By Heidi Jo Fulk
If you are anything like me, you’re always looking for a way to do things economically. (Isn’t that nicer than saying “cheap”?!) And simple doesn’t hurt either. This was especially true when my husband, Dan, and I found ourselves in the midst of a growing household. Economical and simple took on all-new priority and meaning.
However, when we wanted to spend some time alone, economical and simple did not seem possible. Now we loved being parents of babies and toddlers and enjoy spending time together as a family. But we all need some husband/wife only time! Unfortunately, there were roadblocks. First, there were the obvious demands of taking care of the children, which pretty much filled up any day of the week! Next, we didn’t — and still don’t — live near our own parents, so asking the grandparents to come watch their adorable grandchildren was out.
Finally, our budget restraints made hiring a babysitter AND going out to dinner or a movie seem like the king’s ransom. Add all those up and it equals no date night for Mommy and Daddy.
I was pondering that problem one Saturday night while I was making dinner. Make that pouting. I was preparing a dinner that we’d probably have to coax some kid to try, when I wanted to jet off for a night out with my husband. I was trying a new recipe and it was taking a lot longer than I expected. The kids — our first three, then about 4, 2, and 6 months — were getting very hungry and letting us know it. Loudly.
So I had a revelation. I told Dan, “You give them breakfast for dinner right now — cereal, yogurt, whatever — while I finish cooking. Then we’ll give them quick baths, put them in bed, and come out and eat this together in peace.” Genius had struck at 6:30 on a Saturday night!
So that’s what we did. After children were fed, clean, read to, prayed with, and in their beds, we came to the kitchen — alone! We didn’t have to lift anyone into a high chair. We didn’t have to assign how many bites were required to get dessert. We talked! We ate! And we didn’t spend any extra money!
That’s how it began: Saturday Night Date Night. At first we had our date night every other Saturday, but we found we really missed it on the off Saturdays. So for several years now, almost every Saturday, we’re at the table alone. I try new recipes or make something only the grown-ups like. We’ve even learned to advertise Saturdays as “kid dinner” nights. They get to pick their meal — usually pasta with white sauce (code in our house for alfredo) or “breakfast dinner” (just like that first one!). They think it’s grand and we think it’s grander, because while they eat their favorites, I’m preparing the date dinner. We zip people through the bedtime routine and walk back into the kitchen as husband and wife, not just mommy and daddy.
Sure, we go out sometimes. When the grandparents are visiting or when there’s a special event to celebrate, we splurge for a babysitter and have dinner out. But those few and far between “out” times are just not enough to sustain us as we seek to strengthen and build our marriage.
That’s what Saturday Night Date Night does for us. We not only get the respite of eating yummy food in peace, we get a chance to discuss, process, dream, and plan. We have some moments to take a deep breath and say, “Hey! I know you! And I like you!” Then we watch a movie — or if I’m feeling generous, an episode of A-Team from Dan’s boxed set — and head off to bed. Refreshed, a little more ready for the week ahead, and a little stronger, too.
What’s your family’s version of a free date night?
HEIDI JO FULK is passionate about encouraging woman and girls to love and live God’s word. She is wife to her high school sweetheart, Dan, and mom to their four young children — Emma Jo, Gretchen, Tucker and Brock. Heidi leads a women’s Bible study and an elementary girls’ ministry at her church.