The Open Home

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{One Bite} Date Nights & Downtime

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One Bite at a Time

I’ve been working through the One Bite at a Time book since the start of the year, on my quest to create a simpler and more intentional lifestyle for my family.  You may remember that we initially choose about 10 projects from the book, all projects that we felt were a priority for our family and needed our attention sooner rather than later.

It’s been a little while since I updated you on our progress, so just to recap we started off by creating a family purpose statement, followed by making annual goals and the last project we worked on was downsizing our media collection – which was a mammoth job!

Although our One Bite series has been a bit quiet on here recently we’ve still been making good progress. Off screen we have been quietly working away on quite a few projects, taking our time to establish things into our family routine.

The two projects that we’re really beginning to make good progress with are:

  • Schedule regular date nights
  • Carve out intentional downtime

Here is the why and how of how we have tackled these projects…

Schedule Regular Date Nights

The Why…

This project was added to our top-ten-mini-list because we have never, in our almost 7 years of marriage, been very good at scheduling in regular date nights. This initially may sound really terrible but honestly we are very happily married and we have been on date nights, they have just been rather sporadic and disorganised most of the time.

When we were pregnant with Libby, establishing date nights became even more of a priority for us as we want to build a strong marriage that will in turn lead to a happy family and a contented baby. We knew time would become even more precious when we became parents so wanted our calendars to work in our favour.

As a society we value family time and are accepting of parents who say no to social events. They have children and after all, family does comes first. I would like to point our here that couples who fit into the married-with-no-kids category are also a family and you too can say no! It took a few years into my marriage for me to grasp this and by this point my schedule was ridiculously jam packed with commitments. Couples equally need family time (or date nights) together and should not feel guilty for prioritising this time, even if it involves cutting back on social events and commitments.

As Tsh says in her book ‘rather than being another thing to schedule in, date nights actually simplify our life; they serve as a reminder of what’s truly important.’ There are also many benefits to date nights which Tsh explains, two that really stand out to me are:

  1. We get to be people other than parents – date nights allow time for parenting-free conversations and allow you to go to places and do things you can’t do with the kiddies in tow.
  2. We remember that we like each other – always an important one! Date nights help to keep the romance alive well beyond the honeymoon period.
Almost 7 years since our honeymoon in northern Italy!

Almost 7 years since our honeymoon in northern Italy!

The How…

So how regular is regular? Weekly, bi-weekly, monthly? This is up to you and your schedule.

On returning to the island we had a completely blank calendar, no commitments whatsoever – pure bliss! We have therefore purposely been very careful about what we add to the calendar and take on as commitments as we are keen to establish time for ourselves first.

We have opted for weekly dates nights but, let me point out that only one date night a month will involve going out, the rest will be at home. This works well for us as it means we only need a sitter once a month but we still get regular quality time for very little cost.

Thankfully, I have family near by and my mum has kindly agreed to cover our monthly date nights out and these have already been booked and put up on the calendar for the rest of the year. I appreciate that not everyone has family close by which is why I love Tsh’s suggestion of ‘tag teaming’ with another couple or even a group. Basically, one couple looks after all the kids whilst all the other couples get to go on a date – genius!

I decided that we needed to get organised (and creative) to ensure we’d have plenty of low-cost ideas at hand, so that we could plan ahead and ensure we’re both making an effort when it comes to date nights.

This led to me creating some date night jars, thanks to inspiration from pinterest (as found on my ‘{MARRIAGE}‘ board). One jar is full of ideas for ‘at home’ date nights and the other with ideas for date nights ‘out’. I hunted the net for (mainly cheap) date ideas and came up with a long list that would be of interest to us.

We then take it in turns each date night to pick a stick at random, from the jar and then that person is in charge of organising the next date night.

A quick taster of some of the date ideas that made it into our jars, are as follows:

Date Nights ‘at home’:

  • Make ice-cream sundaes
  • Build a fort
  • Try a new nutella recipe
  • Have a home spa
  • Candlelit dinner

Date Nights ‘out’:

  • Fly a kite
  • Be a tourist at home
  • Go on a scavenger hunt
  • Hide a geo-cache
  • Book store split-up (go to the bookstore, split up and choose a book for each other!)

This system has been up and running for a few weeks now and so far, I am pleased to say it is working really well! It’s lovely to be dating regularly again and making the effort to plan a special evening for the other, it really makes you appreciate one another and feel valued.

Our date night jars, full of ideas!

Our date night jars, full of ideas!

Carve Out Intentional Downtime

The Why…

As we worked on our weekly schedule, blocking out time for regular date nights we decided to also block out time for regular, weekly downtime.

Downtime is about rest and relaxation and any activities you choose to carry out during this time should help you to unwind. As Tsh explains ‘Sure, you may enjoy sewing. But if you decide to sew in order to finish that project, not because it relaxes and refuels you, then it’s simply not downtime. It’s productive time.’ I hear ya, Tsh!

The How…

We’ve booked in one night per week for some intentional downtime where we make sure we turn off the distractions and don’t feel guilty for not doing very much. This is a night where we both do whatever we want to take care of ourselves, de-stress and avoid burn-out.

For me this may involve a hot bubble bath, reading through my unread books, sewing (for fun), having a hot chocolate or even going to bed early!

For the Husby, this looks more like going for a run, playing a computer game, reading a novel, skype-ing with a friend or enjoying a cup of tea.

We’ve been carving out downtime for the past month now and it really does help to be intentional about it. I am really loving the time to finally read the books that have been piling up over the year – I actually now have three books on the go! (That is unheard for me!)

Do you make time for regular date nights and downtime? What could you do this week to make time for yourself and/or your marriage?

Please share your thoughts in the comments.

© Jessica Girard and The Open Home, 2013.
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6 thoughts on “{One Bite} Date Nights & Downtime

  1. This is great Jessica. We have a regular date night and although it can seem regimented to diarise these things we’ve found it to be invaluable as our lives get very full of other things very easily . I was inspired to make some regular down time too, I haven’t really made space for that regularly and know that I /we would really benefit from that.

    • Thanks Judith and well done you guys! We’re really enjoying date night and putting it in the diary really does make a difference. I think downtime is actually harder to stick at as it’s time on your own and people feel guilty for taking time for themselves and not doing very much. The diary is key for downtime too and I’ve discovered that adding it to my to-do list even helps! This way I have to tick it off the list along with the laundry and the dishes so it makes me do it! Good luck with the downtime!

  2. Hmmmmm, great ideas as always Jessica. Has prompted me to rethink my schedule and how important it is to book in date nights and downtime in advance and be intentional. Particularly love the book store date idea – adorable!

  3. Pingback: {One Bite} Weekly Meetings & Menu Planning | The Open Home

  4. Pingback: (Almost) A Year of Dates | The Open Home

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