When you’re unencumbered by children, the idea of a “date night” seems ridiculous. Back in the days before we had kids, date night was every night! Spontaneity was the name of the game; if the desire struck, we made it happen. Dinner at 10pm on a Tuesday? You bet. After all, we didn’t have to get up with our kids before the sunrise. Drive to Vegas on a whim? Absolutely. Let me just grab a bathing suit and a slutty outfit and I’ll meet you in the driveway!

There was no pre planning, no negotiating with spouses or sitters, just good ol’ fashioned FREEDOM.

The closest we’re getting to “spontaneous” these days is ordering takeout on a Wednesday night because no one had time to grocery shop.

Now that we have two small humans under our charge, date night is a huge event that is planned weeks, sometimes months, in advance. It requires lots of calculated choreography, not unlike staging a Broadway show.

1. Secure a babysitter.

This sounds simple in theory, but you’d be surprised just how complicated this can be. All future decisions about date night hinge on which babysitter is available. If your usual babysitter is available – the one your kids know best and are comfortable with – you’re in the date night winners circle. This means that your kids will let her put them to bed and that you can eat dinner at any time you please, because you don’t have to worry about being home for the bedtime routine. If your normal sitter isn’t available, you’ve entered the date night danger zone. You have one of two options: forgo date night altogether, or go out after you’ve put your kids to bed and pray that they don’t wake up, wander into the living room to find some strange person sitting on the couch watching Pitch Perfect 2, and commence screaming loud enough for your nosy neighbor to call the police, thereby cutting your date night short.

2. Choose a destination.

Assuming that date night is a voluntary activity and not predetermined by a wedding, school fundraiser, or work event, then you have to decide where to go and what to do. Sometimes a cultural event or a movie sounds exciting, but you’ll also need to eat either before or after these outings, which means an extra one to two hours of babysitting time. Using an average cost of $15-$20 per hour, this means that your dinner/movie/play is going to set you back twice as much as it would if you didn’t have kids. So, you have to ask yourself: would I still want to see this movie if it cost $50 a ticket, instead of $25? Forget about those post-theater night caps you used to enjoy in the old days; once the evening’s activity is over, you’re racing home to get a decent night’s sleep so you’re halfway functional when your kids want to do craft projects at 6:30am.

3. Make a reservation or purchase tickets.

Weekend dinner reservations between peak dinner hours are hard to come by in most major metropolitan cities. Chances are that by the time you’ve booked a sitter and figured out what you want to do, there won’t be any table available at any of the restaurants you’re interested in trying during the hours when your sitter is available. Same too with regards to movie tickets or the Hollywood Bowl. You will get so desperate for date night to happen that you will agree to a 9pm dinner reservation and write a note on your calendar to drink coffee at 3pm to ensure you don’t nod off over appetizers. It’s not unheard of to convince yourself that you don’t mind sitting in the front row at the movie theater or behind a pole at Disney Hall because you are that desperate to spend just a few hours away from your children.

4. Schedule time to get ready.

Break out your iCal, because you and your spouse must schedule time to actually get ready for the date. Figuring out the best way to divide childcare responsibilities so that each of you has a chance to shower and get dressed is a delicate negotiation. Between work and the busy social life of toddlers, it’s entirely possible that you will have to get ready one to two days beforehand, and sleep in your makeup.

5. Actually leave the house.

Date night can be foiled at the last minute by so many things: a sitter who cancels, a sick kid, an exhausted parent who was up all night with the sick kid, an epic tantrum, or a spouse who refuses to leave during said tantrum. Cancelling date night can seem very alluring, especially if you have a TV in your bedroom and a subscription to Netflix and HBO. Do not let yourself be swayed by the call of a soft bed and a remote control! You have worked too hard to make this date night happen, so unless you are literally coughing up a lung or have accidentally severed one of your digits, it’s important to rally. You will be so glad that you went out, even though you were exhausted and grumpy, and really didn’t feel like looking cute and conversing with your spouse or others.

Remember, date night is totally worth it. At least until you wake up with a raging hangover the next day.

This post was originally featured on Anna Lane’s blog, Misadventures in Motherhood. Featured image via.

Shop The Post

Sometimes, just sometimes, we find ourselves in a date night rut. Here are 25 of our favorite (and memorable) date night ideas:

1.) A day of golfing or a night of mini golfing. Or bowling.

2.) Paint ball.

3.) A concert or a play.

4.) Eat a leisurely dinner at your favorite restaurant. We’ve got a few go-to restaurants on date night, but one of our favorite spots is our first date restaurant.

5.) Grab coffee. So we usually need the coffee to keep us going after our long days, but it always results in a quiet moment and good conversation.

6.) Take a walk. A late night walk can be incredibly romantic.

7.) Go enjoy open houses. Check out houses way out of your price range just for fun.

8.) Museum/art gallery/science center. Our local Science Center does a Mixology night for adults to play and explore at the science center just like kids do, but with adult beverages in hand. Hubs and I have a blast at this monthly event.

9.) Go to a movie. This is a nice option when we just want time away.

10.) Game night. We love game nights with friends or other couples. Our go-to game is Cards Against Humanity (not for the easily offended).

11.) Date night in. We’re pros at this one: take out, a movie or a game of Scrabble, and wine. It’s our typical Thursday night.

12.) Drinks. This can be as laid back or fancy as you choose.

13.) Dance classes. One of our favorite date nights was a salsa class we took back in the day (long before kids were even a thought).

14.) Ice skating/roller skating. We’ve flashed it back to the 80’s at the local roller rink a few times and have had a blast.

15.) Hockey/baseball/basketball/football/etc. game. It’s not always for guys and their buddies.

16.) Couples massage.

17.) Book store. So, I’m a geek, but I love browsing shelf after shelf of books. Even better that hubs enjoys it too. We geek out together.

18.) Shopping. Yeah, this sounds boring, but sometimes it’s nice to just have a break to get errands done together. Twice a year, Hubs and I hire a babysitter and make a day of shopping for presents for the kids’ birthday’s and Christmas. We’ve had a great time doing this and have some priceless memories. FYI, adults can be asked to leave Toys R Us….

19.) Champagne brunch.

20.) Dessert bar.

21.) Cooking class. Re-create the meal on a date night in.

22.) Kayaking, boating, biking, hiking.

23.) Hit up an arcade. “Bar-cades” that feature pinball and beer are the best.

24.) Trivia night. Many bars and restaurants host trivia. Great to go with friends or other couples.

25.) Cook through a cookbook together. Each week feature a new dish from the menu.

This post was originally featured on Ashlen Sheaffer’s blog, Kidsperts. Featured image via.

Today is our ninth wedding anniversary. Considering we live in LA, where people trade spouses like baseball cards, that’s a pretty impressive number. This kind of longevity calls for some serious celebration, so naturally, we have not planned a thing.

I’ve put together a handy little list so we can compare and contrast the stark difference in celebrating your wedding anniversary before, and after, kids.

Before Children

In the weeks leading up to your anniversary you talk about what you should do to properly celebrate your marriage.

READ MORE: 7 THINGS NOBODY TOLD YOU ABOUT HAVING KIDS

After Children

You have no idea what day or month it is, and so neither of you realize that your anniversary is coming up within the next week.  The day before your anniversary, one of you opens iCal in order to record a dentist appointment for your offspring, only to realize that your wedding anniversary is tomorrow.

Before Children

You look at your wedding album together, and talk about how amazing your special day was and you relive all the moments that made you laugh or cry.

After Children

You don’t know where your wedding album is, because you haven’t seen it since you had to turn your home office into anursery for your surprise second child.  It’s entirely possible that you inadvertently donated your wedding album to the Goodwill and that some stranger purchased it for 50 cents.  If you could find your wedding album, and did try to look at it together, that would last about 20 seconds before one of your offspring spilled an applesauce crusher on the photo of your first kiss as Husband and Wife.

READ MORE: 20 THINGS I NEVER SAID BEFORE I HAD SONS

Before Children

You plan a romantic night out, probably involving cocktails and expensive wine and a fancy nine course tasting menu at the hottest restaurant in town.  You make a reservation several weeks in advance, and request the most romantic table in the restaurant.

After Children

Since you realized only 24 hours ago that your anniversary is, in fact, tomorrow, you madly scramble to book a babysitter for your offspring.  After six tries, you find someone who is available, but only until 9pm.  You have no idea what the hottest restaurant in town is these days because you haven’t been out without a child for going on three years, so you just try to find any restaurant that looks halfway decent, serves alcohol, and has space for you and your spouse during the time you will be paroled.  Screw the most romantic table, you’ll take any table.

Before Children

You take pains getting ready.  You buy a new dress, have your nails done, get your hair blown out, and book your bikini wax appointment a week in advance to ensure there won’t be any chafing.

READ MORE: THE HOLIDAYS BEFORE KIDS VS. THE HOLIDAYS AFTER KIDS 

After Children

If you’re lucky, your kids will nap at the same time and you’ll get a chance to shower.  Hopefully, they’ll sleep long enough for you to shave your legs, but that’s a long shot.  You haven’t had a pedicure in several months, and your hands look like they belong to the witch from Hansel and Gretel.  Unless you remembered to request a dress in your latest Stitch Fix box, you’ll be sporting something (anything) that looks halfway decent on your postpartum figure and that is marginally clean.  Forget about that bikini wax.  If your spouse can still get it up after watching you push a baby out of your lady parts then he can certainly navigate the rainforest you’ve got happening down there.

Before Children

You have a four hour meal, with wine pairings, and get just tipsy enough that you go home and have mind-blowing sex with your spouse.  You might even decide it would be “fun” to have kids and go really wild.  You have sex more than once, and stay up late talking about how amazing your life is, how happy you are together, and how wonderful it would be to welcome a child into your family.

READ MORE: ADVICE FOR THE EXPECTING MOTHER

After Children

You scarf down some mediocre food so that you can get home in time for the babysitter to get to her bartending job.  You have two glasses of wine and get so hammered that you actually think you might pass out on the Uber ride home.  You stumble into the house, try to figure out how much you owe the babysitter (a lot, it’s always a lot), and then try to sneak into your bedroom without waking up the kids.  You have some quick sex, during which you hope neither of you falls asleep from sheer exhaustion, and then you play rock paper scissors to see who has the “pleasure” of getting up with the kids in the morning.  You fall asleep midway through telling your spouse you love him, and without taking off your makeup or brushing your teeth.

This post was originally featured on Anna Lane’s blog, Misadventures in Motherhood. Featured image via.

Having a baby changes everything. You know this when you’re pregnant, but you don’t really know it. I was excited for the change, but little did I know finding time to brush my teeth would be so hard. I’m ashamed to say that for a few weeks, once a day was all I could manage. I never saw the light at the end of the tunnel. But there is one, friends. I promise. Once my baby Camille was on a semi-regular sleep schedule (and personal hygiene was back to regular levels), I was anxious for pieces of my former life to return. The first thing I wanted to bring back to our lives was date night. My husband and I are avid proponents of date night. It’s a chance to reconnect, talk about our life goals, and of course, talk about how wonderful our baby girl is. That subject never gets old. But we knew that date night out at a restaurant wasn’t an option. My Mama heart forbade a distance greater than 100 feet between my daughter and I. So, a date-night in it would be!

Now, here’s the thing: I cook. A lot. I run a food blog, I write cookbooks, and I cater and private chef on the side, too. So, how was I going to make Friday night dinner feel like more than just a regular night of cooking? I came up with a few tips to help new parents like us feel like the kitchen table is actually the best seat in the house of a 5-star restaurant.

My specialty is developing recipes that serve just two people. I’m pulling recipes and tips from my latest book, Comfort and Joy:  Cooking for Two to help make your date-night in extra special.

ONE: First things first: clean that table! My kitchen table is a magnet for junk mail, baby teethers, and a pile of used tea bags that started accumulating at 6am that morning. Clear the space! Give it a good wipe down, and pull out a fancy table cloth. If you have them, I recommend cloth napkins, too. I recently made the switch in my house, and it makes every meal feel fancy. If cleaning the table and cooking dinner is too much to ask, this is fine to pass off to your partner.

TWO: Plan date night far in advance. When Monday hits you like a ton of bricks, daydream about Friday night. If you commit on Monday night to have a great date night, you are even more likely to make it happen. Think about the music, the plates to use, and the menu.

THREE: Which brings me to the food. When it comes to the menu, it needs to be something special but approachable. It’s not the best night to try a new, complicated recipe. Though, if you do and the night ends in delivery pizza, it’s not the end of the world.

I’m the only cook in the house, except for the annual occasion when my husband makes his famous deep-dish pizza (not sure how a California boy developed such a penchant for deep-dish pizza, but it’s delicious nonetheless). Since I do all of the cooking, I’m guilty of falling into a routine of meals. And if I’m quite honest, it’s meals that I personally enjoy. After 3 years of marriage, I still manage to get artichokes of some form onto the dinner plate each week even though my husband dislikes them. So, for our date-nights in, I try to make dinner especially for him. I recall the things he’s recently ordered at restaurants to take my cues. When I cook something I know he’s going to like it’s a win for me too because I like to stretch my cooking repertoire. And who knows, maybe I’ll discover a new favorite!

For our first date-night in, I made homemade pizza. I typically make pizza every few weeks, but this time, I made it with him in mind. As a semi-vegetarian, it never occurs to me to put more than one type of meat in a dish—this makes it easy for me to pick it out, depending on my mood. However, my husband was frequently ordering flat breads piled high with an assortment of charcuterie at restaurants. I decided to make a meat-lovers pizza. I developed a recipe for a small pizza for two made in a skillet. It comes together quickly, and is customizable to your taste!

FOUR: If your partner is up for helping you in the kitchen, accept the help! I’m one of those cooks that moves at the speed of light, flitting from one end of the kitchen to the other in a flash. So, when people offer to help me cook, I generally say no, or worse: I treat them like children and give them menial tasks. But, spending time in the kitchen is my passion in life, so I would be wise to let others come in and enjoy it with me. If you have more hands in the kitchen, pick a meal that keeps you both busy.

It takes two to stir up Shrimp ’n Grits for two, or to sear a Perfect Filet Mignon with Twice-baked Potatoes. Better yet, grab an extra set of hands to make Lasagna for two in a loaf pan, or comforting Meatloaf that you actually crave!

FIVE: My best tip for a date-night in is to always serve dessert. Since Dessert for two is my passion in life (I even wrote the book on it!), a meal must always end with a little something sweet. If baking isn’t your thing, I have you covered—my no-bake, no-cooking-required Easiest Chocolate Pudding for Two is your choice. I also love to make my mini Bread Puddings for Two with Brown Sugar-Whisky Caramel. I can always find an excuse to make my sweetie’s favorite Slab Apple Pie—I just scaled it down to serve two in a loaf pan.

GUEST BLOGGER: Christina Lane

Christina Lane is Felicity Huffman's What The Flicka-Christina Lanethe author of the popular food blog DessertForTwo.com, well-known for its small-batch recipes. Her food writing and photography has been featured on popular food websites including The Kitchn, Tasty Kitchen, and The Huffington Post. She has also been featured on The Today Show and QVC. A Texan by birth, she has lived all over the States, and describes her recipes as a unique blend of Southern, Californian, and Midwestern. She bakes and eats dessert daily.

 

 

Featured image via.

Husbands.

Remember when all it took to get your way was a come-hither look?

Well, it turns out they actually have their own agendas.

Why didn’t someone tell me? I believed all those L’Oreal commercials….

Fast forward 33 years and you actually have to know something about how marriage survives ‘works’ or you’re going to kill someone, am I right?

Herewith, I submit to you, a simple list of Husband Hacks (code for: Making it to your next Anniversary).

1. When you insist your moral compass point true North… And you want to know you actually told him asked him something, but don’t, in fact, want him to remember it: Tell him during a televised football game. He will inevitably blow you off and you can walk away knowing you’ve done your best.

2. Move the cat’s litter box to underneath the pile of stinking hunting clothes he refuses to return to their proper place. Then, move the box back to the laundry room after the articles have sufficiently absorbed the additional offensive oder perfume. Upon discovery of said ‘hunting clothes’ by the hunter, and the accompanying ‘WTH?’ shrug your shoulder’s with an, ‘Aaaahhhh. That’s too bad. Probably should have put them away before the little darlings went native…’

3. On a day when he’s home (with you), accidentally on purpose pull his top dresser junk drawer out of it’s socket with the might of Hercules. Make sure to send it sprawling across the room, and then lie down next to it. Meekly call his name. When he comes to your assistance (This will take a while, so have a magazine shoved under the bed) explain to him that you were only trying to put his clean socks back in their place, and you’re not sure what to do with all of the innocuous ephemeral important papers he’s been saving for 10 years that he has never referred to once and that this is probably a good time to sort through it all. He will (I promise) take one look at this crap and rather have his eyes gouged out with a dull knife. You will have to come-up with different articles of clothing you’re dutifully returning to their proper places every few years. He will not remember.

4. Admire his lightbulb-changing skills. You may throw up a little in the back of your throat, but it will lead to bigger things- like pouring you another glass of wine without your having to ask. He might even replace the toilet paper roll all by himself. These are ‘Wins’.

5. No matter what/where/how he cooks any damn thing– it’s delicious. It just IS.

6. As for s-l-e-e-p, you have a few choices. You can: 1) nudge him to his side so that his mouth closes and the barnyard-animal-in-heat sound goes back to the barn, 2) sleep with ear plugs in (This actually has a few advantages. I never hear Hurricane alarms, or his choice words for why the hell there’s no coffee in the morning) IGNORE, or 3) you can encourage your cat to lay her fat ass on his face while he slumbers. This doesn’t really solve your sleep problems but it adds to his- which is like a solution.

7. If you can’t agree with some Master Of The Universe diatribe he’s spewing after a few tee many martoonies at the company holiday party, just suggest you’d rather be home watching Naked Alaskans On A Deserted Island. You’ll be adiosing it pronto with a slather of your wondrous understanding of ‘priorities’ all over your vintage Chanel jacket. In the morning suggest that shopping at Nordstroms is in order. To replace the jacket.

8. Agree with him and then do what you want. He’s not really paying attention.

9. Don’t always come home on time- or answer your phone. You can be just as not available as he is. Remember to blame it on ‘work’. And if you don’t ‘work’ outside the home, blame it on traffic. It’s called plausible deniability people.

10. Don’t EVER start a conversation with, “We have to talk.” Automatic SHUT-DOWN. If you have something to SAY make it short, succinct and ask him to repeat it back to you. He will not have heard you correctly. Promise. You will have to rinse and repeat- but only once. At some point you’ll have to be satisfied (Dear God it never ends…)

11. And the next time you’re both out at an Irish pub on the westside of NYC (’til 4am, and he’s decided he’s Irish when he’s really mimicking a shit-faced Swede/Czech) and you saddle-up to the hotel with no cash and a lost credit card????? Leave him in the cab to work it out. Then inform the concierge that your husband is in need of assistance. Outside. Blow a kiss and hit the sheets after hitting elevator button #23.

You’ll have to pick up all of the pieces again tomorrow…

Because ‘Your worth it’.

At least that what the L’Oreal commercials said…

And you can use rinse and repeat over and over and over again.

Thank you Honey.

You’re the gift that just keeps on giving.

This post was originally featured on Chery’s blog, A Pleasant House. Photo via.

Today is my husband’s and my anniversary.  We’re celebrating 14 years of wedded . . . ah . . . marriage.  Because as much as I’d love to tell to you that it’s been all bliss, it hasn’t.  Oh, I love him and he loves me —  there is no doubt about that. But love isn’t what keeps us together.

I hate to burst your bubble, but love is not enough for a healthy marriage.  Even people who are in unhealthy marriages can truly love each other.  They may not show each other in healthy ways, but that doesn’t mean they don’t feel love.

Having a healthy marriage takes work.  It’s a daily, even moment-to-moment decision to show your partner love.  Even when they are not being lovable.  Even when you don’t feel loving. It’s this kind of work on our marriage that keeps us together.

Before I go any further, I want to state that this post is not for couples who are in an abusive marriage.  If your marriage is abusive, you can try these tips until you’re blue in the face and they will NOT make your marriage healthy.  Both partners must first be emotionally healthy and free from abuse or abusive behaviors before trying these tips.  

Do not use these tips to attempt to change your abusive partner.  Instead, spend your energy working on a way to find your freedom. If your partner gets the help he or she needs and you come back together as two emotionally and mentally healthy people, then you can try these tips to move ahead in your relationship and to maintain a healthy marriage.

Five Daily Practices for a Healthy Marriage

1.  Know Yourself

When you and your spouse come together at the end of a long day or if you are together throughout the day, know what’s on your mind.  If you are having a bad day, if you are dealing with illness, if you are upset about something, go in to interactions with your spouse understanding what may be causing you to be in a bad mood.

If you don’t know the reasons behind your sadness, annoyance, or anger you may blame your spouse for those feelings.  It’s unfair to rope your biggest ally into being responsible for your big feelings that were caused by someone or something else.

Be mindful about what you’re feeling so that you can interact with your partner honestly.  Let him or her know upfront that you are in a bad mood or that you don’t feel well.  He or she may be able to help you feel better.  But, if he or she can’t, don’t waste time being upset over it.  Simply work on helping yourself to feel better so that you can be a better partner.

2.  Assign Positive Intent

If your partner is really working your nerves today, take a step back.  Try to assign positive intent to his or her actions.  For instance, did he leave his laundry on the bathroom floor?  Maybe he ran out of time or was distracted.  This doesn’t mean you have to pick it up for him, but try to remember the times when you weren’t able to finish chores for one reason or another.

Stop assuming that the annoying things your spouse does are done to spite you.  Likely it has nothing at all to do with you!  Stop taking it personally  and assign positive intent to his or her actions.  When in doubt, ask your partner why he or she did the thing that you find bothersome.  But do not ask in a rude or blaming way.

3.  Give Each Other Space

You can also file this on under “get a life”!  This tip is especially important if your spouse is an introvert.  There may be some days when you or your partner just want to be alone.  This is okay and is not a red flag of a failing marriage.

Give your spouse some space and take space when you need it.  As I said in the last tip, assign positive intent to your spouse in these times. He or she isn’t rejecting you by needing some time alone.  He or she is simply doing what it takes to stay healthy and for some people that means having some time alone.

4.  Say What’s Bothering You

If something is bothering you about your partner, let them know.  Do it in a respectful way, but don’t hold it in.  Unspoken resentment leads to contempt and contempt kills marriages.

Talk about the little things as they come up.  Assign positive intent and be sure to use your “I” statements.  Example:  “I feel frustrated when you leave your laundry on the floor.  Help me understand why you left your laundry on the floor.”  Also, ‘What can I do to help?”  is a great way to spark a healthy conversation without inciting defensiveness and anger from your partner.

5.  Ask for What You Need

Don’t expect your partner to be a mind reader.  Not even after many years of marriage should you expect your partner to know what you need if you don’t tell him or her.

Of course, it’s great when our spouses anticipate our needs.  Sometimes we hit it out of the park and know exactly what the other person needs or wants — sometimes before they know they need or want it!  But, expecting this all the time is tiring for your partner and frustrating for you.

So, just ask.  Tell them what you need and don’t play games.  It’s not true that if they loved you, they would know what you need.  They have a whole life of their own to figure out.  Unless you want to be held to the same standard of mind-reading (at which I promise you would fail), stop expecting your spouse to know what you need from them without being told.  Use your words and get what you need!

Of course, there are many ways to improve the health of your marriage, but I have found that these five have taken my husband and me a long way toward a better marriage.

A couple of the tips (assigning positive intent and asking for what I need) have been a struggle for me to implement at times, but when I have gotten outside of myself and practiced these things, I have seen the positive effect they’ve had on my marriage.

This post was originally featured on Allison’s blog, Our Small Hours. Featured image via