My husband and I have been dating for almost seventeen years. You could say that we’ve had all kinds of dates: fancy ones, normal ones, and even ones spent sick in front of a movie. But with a houseful of kids there’s one kind of date we’ve learned how to perfect.

The date night in.

Sometimes it’s hard to find reliable childcare. Or maybe the budget is too tight for a weekly date night plus paying a babysitter. We’ve been in both scenarios, which has led to our solution: Date Night Dinners

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Our Game Plan

At our house, dinner with little ones can be exhausting:
There are plates of food to cut, blow on, and be refilled.
Spills constantly need to be cleaned up.
We get up from the table no less than a dozen times, not to mention teaching our children table etiquette and how to hold polite conversations.

Needless to say, there comes a point in the week where we want a break.

In response to my husband and I needing some time away but just not having the time to travel to a city for a real date (a three-hour round trip), we’ve settled into a new normal.

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One night a week we cook something kid-friendly just for our little ones.

Let’s be honest, we pull out chicken nuggets, veggies, fruit, and call it a meal. All bets are off whether the conversation will flow nicely or if polite manners are used, but our kids sure do have fun together.

Then it’s bath time, pjs, and a chance for the kids to watch a movie or play a game. We brush teeth, read stories, and off to bed they go.

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Five kids in bed: this is freedom.

Cooking in Style

Date night dinners must include something yummy. We might order takeout, but we’re more likely to cook a fancy cut of meat or a dish from our pre-children days.

We turn a blind eye to nutritional value of this meal. The only requirement is that it needs to be delicious.

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In lieu of spending money on a date night out, we’ve even tried a home delivery meal service. The food was wonderful and we laughed about how we’ve almost forgotten how to cook fancy food for only two people.

Time Together

It really doesn’t matter what we eat though, just that we can have a meal, hold a conversation, and spend time together without interruption.

We may watch a movie, pull out a board game, or call up friends. Over the years I’ve realized that I wasn’t missing any quality time with my husband by doing date nights in.

It was my expectations that needed an upgrade.

As a young adult, the world teaches that a date includes something expensive. Dinner, how you dress, what you do, it all needs to be special or even out-of-this-world; it’s just not true.

A quality date is about the who and the what, but not necessarily the where.

As long as I’m investing in time with my husband, it doesn’t matter if we’re at the fanciest restaurant, dressed in our finest, or just enjoying time together at home.

This is sustainable. It doesn't require extra expense, travel time, or perfectly clear schedules. While we do like getting out for a “real date” every now and then, we’re embracing this season of parenthood where weekly date night dinners are enough to strengthen our relationship.

How do you balance date nights and having small children?



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Jess Wartinger

Jess Wartinger resides in rural New York with her husband and five children. Formerly an early elementary teacher, Jess currently spends her time loving her kids and holding down the fort at home.



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