Life is busy, and when you’re a parent it can be difficult to find time alone with your spouse to reconnect. It’s so easy to fall into the rut of a daily routine filled with work, school, packing lunches, laundry, doctor’s appointments, soccer practice, grocery shopping, ballet lessons, more laundry…well, you know what I’m talking about. Last week I was feeling a little down about all this monotonous drudgery, and confessed to my husband how much I missed the days when he and I were less fettered by obligations and able to enjoy each other’s company, like when we were dating. With two kids and very limited babysitting options, it is rare that we are able to have a date night.
Later that evening Tropical Storm Colin rolled onto the shores of Florida, bringing buckets of rain, downed trees, and flood waters to our town. The next morning my husband surprised me at breakfast by asking if I wanted to ride around and look at the storm fallout while the kids were in school. For the next four hours we drove in the rain, stopping to photograph and explore an abandoned house, the rising river, local farms, and a chemical plant. We picked blackberries on the side of the road and discovered a trail we decided must’ve been made by the legendary Bigfoot. Before heading back home, we stopped to grab a hot glazed doughnut and cup of coffee, sold to us by the shop’s owner, who looked exactly like Mr. Hooper from Sesame Street. I still think it was him – or at least his first cousin. Here are a few photos from our daycation adventure:
In the four hours we played in the rain, I completely forgot about my daily responsibilities. I didn’t worry about the children at all. I rediscovered the fun version of myself again – the spontaneous me who wasn’t stressed out about getting dinner ready or tackling the endless heap of laundry in the garage. Best of all, I remembered how much I like my husband – the funny, interesting and intelligent man I fell in love with years ago. That morning was magical – and we didn’t have to spend a million dollars or hire a babysitter. We simply explored where we lived together in a new way. The drive in the rain that day pulled us both out of the rut we’d been in and it got me thinking about five date night alternatives to beat the routine blahs and reconnect with your spouse:
1. Play hooky and take a daycation. While the kids are in school or with grandma for the day, call in sick to work, hop in the car and go explore your immediate surrounding with your spouse. Go bowling, see a B-rated movie, enjoy people watching at the mall, or visit an area of town you’ve never been to before. Doing something spontaneous and silly together is a great way to restore the playfulness in your relationship. Just remember if you call in sick to work, don’t post your date pictures all over social media.
2. Go grocery shopping. This is a favorite of ours. Let’s face it, grocery shopping (especially with kids) can be stressful and is usually a chore we’d all like to get done as quickly as possible. My husband and I have learned to make it fun by creating a little competition. For instance, sometimes we tear the grocery list in half, each taking half the items and one of the kids with us. Then we race to see which team can finish getting all of the items on their list first. When we are in the checkout line, he and I each take a guess at what the total cost for all the food will be and the loser gets to wrangle the kids into the car or unload all the groceries.
3. Watch Netflix in the backseat of the car. After the kids are in bed, grab the baby monitor, your phone or tablet, a couple pillows, blanket, bottle of wine and head out to the garage or driveway. Turn on a favorite movie or t.v. show and snuggle in the backseat of the car together. Fogging up the windows in your own driveway is perfectly legal and just may give the neighbors something to talk about at the next HOA picnic (wink, wink).
4. Become a storyteller. This is another one of our favorites and can be done anytime, anywhere, with or without children around. The key is to find the interesting within the mundane. My husband is a fantastic story teller. When he shares events that happened during his day at work, I feel like I’m in a John Steinbeck novel or on an episode of Seinfeld. He describes each character’s personality, physical attributes and dialect with great detail and inflection, and has me shaking with laughter by the end of each tale. While the event alone may not be that fascinating, the picture my husband paints while talking about it creates wonderful imagery that makes you want to hear more. I’ve learned from him how to find humor and joy in ordinary daily interactions and that sharing these with him keeps us connected even when we are physically apart.
5. Cultivate mutual friendships. Sharing your relationship-self persona with others is an important component to keeping your marriage healthy. As humans, we tend to show our best selves around people we respect and desire approval from. Socializing as a couple allows you and your spouse to see the better aspects of each other – the way your friends and colleagues do – and helps you deepen your appreciation of one another. Hosting potlucks, joining cycling clubs, participating in team sports, or taking classes together at the local community center are a few ways to open the door of reconnection with your partner.
If you have been feeling stuck in a rut like I was, but don’t have much time to get away with your spouse, give these date night alternatives a try. You may find that a four hour daycation is all you need to beat the blahs, reconnect with your partner, and inject some spontaneous fun and romance back into your relationship.