How a Good Babysitter Can Save Your Marriage
by Dave Willis
If you’ve spent any time listening to The Naked Marriage Podcast or reading any of our books or blogs, you already know that Ashley and I are HUGE fans of date nights! Regular date nights have been a source of fuel to keep our marriage going strong since the beginning, and we’re convinced EVERY couple needs to make a date night part of the regular rhythm of their calendar. One of the biggest objections and obstacles we hear from couples who would love to have a regular date night is the question: “How can we have a consistent date night when our kids are young?”
The season of your marriage when date nights are most important is also the season of your marriage when date nights are most inconvenient. When your kids are young, you desperately need to make time with your spouse a priority, but if you have young kids, you already know this can be difficult. There can be a lack of time, a lack of money and a lack of energy to make it a priority. Still, if you’re making excuses, you’ll never make a way to make it happen.
In previous podcast episodes and blogs, we’ve already tackled many of these barriers like how to have a great date night on a budget and even some ways to have a great date at home after the kids are in bed. Instead of regurgitating stuff we’ve already talked about in depth, I want to focus this article on what might be the single biggest obstacle to a regular date night when you have young kids: CHILDCARE.
If you don’t have at least one reliable babysitter, then your marriage is in danger. That’s the simple truth, but I know how difficult it can be to find reliable childcare. Ashley and I travel for work doing marriage conferences around the country (and we’d love to see you at one of them so visit xomarriage.com to learn more). We have to find overnight childcare for our work-related travels plus childcare for date nights.
As a disclaimer, we’ve never been able to rely on family for any childcare needs, and we currently live a thousand miles away from the nearest relative. On top of the lack of family proximity, we also recently moved to Texas and had to start over in a new community where we didn’t know a soul to start building up a new roster of babysitters.
I give you that information about our situation just to let you know we can relate to the practical difficulties of finding suitable childcare, but I also do it to help people remove the excuses they’re using that keep them from finding good childcare. It blows my mind how so many intelligent people can act completely helpless when it comes to finding childcare. Marry Poppins isn’t going to fly onto your doorstep and watch your kids. You need to do the work to recruit quality babysitters.
If you’re not willing to do the work to find a babysitter, then by default you’re not doing the work that’s necessary to keep your marriage healthy while you’re raising your kids. I’m not trying to be offensive in my strong language challenging people to find good babysitters, but I’ve seen so many couples who act like they can’t find or afford good babysitters until the day they somehow magically find and afford reasonable divorce attorneys.
Hopefully, you’ve already decided that finding childcare and prioritizing a regular date night is worth the effort (which is why you’re reading this article). That’s the first step. The next step is to find good babysitters. Here’s what’s worked for us:
1. Have the courage to let someone else watch your kids.
Some parents act like martyrs who “care so much” that they can’t let anyone else ever watch their kids. This is ridiculous, and it creates a weird co-dependent relationship with your kids and usually sabotages both the marriage and the children. Yes, nobody will love your kids as much as you do, but there are plenty of people who can keep your kids entertained and alive for a few hours while you’re on a date. Plus, even if your kids cry at first, it’s GOOD for them to see you prioritizing your marriage.
2. Aggressively recruit and vet potential babysitters.
Ashley has done most of the work on this front, and she’s been amazing. She’s recruited young ladies from our neighborhood, from childcare workers at church and social media connections. She’s also used services like Care.com and “Sitter City” which are great starting places if you don’t know many potential sitters. Next, Ashley interviews them and checks references. After that, she brings them over and introduces them to our kids to see if there’s a natural connection or not. The process is tedious, but it’s worth it, and we’ve found some GREAT sitters as a result. Now, our kids ask us to go on date nights so they can hang out with one of their favorite sitters.
3. Take advantage of free or low-cost childcare options.
If there’s seriously no money in the budget for a babysitter, then get creative like we’ve had to do over the years. There are many YMCA’s, gyms and churches we’ve belonged to over the years that offer cheap or free drop-off childcare for “Parents’ Night Out.” Also, you could start a babysitting co-op with a few other families where you take turns watching each other’s kids while one couple goes out on a date. These options aren’t nearly as convenient as just paying a babysitter, but they provide another way to make date night a reality when money is tight.
The bottom line in all this is merely to stop making excuses. Instead of focusing on all the reasons why you can’t have a date night, start looking for all the ways to make it a reality. I guarantee it will make a positive impact on your marriage. It’s been one of the biggest difference-makers in our marriage! For additional tools to help you build a rock-solid marriage, please check out The Naked Marriage Podcast and our new book, The Naked Marriage.