Remember the Johnson & Johnson ads with the tag line, “A baby…changes everything”? Well, they used to scare me.
They scared me because change scares me.
I really enjoyed my life before kids, before I became a mother and “decided forever to have my heart go walking around outside my body,” as Elizabeth Stone put it. I loved the way Stevie-P (that’s The Hubs) and I had time to ourselves. We went on dates, spontaneous weekend getaways and took vacations. Sure, we worked and had crazy schedules like we do now, but we were free to spend our time as we wished.
Thus, we (and by “we” I mean “I”) wanted to wait a while before starting our family. Our eighth wedding anniversary fell a week after Prestridge Baby #1 was born and as predicted, that sweet baby girl changed everything.
I don’t say this as a bad thing, it’s just reality. Change is a fact of life. There are seasons for everything, just as God’s word says.
“There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under the heavens…”
~ Ecclesiastes 3:1
Fast-forward to the present season of my life. Prestridge Baby #1 is almost 7 (SEVEN!) and Prestridge Baby #2 just turned two. My life’s drama is kindergarten and Pull Ups. Our house is loud and messy and our schedules are full. “Alone Time” is scarce and “Date Night” has vanished. But I wouldn’t change anything about our crazy life, for this is the season we are in and God is faithful.
That said, let me confess one tiny thing: Sometimes I’m tempted to forget this and I often succumb to the temptation.
A couple weeks ago as I lay dying with strep throat, Facebook scrolling was about all I could muster. It was a Friday and it seemed couple after couple was posting “Date Night” plans and pictures. It didn’t take long for The Pity Party to swing into full effect.
“We NEVER go on dates anymore,” the forlorn voice in my head said. “It’s not fair! All these other couples get to go out—even the ones with kids. When will we get to? Poor Pitiful Us.”
Is it possible there is simply a season of life in which Date Night is just not realistic? No money, little time off, no reliable sitter, sick babies…? A season when even “scheduled” time together “after the kids are in bed” isn’t always feasible?
I believe such a season exists because I am living it.
If you’re one who gets a weekly date night or monthly getaway, this post isn’t intended to make you feel guilty—I’m not hatin’. This post is simply for the silent majority of us who do NOT enjoy such a luxury, who may need to gain a healthy perspective on The Date Night Demand being preached by every social and religious outlet in society. This isn’t another sermon on why you SHOULD have a Date Night; this is about why it’s okay NOT to.
No one ever talks about the “No-Date Night” years and how to embrace them or how they can actually be GOOD for your relationship. At least all I seem to hear is how “crucial” Date Night and Alone Time are for the health of a marriage. Not that I disagree, but if our marriage is only to survive because of our uninterrupted daily or weekly “Alone Time”, we are in serious trouble!
I talked with my husband at length about this and believe it or not, he’s in agreement. We both feel this unrealistic pressure to have scheduled time together or else we’re doing something wrong. But as we talked, we realized that all of the healthy marriages we know of do not have a standing, regular Date Night practice; they struggle with this just like we do. In fact, we realized our own parents didn’t have Date Nights when we were kids—and they’re still married—TO EACH OTHER. We have no memories of our parents going on weekly dates or taking trips without us. What we do remember is our parents spending time with Jesus, praying and reading God’s Word. We remember them spending time with us, too, having dinner together at the table or (gasp!) in front of the TV. We remember taking family vacations with our grandparents and attending church fellowships at others’ homes, playing outside while the grownups visited.
So what is this sudden fascination our generation has with Date Night? Why do we as healthy couples feel obligated to implement this ritual at all cost? Is this a scriptural concept or command; Thou shall honor Date Night and keep it holy?
Date Night is a fantastic, encouraging concept, no doubt, but when “dates” become an added “to do” I must calendar and check off in order to attain The Perfect Christian Couple status, then what good does that really serve? That is called Legalism and it typically elicits two emotions: Pride or Guilt. I’m not fond of either.
I decided to ask Momma her thoughts on Date Night. She says the “No-Date Night” years ABSOLUTELY exist and they are the season in which your marriage grows the most. It is in those times of stress, crisis or trials, when Alone Time is hard to come by that your love is forced to endure and withstand. The result: a stronger bond and deeper love.
So… it’s not “dates” that make our love stronger but rather, the lack thereof?
Perhaps part of the problem is that couples simply aren’t prepared for the “No-Date Night” season. There is little discussion of how parenthood largely consists of sacrifice and unselfish love, putting the family unit first. Rather, the climbing divorce rate has shifted our focus toward the couple and away from the family as a whole. We have a generation of young adults who believe “living together” is the way to prepare for marriage and family and this saddens me.
There is no “testing the waters” when it comes to marriage. As a couple, we must go All In. We are in this season of life together; it’s not “yours and mine” or “maybe we’ll make it, maybe we won’t.” As parents, we must be invested in our kids. If that means sacrificing our plans and spending our nights in, laughing and sharing our time with them, then so be it. As parents with young children, our God-given priority for this season is to raise “Kingdom Kids”, as Tony Evans calls them. This season is about equipping them for life, not fulfilling our own.
“Teach [these commandments] to your children. Talk about them when you are sitting at home, when you are out walking, at bedtime, and before breakfast!”
~ Deuteronomy 11:19
“Then He said to them all: ‘Whoever wants to be My disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross daily and follow Me.’”
~ Luke 9:23
“Remember, you are not managing an inconvenience. You are raising a human being.”
~ Kittie Franz
We have become a cart-before-the-horse society and it’s destroying our families. The time to “work on your marriage” is not after you have children, it is before! You can’t make preserves with rotten fruit; you can it while the fruit is fresh so it will last. We must put forth the effort to preserve our marriages before they need rescuing, rather than sacrificing our kids’ formative years to focus on our love life.
“No-Date Night” doesn’t mean our kids control us or we don’t make each other a priority or that we’re not as crazy about each other as we used to be; we are still very much in love and in charge. But after a while, the giggly “Crazy About Each Other” season wanes and another kind of “Crazy” sets in. When that season hits, there’s got to be more substance to a relationship if it is going to survive. There must be commitment and determination.
A consciously committed couple is a free couple. I realize now that what I actually feared was a loss of freedom. Ironically, our relationship has more freedom today than it did in our early years because of our long-standing, conscious commitment to love each other for the long haul, “for better or worse,” with Date Night or without.
“I am my beloved’s and my beloved is mine.”
~ Song of Solomon 6:3
Jesus Christ must be The Priority of my life; my relationship with Him must come first. Date Night with Jesus must come before Date Night with my husband or Family Fun Night. If I don’t spend time with Him then Alone Time with my husband won’t do much good either, regardless of how committed we are to our Date Night schedule. (More about this in my next post.)
“When I have learned to love God better than my earthly dearest, I shall love my earthly dearest better than I do now.”
Because of our salvation, Jesus Christ is committed to my husband and me indefinitely. Unconditionally. We can rest in this and feel secure. By faith we can focus on our children because this is the season where God has us. Jesus will sustain us. The Father will provide for us.
“I will be your God through all your lifetime, yes, even when your hair is white with age. I made you and I will care for you. I will carry you along and be your Savior.”
~ Isaiah 46:4
Friends, this isn’t justification for not spending time with our spouses; quite the opposite. This is a reality check on how and why I spend time with my spouse. Do I love him every day, whether he takes me on dates or not? Do we pursue Date Night to appear we have it “together” as a couple? Do I include my kids by showing them how a marriage survives when Alone Time is scarce, or do I fret and complain that I never get time away from them?
My stance is now this: I refuse to feel cheated because I don’t have a weekly, regular Date Night. I will no longer feel slighted because my husband, who works crazy hours to provide for us, can’t squeeze in one more night off for a weekly date. I won’t feel martyred because we can’t afford to take a weekend away once a month, or once a year for that matter. I will stop feeling sorry for us because our carefree days are behind us.
Rather, I will be thankful for all the time and trips and dates we had in our early days and look forward to the day when we may be provided such things again (notice I say “may” because there are no guarantees). Just as we eagerly anticipated our wedding day, we will anticipate our later years and the beauty of “old love.” Isn’t that the ultimate reason we wed in the first place?
“Grow old along with me!
The best is yet to be,
The last of life for which the first was made;
Our times are in His hand…”
~ Robert Browning
Thankfulness is cultivated in the soil of awareness; attitude is the seed of gratitude. So let’s embrace whatever season of life we’re in.
If you’re single, recognize your freedom and maximize it for God’s glory. Get close to Jesus. Spend time in prayer for your future spouse, though you may not know who it will be.
If you’re newly married or married without kids, realize life won’t always be this “quiet” and take advantage of that—spend time strengthening your friendship. Invest in your relationship with Jesus and each other now so you’ll be free to focus on babies when they arrive.
If you’re where we are and the whole Date Night Dilemma is real, praise God for the family time you have together and remember these days will pass quickly. We’ve only got this one shot at raising our kids.
If you feather an empty nest, rejoice in the faithfulness of God to carry you and yours through this life. Celebrate the journey you’ve traversed. Then, encourage the young families within your reach. Talk about the “No-Date Night” years and how you persevered and what you learned from your mistakes.
No matter what season we find ourselves in this morning, my prayer is we each find the strength of Jesus to persevere and the grace of the Father to accept our lot. As Alan Jackson so sweetly sings, may we all find contentment and “Remember When”.
“…Remember when we vowed the vows and walked the walk
Gave our hearts, made the start, it was hard
We lived and learned, life threw curves
There was joy, there was hurt…
“Remember when the sound of little feet was the music
We danced to week to week
Brought back the love, we found trust
Vowed we’d never give up…
“Remember when thrity something seemed old
Now lookin’ back, it’s just a steppin’ stone
To where we are, where we’ve been
Said we’d do it all again…
“Remember when we said when we turned gray
When the children grow up and move away
We won’t be sad, we’ll be glad
For all the life we’ve had
And we’ll remember when”
~ Alan Jackson