Once you become a parent, kids rule mealtimes. We cook for them, we clean for them and we cajole them into taking “just one little bite!” The days of leisurely dinners out with your spouse, or raucous evenings out with your pals, become few and far between.
But psychologists say that spending time with your partner – especially alone time – is an essential element of a happy marriage.
Is there room for dinner with your mate (or your adult friends) once children come into the picture? We asked our busy parenting bloggers, Buzz Bishop, Laura O’Rourke and Rebecca Cuneo Keenan, to weigh in on how they manage an adults-only dinner (or don’t!):
All Good Blog: Is an occasional grown-up-only meal with your partner something you do, or aspire to do? And how do you make a romantic meal happen in a manageable (stress-free) way?
Buzz Bishop: Grown up meals are fun. We’ve done that a couple of times where we feed the kids early and then have our own dinner while they’re watching shows in the other room
Laura O’Rourke: Spouse-only meals usually only happen if dinner is going to take too long and we make something quick for the kids. Never really planned. Though, every once in a while, Dan and I have a glass of wine together with our meal, which kind of feels special and set apart from the chocolate milk our kids are drinking.
Rebecca Cuneo Keenan: Once last year, my partner was going to be late and I couldn’t be bothered making a proper meal for the kids so I threw together chicken strips and veggie sticks. When he got home, he ran out and got Indian take-out and lit a candle at the dining room table. It was an epiphany for me. We can still do dinner and a movie even without going out! I can’t believe it took me five or six years to figure that one out! We really should do that more.
BB: We call it “pub night” when we have finger food on the table… lol.
LO: Love that, Rebecca. If my husband isn’t home for dinner, I definitely don’t put much effort into the meal and just make what I know the kids will eat.
RCK: Right? I joke with friends that we’re really cooking for the man. Because goodness knows nobody else cares for a big hunk of meat every night.
BB: Cooking for the man? Ahem, you’re in mixed company, ladies.
AGB: Going to a restaurant for a date night without kids means feeding kids at home, plus getting dressed, booking a babysitter. How do you deal with feeding your kids when you go out on the town?
LO: During times like these, I always choose simple foods that I know my toddler and baby will eat. Sandwiches, chicken strips or macaroni are great options to get the kids fed quickly and painlessly. I also try to remember to feed my kids food that won’t make too much of a mess at times like these. The last thing I need is to get jam smeared across my dress five minutes before leaving to go on a date with my husband.
BB: The kids eat early, 5PM on the dot. That’s just our routine, so it’s easy to get them fed before we leave at 6:30 or 7:00 and go to a “grown-up restaurant.” We give them noodles and take turns hanging with them while the other gets ready.
RCK: A proper, adult night out is SO MUCH work. I have to start planning for it first thing in the morning, really. Isn’t that pathetic? I’ll have already lined up my mom to come sit, but I don’t want her to have to do anything besides hang with the kids. So I’ll try to get any deadlines met or loose ends taken care of in the morning and then spend toddler naptime showering and choosing an outfit, rushing around the house trying to tidy up and laying out the kids’ PJs on their beds. After school I rush whoever has homework up to take care of it, make them a light snack and then pop a frozen pizza or chicken fingers or whatever in the oven.
Inevitably, when my mom arrives I am still in the washroom putting the finishing touches on my makeup and hobbling around on one high-heeled shoe trying to figure out where one of my daughters made off with the other one.
AGB: When you’re surrounded by your kids all day, connecting with adults is important. Any thoughts on how to use kid-free mealtimes to connect, laugh and bond with the other grown-ups in your life?
LO: Grown-up only meals are so important – and also rare in our world with a baby and a toddler. Still, I really do try to make it a priority and try to break bread with friends at least once a month. Normally, it isn’t a full meal, but sometimes as a parent, we have to allow ourselves to take little steps. Usually I meet girlfriends for dessert and let my husband put the kids to bed. This gives me a much-needed break and gives me an opportunity to connect with other adults, but still gives me an opportunity to spend supper with my family. As a working Mom, this is some incredibly precious time.
BB: It’s just like setting up date nights, you work it out and make time. Sometimes it’s kids in the basement watching shows and having pizza while the adults are upstairs chatting. Other times it’s couples’ dates or a Girls’ Night Out, Boys’ Night Out. My wife has a group of friends she calls “Dinner Club.” Once a month they get together and go to a hot new restaurant. It’s fun adult time for her to connect with her girls.
RCK: Sometimes (especially when Ed is working late and I know I’ll just want to duck out on my own later) I’ll make an easier dinner and just graze and then when Ed gets home I’ll go out and meet my brother for a late-night burger. Ducking out late at night for a coffee or a bite or a drink is my secret to staying sane.
AGB: Thanks everybody! In conclusion, spouse-only meals are tough to plan but worth it and late-night dessert can be a ticket to a night out with your friends.
Now, over to our AGB readers. How do you find time to have a meal with your partner or adult friends?