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Dating, and other impossibilities

By Justine Dorton

Do you date?

I’ve been trying to get out for a date with my husband for two months. We’ve got children that are old enough to babysit, we’ve got working cars, we’ve got a few buck’s stashed away in my purse for dinner, WHY CAN’T WE GO!?

We tried to steal away last night. We ran out the door and sat down at a local eatery. The first phone call began this way, “Mom, let me give you some background story before I present the problem at hand.”

I sat through a 10 minute explanation of who said what, who pushed who, who slammed what door. DH kept eating and trying to divine what was being said. Things, of course, never really recovered from there. We ended up at home. We’ve had several of these half-start dates recently, and I’m just wondering one thing.

When will I ever get to be alone with the love of my life again?

Am I going to need to wait yet another decade until a bunch of them are out of the house? I honestly thought that I had put in my time. I don’t have tiny children anymore. Now they’re just all big enough to put on a home production of the Lord of the Rings’ final epic battle in the family room. But it’s not even always fighting. Sometimes it’s a little too much fun, ending up with the same house damaging results, of course.

Have you successfully dated recently? Help me! I’d like to make it successfully through a dinner out! I’m not asking for the moon, here, just maybe some chocolate cake. Ideas?

About Justine Dorton

Justine is a mother to five children, and has a husband lodged somewhere (probably in the den). She is not very fond of speaking of herself in third person.

35 thoughts on “Dating, and other impossibilities”

  1. This is what you get when you go on a date:

    1.You get to get out of the house (YAY!)

    2. You get to hang out with your husband who you must have liked a lot at some point.

    3. You get to do something fun.

    It seems like a no-brainer! My husband and I are very regular daters. At least once a week. Even when the six kids were tiny. Even when we had no money. It is pretty much our #1 priority. We just love to have fun together. I'm so baffled by all the women who don't take the time to do this (which, sadly, is just about every woman I know).

    I guess it's like every good thing out there. Just make it a priority. Tell the kids not to call unless there is blood or fire involved. Do not get sucked into petty quarrels over the phone!

    If we don't go on dates it's obvious in our marriage. We need that time to reconnect, especially with my husband working 12 hour days like he has lately. Women tend to always put the kids first, but I would have to say that it's more important to put the marriage first. It's the foundation for a happy family, but most people forget that.

  2. I agree with Jennie about all the reasons why we should be dating, but I also understand why it can be so difficult.

    When our kids were little enough to need a babysitter we were completely broke and generally couldn't afford one. But it seems that when they are finally old enough to babysit themselves for a couple of hours it's almost more difficult because of the fighting or the mischief that transpires during your absence.

    I'm sorry I have no good ideas Justine–I struggle with this, too.

  3. My kids are young, we hire a babysitter to get out about once a month. I'm not experienced with older kids and the destruction aspect of going out for a night, but I know that when I was young and in charge of babysitting my brother and sisters I couldn't call my parents at the first sign of a disagreement, and I would have been in big trouble if anything major happened to the home while they were gone on their weekly date (with big consequences). Fighting always happened, but no one was ever seriously hurt, and we never had to call our parents home from a date. It might help to turn off the cell phone – or let your older kids know that calling you is reserved for real emergencies, of the bleeding or ER sort, and that they will be responsible for the state in which the home is in when you return (decide on consequences and let all the kids know). Maybe I'm too naive right now, but I feel that sometimes technology is getting in the way of some responsibilities, and relationships.

  4. Just a few additions to the above comments…

    1. When you are younger and unable to afford babysitters work out a trade with some friends with similar aged children Its a win win.

    2. Totally agree with the "don't call unless it's an emergency"… but I always sit with my oldest (who is the babysitter) and remind him what constitutes an emergency. I also try to talk him up by saying over and over in various ways that I know he is capable and very able to solve the problems that may arise. I also leave them grandma's number in addition to mine =)

    3. I was very nervous about leaving my oldest to babysit. He is a good boy, but gets distracted easily. For about 6 months before he hit the golden age (and continuing still) I try to point out things in our everyday life and little tips that will help him. For example… last night my 2 year old was done eating and started playing with her food and making a big mess… instead of taking her out of her chair I made a point of explaining to my son the importance of paying attention to when the playing starts and getting her down before it turns into a big mess… always staying one or two steps ahead of her… and then I let him "practice". I also make sure he understands the weight of what he's doing… I don't sugar coat things. I remind him that accidents with toddlers can happen in seconds… sometimes life threatening accidents. I remind him that even though he is home with all his "stuff" he can not lose focus on hat he's doing.

    4. Last thing… I always let the kids that are old enough give him a score at the end of the night and he gets rewarded accordingly. This works really well and the kids love being able to say that he was a 99 out of 10 and Max loves the positive feedback.

  5. Yes.
    I love my cell phone,
    but it can sure ruin the "mood" of a good date with my honey.
    We've laid down the "don't call unless it's an emergency–blood, puke, broken bones, hospital intervention, fire"…
    But somehow, they Just. Can't. Help. Themselves.

    My advice:
    Just keep trying.

  6. My husband and I insist on a weekly date and have for the past 28 years. We've had our challenges of no money for sitters, etc. and I can totally relate to children who call constantly and change the mood of the evening. But I agree with CJC – letting your children know the consequences of their behavior is a must. My children knew that calling and interrupting our evening would have consequences. They learned to solve their problems. In the end it was beneficial to both my husband and me and our children. We had a marvelous night out reconnecting and my children learned to ban together. The kids learned that keeping the mischief they created to themselves made for a happier home. They learned to work together. It's best not to tell mom that you played soccer in the family room and the ball ended up in the cake mom had cooling on the counter. Instead of calling and placing blame on each other – just frost the cake to hide the big hole!

  7. Hubby and I went out last night, we go out nearly every week. We went to Chick fil A and visited a sick man in our ward. Nothing thrilling but just being alone together does wonders for making me remember that he cares about me as an individual, not just as chief cook and bottle-washer.

    Our 14year-old daughter watched our 8, 6, and 21 month old. We called once to check up and let her know approximately when we would be home, to ask if she needed anything and to say thank you. When we got home all was well. Baby slept in her clothes and soaked through her diaper because she wasn't changed before bed. There was fighting over a video game. When weighed against having a happy marriage, I'll take a wet baby and video game anarchy any day.

  8. ooh, I feel for you Justine.

    Clearly, you're a fantastic mother.

    My kids don't call us when we're out– don't know why– they just don't call.

    Ooh, but we made our 17 yo babysit last night and he WAS NOT happy, He's had the luxury of foisting it off on the 15 and 12 year old for too long.

  9. Just last night we went out. My kids are little and so we put them to bed, picked up the babysitter, and went to the late movie. My kids didn't even know we were gone and there were no interruptions. It was great!

  10. easy peasy lemon squeezy.
    You tell them they will be charged $5 per phone call while you are out. credit given for a situation that involves something actually serious, like a fire. Go over reasons that you would accept a phone call, and then get your booties out the door!

  11. I do think it's so important to keep doing this, to have uninterrupted conversations and hand-holding and laughter, just the two of us. Lately we've run into unexpected difficulties being able to get away: our kids' social lives! We had a blissful year or two where our oldest was old enough to babysit not yet into making weekend plans.

    Now there are so many school functions, parties, church dances, blah, blah, blah (and rides there and back) for our oldest two that we have a really hard time finding an evening when we can get away. Ugh. Does anyone have experience handling this? Do you limit your teens to one weekend night out? I'd love to hear what others do.

    {mental note to my mom: Dear Mom, thanks for all those rides everywhere you gave me as a teenager. I didn't realize you probably had other things you would have rather have done. Like dates with dad.}

  12. Dates seem like a fantasy at this point in my life. Yes, I get that they are important. BUT, money is really a big concern. I have four children, ages 9 and under. Babysitters in my area are extremely expensive. And we have NO budget for excess expenditures. The only area that I have any flexbility in is the food budget. And just the babysitter alone would take up half of the weekly food budget.

    So how do you get around that dilemma? For the record, we've tried the babysitting trading thing. It has worked on an occasional basis. The majority of families in our area can afford babysitters.

  13. Have you tried turning off the cell phone? Odds are your house will be standing when you get back. It is good for them once they are old enough to be responsible for themselves to have that opportunity.

    Enroll one of them in the Red Cross babysitting class. Put that person in charge and let the others know you are not going to come back and fix things until your date is over.

    They can handle it. My parents went out often when I was growing up. We didn't see or hear from them until they got back. I will admit that some things went on they might not have allowed had they known about them. However, as in most cases nothing happened that couldn't wait until they got home.

  14. Justine – this made me laugh, and cry. I know how you feel. I love technology, but I'm not sure cell phones are always for our good.

    We have a little different problem. We can never seem to be alone. We have two college age and a high schooler living at home. We feel like we live in a dorm. Coming and going at all hours. Just when we think everyone might actually be gone for a little while, in walks another child. Last night for example: 15 year old at sleepover, 18 year old at work, 20 year old home wondering what we're doing. Can we take her to dinner? NO. Let us be. We just want to watch a movie and relax. She has friends come over, and then she leaves, and we think….ahhhh….night to ourselves. Within 2 minutes 18 year old comes home……we are never alone….no one told us there would be days…lives…like this. Argh.

  15. We've started charging them for phone calls to us. We tried making the 10 year old a "second in command" kind of thing, and paid her a couple of dollars if things went well.

    I suppose we should just turn the phone off. I'm sure they'd be fine. I just have visions of the entire neighborhood hearing the house erupt in screaming children. I really, really just want to have a few uninterrupted hours of time away from noise and carpools.

    This just makes me tired even thinking about it.

    Thanks for the good ideas everyone.

    And Tiffany, I know exactly how you feel about babysitting expenses. The whole world changed for us when our oldest became old enough to babysit. Running to the grocery store became a joy. Hang in there!

  16. I remember the days of no bucks for a sitter! And I remember the calls from home when they were finally able to stay alone. I would get so upset about our date being ruined! Then I realized that I didn't 'have' to take the phone, the kids knew how to dial 911 for emergencies;they could clean up the disaster they created by themselves together; and they really hate it when I disrupt THEIR activities for trivial events at home. Someone gave me the "Parenting with Love and Logic" book, and it changed everything. Punishment for whatever just made everyone mad, but logical consequences for their actions put a new light on behavior. Hang in there, it does get better!!

  17. My kids are old enough to babysit themselves. I think if they called me squabbling, I would say, "well you obviously need a babysitter…" and get one. I'm sure they wouldn't want that to become routine.

    When babysitters were too expensive or too complicated for us, we used to put everyone to bed early and have a movie and takeout, all in the comfort of our bedroom. It was always fun. In fact, we still do it.

    In my experience, the real "need to date" years are when the kids start getting old enough to understand everything you're talking about with your husband. Luckily, by then they are getting on towards babysitting age.

    Good luck to all you sweet women out there who are doing the best you can to succeed at marriage.

  18. We don't date a lot, but only because we don't have a lot of extra money. And at the end of the day we're just too tired to do anything; even a cheat date seems like too much trouble. We're just exhausted. But my kids know that when we do go out on rare dates they'd better not call unless it's an emergency, like someone is bleeding to death. Otherwise DO NOT CALL!

  19. My sister lives with us, so technically we too have a built in babysitter. But dh doesn't like to go out to eat, my favorite! I don't want to spend the time or money on a movie, more up his alley. We just don't have anything we want to go and do together. We enjoy being together at home, but the girls make us crazy! Ah well.

  20. Good luck Justine! I'm in the same situation. Sometimes we can't be reached (when we're at the temple, for example) and leave a neighbor's number instead. I've thought I should do that more often–they're probably a lot less likely to work things out than bother the neighbor.

    My other strategy is a new movie they've never seen and snacks:)

    Let me know if you get any other good ideas!

  21. I always thought – and this was before I was married – that my husband and I would have a weekly date no matter what. This would be a priority in our lives, and we would NOT let it slide. Well, real life has a way of interfering with your perfect plans. With three little ones (the youngest is 10 months now), date nights are irregular. But I've learned that circumstances are different for everyone, and even your own circumstances will change from time to time, making date nights more likely or less likely. My DH and I are okay without a date night every night. When we really need a night out, then we take it. But often we have a date night at home after the kids go to bed, which is easy when they're little but harder, I imagine, when they're older. Maybe with the older kids, you can get them a movie that you think all of them will want to watch, turn it on, and then leave for your date. If it's an interesting enough movie, it will keep them engaged for at least 90 minutes, and that's enough time for chocolate cake!

  22. My DH and I don't leave the house to go on dates. We do have little ones and few people we could ask for babysitting (and no money for said babysitters). We also don't have money stashed away in my purse. But even if we did, I dare say we would probably stay home anyway.

    We do, sometimes, have a date, though.

    We watch a movie. Eat a dinner. Talk. All the date stuff. But after the kiddos are sound asleep, that's all. I highly recommend it.

    We've also started an almost nightly date-like routine of reading together. Not scriptures, though we did start that, too (DH is not a member). He's reading me The Notebook. It's REALLY nice to read together. A few moments of oneness before falling asleep.

  23. When are the kids old enough to babysit? Just curious what age other people use as a guideline.

    I think when my oldest is getting there, I would try to make it easy for her and go out late–maybe after the littler ones are in bed, so she has fewer problems, and I have fewer phonecalls.

  24. We started out slow like that, too, eso. We'd put the other kids in bed, then run 5 minutes down the road for a smoothie and be gone only 20 minutes. We started that when our oldest was around 11. He's a very responsible 11, though. I think our second oldest might not be ready to babysit until she's well over 12 – we'll see.

    We didn't leave him in charge if we were going to the temple or someplace we'd be unavailable. We worked up to 'real' dates. And sometimes it goes great, other times not-so-much.

  25. esodhambio,
    FOr us 11. We have started with daylight hours (nighttime was always scarier as a babysitter), shorter amounts of time (dinner only). We pay her if it is a date, we don't pay her if it is something like an errand or doctor visit, and we try not to do it too often. We had to stop for a while when I had a baby or take the baby with us, because I didn't want to leave her with the baby. We emphasize that we will ask everyone how it went when we get home.

  26. We've done dates at home when the children were younger and now that they're much older actual dates that are out of the house.

    One thing… don't forget lunch dates once the children are in school. Or an early matinee then too. You might not need a babysitter (or maybe one for fewer children – maybe you could trade with a friend) and the date cost less.

    As for when children are old enough, make sure you check to see if your state has laws that say when you can leave them alone with children. This often includes watching their own families. In the last 2 states I've lived in the minimum age was 12.

  27. I say don't answer your cell phone! Tell the kids that if they're in a life or death emergency to call your home teacher, and then answer your phone if your home teacher calls.

    When we were all kids our parents didn't have cell phones and they still left us! We knew who to call in an emergency, but we would have been too embarrassed to call someone besides our parents about a petty quarrel.

    Get out and have a good time–just do it!

  28. We do lunch dates more than evening dates. Partly because my husband occasionally works from home and the children are in school, so no babysitter required. In England it is illegal to have children as young as 12 babysit, we can get arrested for leaving our children home alone so to speak. In theory over here the minimum age is 16, but most girls start around 15. Also having an adult babysitter for the rare times we go out at night mean that they have never called us once. Going out at night in the dark is a treat for me! How sad!!

  29. I didn't have time to read comments, but what about telling them to call your friend/neighbor/visiting teacher if they need something, and not you. They probably will be better at only calling in an emergency that way, rather than to tattle. Just warn the other adult in advance.

    Or…the next couple of times the worst offenders have gone to a friend's house, call very soon after they have gotten there, give a long explanation of what is going on at home (you are stressed trying to cook dinner or something), tell them you need them, and go pick them up immediately. Give them a taste of what that feels like.

    Good luck!

  30. I just watched an episode of the new show Rita Rocks where the wife's efforts at romance (she gets a hotel room and even shaves "above the knees") are thwarted by a cell phone call about a dog who has to go to the vet because of a swallowed bracelet. I'm sorry, but just because you own a cell phone and the kid seems desperate, that's no reason to answer the cell phone or be sucked into what's not *really* an emergency. My brother calls his brother's iPhone a "space phone" because of the amusingly vast apps he "needs." Back in the olden days when I was growing up we were told to turn to a neighbor in the event of an emergency. And my parents went out. Related to the "must have" cell phone problem, do you not do temple sessions because you might miss a call?


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