Don't get me wrong - the idea of a few child-free hours alone with my husband in a lovely, quiet, child-free restaurant, a meal enjoyed at a leisurely pace, a couple of glasses of good wine, dim lighting, the tinkle of glasses and the low murmur of adult conversation in the background without the incessant sound of "MommyMommyMommy" and little people tugging at my sleeves or climbing all over my lap...well, that sounds heavenly. But I've never been comfortable with the idea of having a babysitter - I don't know why, it's just not something I can wrap my head around. I'm fine with my parents watching the kids, or one of my brothers or sisters-in-law - but my parents are wintering in Europe and both my brothers and their families live an hour away. It's just not practical.
So our "date nights" are at home, after we put the kids to bed and pack away the gear from that evening's sports practice and clean up from dinner and get the dishwasher and laundry going. I know - doesn't sound that romantic thus far. But we've come up with our own little routine, and it works for us (more or less).
We try to have a little special snack something that we've kept just for us (food disappears quickly in a house with three growing boys) - brie and herbed crackers, homemade hummus and pita bread, some fancy cheeses, a little plate of appetizer-y things. Something that's just for us, something we don't have to share with the kids, something we don't have every day. If it's an occasion rather than just a random Thursday date night we'll make more of a meal of it; fondue is one of our favourites - my husband spoils me with his fancy fondue nights - or a shrimp platter or an assortment of my special pastry hors d'oeuvres. Sometimes it's as simple as a platter of loaded pub-style nachos - chili, olives, salsa, sour cream, dripping cheese and homemade guacamole - as long as it feels like it's something special just for the two of us.
Laptops turned off and tucked away, bright overhead lights off and the soft glow of the table lamp lighting the room, a couple of candles and a bottle of red wine. Sometimes it's a TV-free night, sometimes we pick a documentary or movie and curl up together on the couch.
There are times when we think longingly of an evening out together or - gasp - even a whole night alone just the two of us, but leaving my boys when I don't feel comfortable wouldn't exactly lead to a relaxing evening out; meanwhile, they're growing older and more independent every day, each month our schedules are more our own and less dictated by Baby's urgent demands, and we're only a few years away from the day our oldest can be responsible for his younger brothers for a couple of hours.
It is possible to have a romantic date night while still staying at home with the kids. It might not be ideal, but it's what works for us right now for our marriage and our family - and we often use these date nights to fantasize about the days not too far down the road when we'll have endless evenings and time alone to enjoy each other's company as a couple.
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