of-town weeks just about kill him that he hasn’t seen much of his hilarious little man. We’re both incredibly sensitive to each other’s needs with our kid, and realize some nights we just need the whole family together. But some nights, mom needs a break more than anyone can imagine!
My wise brother and sister-in-law told us when we were deciding if we should take a trip without our son that we absolutely should. They said from experience they’ve learned that mom needs a break and she’ll be a better mom with time away. We’ve looked at date nights this way too. If I’ve been home alone talking baby or toddler talk, and I want adult interaction, it’s time for a date alone. That parent’s need to feel adult again trumps some of the longings. Like I said, we’re both sensitive and find balance. But often that means family time one weekend night, and mom and dad time alone on a couple’s date the other.
2. What does your budget look like?
Let your budget be your guide!
If money isn’t an issue, hooray for you! But for most couples, it certainly is. Babysitters are expensive, dinner costs add up quickly, and there’s often a judgment call to be made. I’ve had friends let the kid tag along because they can’t afford a sitter and dinner. They’d rather be together and enjoy their child too out of the house. On the flip side, sometimes buying tickets for an entire family is far more expensive than babysitter costs. If you know you need couple’s time, I’d plan a free date idea and get the sitter. If you’re on the fence, decide which works best with your budget and let it be your guide.
3. What age(s) are your children?
This will dictate price and ability to enjoy certain activities. If it’s going to be more stress to bring them, enjoy some couple’s date time!
We had no problem letting our newborn up through about age one tag along with us. From one to two he was a mild interruption. Now, we often look at that hyper little two-and-a-half-year-old and realize we really don’t get any word in with him present. Our quality and fun time diminish with a lot of activities, particularly dinner dates to new places. He also repeats everything we say, so a lot of serious conversations are had when he’s not around. If we want to really connect with each other, it’s best to not bring him right now. I know families with older kids really enjoy dining out conversations, I know some really stress their child’s eating habits.
On the pro-kids side, when we have certain activities planned, we often think we’d likely have more fun with kids around. The aquarium is one date we really enjoy watching our toddler watch the fish more than we enjoy it ourselves. My parents started letting us tag along to movies they knew we’d love on their date nights when we became teenagers. I really love and cherish that memory. I also laugh that they made us sit behind them so they didn’t have to think about us on their date (we still laugh about it). If you know something is once-in-a-lifetime and your kids will remember it forever, it may be a good time to date your family for the event.
4. What’s the balance of the rest of your time?
Are kids always around at home? Are they busy gone most of the time and an evening is your only family time together? Choose which gives the optimal time for your spouse date and which gives you quality family time.
When my husband was on a long-term work assignment abroad for a few months, we pretty much only did family dates. We weren’t together as a family very often, so the weeks he was home we made family time. I had a lot of FaceTime connecting with my husband when our child was asleep that little man missed out on. I felt like the balance of our quality conversation and long-distance dating was intact, so it was easy to call a lot of weekends family bonding time. If you’re together as a family most nights and even most weekends, I’d definitely get that break for quality couple time.
Here are our general rules and practices: We try to have one family date a week, even if it’s small. That may mean going to the park, having pizza and family movie night at home, or going out for frozen yogurt. But we also try to have couple alone time for several hours a week. For us, that’s typically a date night with just the two of us. We know that one day our kids will leave home and it will just be us, and even though we’ll miss this phase with little ones, we still think the investment in us is so important. So when in doubt, I’d always lean towards your spouse as your #1. But every now and then, and at certain phases of life, including your kids is one of the best things to build family memories and love.
Photos by: Chrissy Blake
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Beyond Dinner and a Movie
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