Jeff and I have been together for 8 years – married for 6-and-a-half of those years. During this time, we have had – to my mind – few date nights.
During college, we were poor (obviously) and we got to hang out all of the time anyway. You know, what with very few responsibilities and all that good stuff. Our first real date didn’t happen until months after we had officially begun dating. We went to Red Lobster and rented a movie. Who can deny endless shrimp and cheddar biscuits? Not me. Plus, I think there was a gift card involved so that didn’t hurt either.
After graduation, we both moved back home and would alternate visits every other weekend. We were actually able to go on more dates during this time frame than we have since then. We were married a year after graduation and the week that we came back from our honeymoon we found out that Jeff would be working second shift and that my hours were going to be drastically cut. As a result, I got a job as a waitress where I worked for two-and-a-half years before getting my foot in the door at our local hospital. The schedule of a server varies greatly, and you have to work weekend shifts in order to make any kind of money. Therefore, whenever Jeff worked, I was home, and whenever I worked, he was home. Not exactly conducive to date nights, or just time together in general.
When I finally got a job at the hospital, we learned that our first child was on the way. While I was in training, I worked first shift and Jeff still worked second shift. We basically only saw each other on the weekends – he didn’t get home until midnight and I had to get up shortly after 5am. Fun times! After training, I thought that I would be working second shift and Jeff and I would finally be on the same schedule. Not so fast. I had to fill in on third shift and Jeff’s shift was changing to 9:30am-5:30pm. There I was, working through the night during my second and third trimesters and it was brutal. Jeff and I joked that we barely saw each other and it was a mystery as to how we managed to make this baby in the first place. (Mom, you can pretend you didn’t read that part.)
JJ came into the world and I was only able to take six weeks off of work. An unnaturally short length of time, but that’s our country’s system for you! Jeff and I got to spend more time together during those six weeks then we had in a long time. It was wonderful! Back at work, I rotated between first, second, and third shifts while caring for an infant and keeping up with all the household duties. I look back and am so grateful to see how God got us through those times. Just thinking about it causes me to feel overwhelmed.
We made it through, but not without sacrificing our time with each other. Next, I received a promotion and began my new job. Just when things seemed like they were settling down (ha, that never happens), Jeff’s schedule changed again and he began working 11am-7pm. If you’ve never worked this shift, it’s the worst. You don’t have enough time to do anything before work or after work. It’s ideal for singles, and that wasn’t us. About a month later, we found out that baby No. 2 was on his way. Changes, changes, and more changes.
After Jett arrived, I was able to take 12 weeks off. This was much better than the 6 weeks with JJ, but still about 5 years less than I would have wanted. I’ve talked before about our tough decision for me to work and Jeff to stay at home. It was the only way to afford one of us being there with the kids. Shortly after I went back, Jeff got a part-time job on the weekends. He had to work 20 hours in two days, which meant that on my days off he was working and vice versa. Unfortunately, date nights had to take a back seat once again.
Now that we have moved, our schedule is basically the same as this – straight up crazy. Just this week I read a blog post about our parenting styles affecting our marriages. Jeff and I have made many sacrifices for our family in the past few years. They have been nothing short of difficult, yet we feel very strongly that we are doing what is best for our children. I worry (surprise, surprise) that our relationship has suffered due to our sacrifices for our children.
Last week, we had the opportunity to have an impromptu date night and we jumped on it. Jeff’s work schedule was switched at the last-minute and we had free child care available, not to mention more sweet gift cards for the Olive Garden. Carbs – just bring on all the carbs. Yes, there is nothing more cliché than an Olive Garden date night for a married couple in rural America, but who cares!? It was amazingly refreshing and fun. Not only that, but it’s such a great reminder that our partnership is much more than romantic – we are best friends and we are in this for the long haul.
I’ve heard it said that the best thing you can do for your children is to love your spouse and let them see it. We want our kids to know that our marriage is a priority. Next to our faith, it needs to be our top priority. If we aren’t careful, our kids can easily take over all of our time and energy. Trust me, this has happened to us over and over again and we often need to reset. Thankfully, we can be honest with each other and usually it is Jeff having a frank conversation with me and not the other way around. I know this stems from the fact that I am working all day and I can’t bear the thought that my kids might be starved of my affection and attention in any way. As a result, I sometimes focus solely on them when I’m at home. The fact of the matter is, the kids see me just as much as they see my husband. Jeff has a way of reminding me of this that calms me down and gives me perspective. Perhaps it’s my husband who is starved for my attention and affection and not my kids.
I don’t want our date nights to be elusive and few-and-far-between. They don’t need to be fancy or over-the-top; I just want to have time set aside for my husband. Our life is not going to calm down anytime soon, so we need to get into the habit of scheduling our time together and not letting anything get in the way of that. I dream of the day when we are on the same schedule, but today is not that day and tomorrow isn’t looking any better (actually, we are both off tomorrow so tomorrow works).
I would love some feedback on this topic! What are some things that you and your spouse do to help you prioritize time together? What are your favorite date nights? Any creative date night ideas for $20 or less?