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Date Night Can Make You a Better Parent

Paying attention to our marriages is one of the best things we can do for our kids.

A wise person once said, “Put your marriage first. By giving it the attention it needs, your children will get the attention they need.”

Easier said than done, right? Once kids enter the picture, we’re lucky to get through the days with our sanity, never mind worrying about the affection we’re doling out to our spouses. After all, there are diapers to change and bottles to wash. Sexy.

Those days of giving each other attention are history. Or are they?

Once upon a time, before we had children, my husband and I spent endless hours sitting in the grass on cozy picnic blankets, reading to each other things like “Sonnets from the Portuguese” by Elizabeth Barrett Browning and excerpts from Walt Whitman’s “Leaves of Grass.”

We drew each other pictures, wrote notes and left them on each other’s cars. We backpacked into dense forests where only the two of us existed among the songbirds and other creatures of the woods.

We invested time and energy into each other.

During those times, we REALLY knew each other. We spoke of our dreams, our interests and our fears. Our relationship was deep, and our future was bright.

“We’ll be the best parents EVER!” we told each other. We had it all figured out.

Now, 12 years later, our love has endured many things. Our family has grown, and with it, our responsibilities.

The relationship, which allowed us to fall in love, has grown into something much deeper. Yet, we don’t get as many of those special moments that once made us feel connected. We also don’t make as much of an effort. Now there’s homework, baseball, cub scouts and piano lessons to occupy our time.

Are we keeping that marital bond as strong as it needs to be, so we can keep the foundation of our families solid? I think many of us lose sight of the value of it, including me.

We get so caught up in the daily grind, the needs of our children, the demands of our jobs. We don’t focus on our efforts to strengthen the relationships that mean the most to us and to our children.

We are the model. We are the two people who will exemplify to them how relationships should work. Without our guidance, how will they know what a successful relationship is?

One solution: date night.

As simple as that sounds, a date night can provide overwhelmed parents an escape. It can take them back to the days when it was just the two of them sharing their dreams on a picnic blanket.

For my birthday this year, my husband surprised me with a trip to New York City. He planned everything from the special lunch at a Greenwich Village café to tickets to see “Memphis” on Broadway.

We hadn’t spent a whole day together for a long time. It was strange. It was wonderful.

Having that special experience of being together again brought flooding feelings of days gone by when we explored together and shared meaningful conversation. There were no distractions, no children to feed, no potty breaks to be taken.

That date refreshed us and made us more focused as parents upon our return. Our boys could see a difference in us. They saw our happy glow.

Even if it’s just a couple of hours each week or even each month, it could mean a strengthening of the relationship you and your spouse haven’t had in a while. It’s an opportune time for you to talk with each other and to remember the bonds on which your family has been founded.

Perhaps that’s the problem these days. There is an imbalance of priorities leading to a weakness in marriages, which leads to a weakness in giving our children what they need the most – our focused love and attention, our good example.

This week’s challenge:

Plan a date night. If you can’t find a sitter for the kids, plan a date after they’re in bed.

Make a picnic on your living room floor and share something with each other that you haven’t shared in a long time. Talk about your dreams at this point in your life. Talk about your fears. Read to each other. Play a game.

By doing this, you are taking a step to strengthen not only your marriage, but also your children’s future.

This advice, to prioritize our marriage first in order to be solid parents, is sound. I wonder how many of us can put it into action.

Miller April 13, 2011 at 03:22 PM
we would love to have a date but tryin to find a babysitter around here is null in void, put a paper up at the high school and no responce it has been two yrs since we went out to just have a meal together with out kids
Jenae Holtzhafer April 13, 2011 at 05:42 PM
Oh no! That's a long time! Maybe you could check with some of the local churches to see if they have a list of sitters. Or, there is a website called sittercity.com that I've heard good things about. Even if you can't find someone to watch the kids, you could always try to plan some special time together after the kids have gone to bed. I know it's not glamorous, but it's more about the quality quiet time together than what you're doing. Good luck!
Joanna Whitney April 13, 2011 at 07:19 PM
For those without family nearby or sitters, consider arranging a date nite swap with another family. Rotate who watches the kids while the other couple gets a date night. Great way to save money and still get time away together.

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