Anyone who has watched the movie ‘Date Night’ will know that as much as parents might try to make it a priority to have good quality couple time, it’s not always easy to find the time, energy, finances, babysitters etc to make it happen.

My eldest daughter is six and a half now and I have to confess we have been quite a bit slacker at this than I would have hoped.  We’ve had the odd night out here and there, but a few weeks ago, my husband and I had our very first ever mini-break, just the two of us, for two whole nights and it was quite amazing!

For me, the most crazy thing about it was spending two whole nights not doing anything for anyone!  It was so strange to have nobody asking me to fetch something or find something or help them with something or get them something to eat.  You don’t realise how much of your day you spend doing things for your kids until suddenly there is nobody to look after. And it was also totally bizarre to spend two whole days without doing any housework!  Even when we go on holidays we usually get a beach house or a self-contained apartment.  I can’t remember the last time I stayed somewhere without having to cook or clean anything.  In fact the only task I had to compete the whole weekend was pouring the champagne!  That was tough.

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It’s fun to be a tourist in your own city. This is Paddington Reservoir, one of the discoveries we made on our long walk into town.

The other bizarre thing about it was just being able to do whatever you want.  When you have young children, you spend so much time trying to anticipate the children’s needs that you don’t get a chance to even think about what you want to do.  So to have a completely free afternoon in which I could do whatever I wanted was almost paralysing.  In the end, I just took myself to the hotel lobby with a book and a cup of tea and spent two hours reading without anybody interrupting me or needing me to change their nappy.  It was incredible!

For us in our current circumstances, the weekend was more about recovery and reconnection rather than purely romance, but there’s no doubt that it was easier to connect when we weren’t being interrupted every five minutes.  It was also good to be able to talk openly about difficult or painful things, without having to either censor or explain our conversation for little ears that might be listening in.  It was also fun to go out together without having to focus on making it enjoyable for the children.  We could do things that we enjoy and finish them when it suited us, rather than when a child was getting hungry or tired.  Fancy that?

Relaxing at Berkeleow

Chris relaxing at Berkeleow Books. Well, I was relaxing, he was probably wanting to move on by this stage. It can be hard to drag me out of a place like that.

 It’s funny.  Even though I know it’s a good thing to do to have some time away together like that, we never would have done it if our family hadn’t pushed us out the door.  My sisters volunteered to babysit, my family paid for the hotel and we had a voucher to a nice restaurant left over from Christmas, but if we didn’t have all those generous people helping us out, there’s no way it would have happened.  So if anything, I feel a bit convicted now that I should probably do the same thing for my sister when her baby’s weaned.

Obviously doing something as extravagant as having a few nights away in a hotel is not the sort of thing you can do all the time, it’s probably more realistic just to try to make time for nights out together.   But even when you have good intentions, it’s amazing how much time can go by without making the effort to do something really special.  Just yesterday my husband stumbled upon my favourite little Kookai silk slip dress, held it up and said, “You haven’t worn this for a very long time.”  (I realised I haven’t worn it since last year…  It’s one of those dresses that requires a certain amount of confidence!)  So I said, “That’s because you haven’t taken me out for a very long time.  I can’t wear that dress unless I have something special to wear it to!”

Although quality time is important for all couples, I know it’s even more important for me, because my primary love language is quality time.  Adding fuel to the fire is the fact that my secondary love language is acts of service.  So when I don’t get quality time and start feeling insecure, I tend to ask people to do stuff for me or help me out with something.  (Not generally a brilliant tactic!)  That means my husband has a clear choice:  either to take me out for dinner more often, or to put up with me asking him to mow the lawn or clean out the laundry.  As you can see, we clearly need more dates!

The fact is that we simply don’t have the finances or the access to babysitters to go out very often, even just somewhere cheap and cheerful, but every Christmas we ask family to put in for vouchers to a nice restaurant or tickets to a show so we at least have one or two special nights out together every year.  The other thing we often do is set aside Monday morning to spend some time together.  We usually just go somewhere around the harbour and have a walk and a coffee together, so we can feel like we’ve been out somewhere nice without breaking the bank.  Molly comes with us so it’s not strictly couple time, but even just having that regular time set aside each week forces us to reconnect.  When one of us gets busy, and we don’t have our Monday catch-up, I notice that I feel a bit niggly.  So I have to make sure I keep that time free as often as I can.  And if you can find some generous family members to sponsor you for a kid-free weekend away, I highly recommend it!

Have you ever been away without the kids?  Do you have a regular time for couple time or date nights?  How do you make it work?  Do you have any brilliant ideas for date nights on a budget?

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