In defense of the date nightI'm the first one to admit that I don't always practice what I preach, particularly when it comes to date nights and getaways with your spouse.

In theory, I think that married couples' romantic get-togethers, along with a few other things like saying "I love you," are not only awesome but necessary for a healthy relationship. But in reality, they are pretty tough to execute, especially when you've got four kids, a traveling husband, and family that lives hundreds of miles away.

But when my husband and I do get the rare opportunity for a night away from the kids, we seize it. And wow, has it really changed my perspective on how it affects a marriage.

As much as we enjoy going out together or, better yet, staying in a hotel without the kids, it's amazing how easily we can talk ourselves out of it. And worse, relegate those times to special occasions like birthdays or anniversaries, if we're lucky.

I'm not going to completely blame our lack of alone time on the fact that we don't have family nearby to help us out. But when I see neighbors and friends with grandparents who take the kids for the weekend or pop over so they can go out to dinner, I think of how lucky they are. Going on dates is definitely a much bigger challenge for us. For one thing, babysitting is expensive! And as much as I love the idea of a babysitting co-op, which a few of my neighbors do, there's just no way we can burden someone with four children.

Then there's my husband's schedule, which generally takes him away from home about half the month total and definitely complicates matters. Usually date nights can't be planned that far in advance, so finding a sitter is many times a last-minute scramble.

But this time, the stars aligned, and my mother-in-law was already coming to town to help my husband with the kids while I was away on business. So we figured, why not take advantage of the free childcare, go to his work holiday party two hours away, and stay overnight?

Trust me, leaving my children with my mother-in-law is a bit of a scary prospect -- not for safety reasons, thank goodness, but more for what they might hear come out of her mouth. Also for what she'll feed them, which, by the way, turned out to be cinnamon buns, ice cream cones, and a ton of candy.

But hey, while they played their video games for three hours straight (as my son told me with great excitement), and they ate more sugar than they probably have in a very long time, we got a chance to get dressed up, enjoy the company of other adults together, and sleep in until 8:30 a.m.

I can't remember the last time that's happened.

And yes, while the extra sleep alone was worth it, the time we spent together just made us much more tolerant of each other, and much more patient with our kids.

So now instead of waiting for opportunities to present themselves, I'm going to make them. Not just budgeting for the date nights, which I'm planning to put on the schedule at least once a month, but the overnight getaways too. They might not happen as often as I'd like, but damnit, I'm determined to make them happen more than once every eight years.

When's the last time you had a date night or an overnight getaway with your spouse?

 

Image via Simon_sees/Flickr