Remember date night pre-children? If you wanted to spend 2 hours getting ready, you could. Have a craving for some Mexican food? Jump in the car and go! And then, lets throw in a movie too. Because we’ve got nothing but time! Date night now? Schedule the babysitter, prep dinner for the kids, try to find something to wear that doesn’t scream I haven’t been shopping for myself in ages, get out of the house without children crying and making you feel terribly guilty and like they can’t live a second with out you, nixing the movie because then you’d have to pay the babysitter for 5 hours instead of 3, then return to pass over at least $50 because babysitters make a killing these days. There has to be an easier way? Right?
There is! Enter the Date Night Coop. It changed our married with little kids dating life and it can change yours too. Here’s how it works.
- Find 2-4 other families willing to participate with children the same ages as your children. We had 3 other families besides ours, with a total of 9 children. Note: you are going to want to choose families whose children you don’t mind being around and who get along with yours…this is important. You will also want a manageable number of children that everyone and their spouse feels comfortable with. You might also take into consideration how many babies will be in the group as well, as they will need a little more attention.
- Meet together, with personal calendars in hand to plan the next 3 months of date nights. You can actually plan only a month, or as far out as you want to plan. Choose which nights will be date nights, and who will be watching kids what night. With our 4 families, we got 3 date nights and had one babysitting night every month to 2 months. Then we would take off a few weeks and start again. You need to determine the length of the date night with a drop off and pick up time and whether or not the babysitters will be feeding kids dinner, etc. To make it a true date night, we decided babysitters would do dinner for the kids. We also decided on the time frame of 6-9pm. Daters would pack pajamas and tooth brushes, and babysitters would have the kids ready for the transfer from car seat to bed, should one couple be so lucky.
- Let the date nights begin! If its your date night, you get to drop your kids hungry, and jet out quickly. A few times, we just went back home and enjoyed 3 hours to ourselves with take out and a movie on our own couch.
- If its your babysitting night, you feed kids and monitor their playtime! We always did really simple kid meals like macaroni and cheese and grilled cheese and fruit. Our kids loved the play time with their friends. And if we were feeling ambitious we’d do a small structured craft or game with them.
Some tips for a happy co-op.
- Don’t be late for pick up. 3 hours with 9 kids under the ages of 7 had us worn out, so make sure you are respectful of pick up time.
- Make your babysitting night stick. Make sure the night you are scheduled to be the babysitter is a protected date on your calendar. You have 3 other couples counting on you!
- Plan your babysitting night. Nothing is worse than a bunch of kids running crazy all over your house. Think of some activities when its your night babysitting. In the summer we had kids playing in the sprinkler all evening, or we decorated cookies, or got all the art supplies out on the dining room table.
- Make sure your spouse will be there to help! Don’t plan your babysitting night on a night when your husband might have to work late or will be out of town. You will need 2 people babysitting depending on how many kids are in your co-op.
Thats it! 3 free date nights and no exchange of money. Happy Dating!