Next Gen: Why date nights matter

By Susanna Barbee | Feb 05, 2014
Kristy and Ralph Michael with their children Libby and Keagan Michael.

Why Date Nights Matter

by Susanna Barbee

With homework, sports, jobs, church, appointments, holidays, extracurricular activities, and merely getting dinner on the table, date nights often get pushed to the bottom of the priority list.

Kristy Michael, Waynesville mom to Keagan, 11, and Libby, 10, believes in the importance of spending quality time with her husband, Ralph.

“A great marriage comes from a great friendship,” said Michael. “If you don’t take time to see your friends, the relationship becomes distant; the same thing happens in a marriage.”

Making time for date night appears to be especially important for couples with children at home. According to a recent study titled, “Has the Marital Time Cost of Parenting Changed Over Time,” spouses with children at home reported spending almost two hours less per day together than those without children at home. The conclusion was that couple time may be particularly beneficial to couples with children at home in that it is more of a precious commodity for these individuals.

Finding time for a “date” does not necessarily mean spending significant amounts of money or even finding childcare.

“We try to make a habit of going to Panacea on Saturday mornings for breakfast,” said Michael. “The kids come with us, but in such a relaxed atmosphere, they are off eating bagels, sipping hot cocoa, and playing chess while Ralph and I sit in a quiet corner together.”

Many couples routinely spend quality time with one another once the children are in bed. Snuggling on the couch, watching a movie and eating popcorn, or even playing board games are options. Another would be relaxing on the back porch, talking, and enjoying late night snacks.

For parents of adolescents and teenagers who tend to sleep in, morning dates are a possibility. As the kids continue to snooze away, parents can enjoy some quiet time reading the paper and drinking coffee together.

If couples always assume a date will be costly and time-consuming, the dates may never happen.

“We are pretty frugal when it comes to spending money on us. The time we get together is more important than any extravagant things we could do or places we could go,” said Michael.

As Valentine’s Day approaches, many couples are trying to plan the big evening; however, couples should be cautious not to embark on the same old date. Doing the same thing over and over can get very stale and begin to feel more like a burden than a good time.

“We are very non-traditional when it comes to days like Valentine’s and anniversaries. We feel these days are no more important than the other days on the calendar,” said Michael.

Though Michael and her husband cherish their alone time, they feel dates are important all throughout the year, so they are spending Valentine’s Day in a very unique way.

“This year we have been asked on dates by our children. Keagan wants to go on a date with me, and Libby wants her daddy to take her out. Then we have decided to meet up for a family dinner date,” said Michael.

Parents who work full-time often feel guilty spending any spare time away from their children, but in an article on the parenting website, author, Margaret Paul writes, “The truth is that children grow up far healthier emotionally when their parents are happy and fulfilled, even if it means that their parents spend less time with them. When parents understand that they are being good parents by taking care of themselves and their relationships, their children will understand this.”

Michael feels like her children are learning important lessons by watching their parents spend time together.

“I think they are learning that quality time with loved ones is very important, especially when life gets so busy,” said Michael. “When it comes to dating, you have to make it a priority to have that time together, time away from kids, away from bills, away from chores, away from ‘real life’.”

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