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“The best thing I did for my kids was to love their father.”

Madeline L’Engle. 

Your children are watching you and every day they watch you, they are learning how to live their life. 

When they see you take a shower they understand the importance of hygiene. 

When your kids see you drink a green smoothie, they ingest the value of healthy food.

When they see you get dressed up, prioritize date night, and take your spouse to a nice restaurant, they realize it’s important to tend to their eventual love life.

We would never expect our kids to shower if we didn’t shower. We know it’s not fair to ask our kids to drink a green smoothie if we don’t. 

But as parents, I hear so many people tell me “We don’t want to leave our kids because they need us. We don’t have a trusted babysitter.” It’s crucial that you find childcare so you and your spouse can enjoy date night as two adults.

Date night makes a difference for your kids

What your kids really need is to see you love their other parent. Children of divorce feel caught in the middle of their parents’ squabbles and it hurts them when they are asked to pick sides.

But children of divorce aren’t the only ones who notice tension between their parents. You owe it to your children’s peace of mind to tend to the most important relationship in their lives: their parents’ relationship.

When you have a date with your spouse–even if it’s as simple as time to walk through the neighborhood alone–your conversation changes. You talk about grown up things like dreams or personal struggles. These conversations remind you that you were friends before you became parents.

However, if you don’t take time for dedicated conversation with your spouse, you end up focusing on the minutiae of life like bedtimes and carpools. These conversations are neutral at best, and cause conflict on a regular basis.

Date night lifts your conversation above the mundane daily chores and you practice connecting with your spouse. You talk about wine you both love, or the movie you just saw, or the vacation you’d love to take. 

These conversations remind you the person across the table is your lover and you’re excited to share a life with them. The chemicals of that exchange alone replenish a softness in your relationship: softness your children will feel, not to mention the tenderness you’ll feel.

Conversely, if you don’t have these conversations on your date nights, you limit your engagement with your spouse. Life shrinks to spills, curfews and leaky drain pipes.

Gone are the juiciest parts of your love and your communication becomes brittle and caustic. You see your spouse only as a partner to get work done.

Date night develops compassion in your children

In addition to loving your child’s other parent, children need to know their needs come in second (or third) sometimes. This develops compassion and diminishes self-centeredness.

If every moment of your family’s life is centered around your children, they lose the opportunity to see a bigger picture of the world. When you take a date night, you let your child know they are part of an entire fabric of relationships that make up your family.

Your children get introduced to other people–like a sitter, or another family–and they learn other people are trustworthy. They are introduced to other worldviews because they spend time with other people.

Try this:

Think of someone you know that would be a positive influence on your children.

Notice how it feels to share your children with the world beyond your front door.

What’s the best way to approach this caring person to ask if they’d help with childcare for your date night?

The logistics of babysitters

It’s not always easy to find childcare for your date night. But some of my children’s most vivid memories center around the great people we were able to bring into their lives so we could have a date night. We spent almost no money on childcare because those were lean years in our marriage, and if we did hire someone, we made sure our date night was free.

Share the date night: Create a Friday Fun date night and include another couple. On the first Friday you and your spouse have a date night and your friends keep your kids. Second Friday your friends have a date night and you keep all the kids. Third Friday both your families hang out for a big game night.

Find an empty nester. I know how much I miss children in my life now that my kids are grown and gone. I love being included in a friend’s life. I secure their date night and I get to know their children, cementing my friendship into another layer of life.  

Hire a high schooler. My kids loved having babysitters. Someone closer to their age with a genuine interest in play was a treat. This choice gets expensive. Instead of spending tons on your date night, take advantage of your time alone and go sit in a park or take a bike ride. Wandering is a great way to spark conversations you otherwise wouldn’t have.

Try this:

Decide today: What is the best childcare situation for your children so that you and your spouse can have a date night?

What can you do NOW to begin that relationship?

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