This has been a question we have asked each other many times since we have been parents, and through friends and research, God has blessed us with many different ideas of how to do this. One of our favorites over the years has been swap dating. I wrote a short post about it here. This blessed both families involved. We got to go out once a month, our children became close friends as they spent 8 hours or so together each month, and we became even closer to the other couple as we would spend a bit of time before & after the dates fellowshiping.
Currently, we don’t have a family with whom we swap date (this works better if your families are comparable in size & age, so the bigger your family, the more difficult this is to pull off), & we still don’t have tons of money to fork out for babysitters, so we had to look into other options. We felt we could set aside enough money each month to pay for babysitting once, but we ideally wanted two out-of-home dates, so I began mentoring in exchange for babysitting. I meet with a young woman, Jessica, who is in high school, once a week, and she babysits for us twice a month, once for “free” and once for pay. We have loved it, and since Jessica is basically the epitome of what I want my daughters to be like when they are older, we get a mentor for them as well.
Another option that is a spin-off of the one above is mentoring a group of women for a few hours once or twice a month (teaching baking, sewing, a Bible study, etc.) in exchange for babysitting from each of them. Depending on the amount of women (or men if any of you male types read) with whom you are working, you could potentially get weekly dates this way.
We have also played around with the idea of starting a babysitting co-op with some close friends. Basically, you get points for the amount of time & number of children you babysit that you can “cash in” for your own date night. There are existing co-ops in most areas, or like I said, you could start your own. I love these kinds of things because of the interaction our kids get with other kids and parents.
Finally, if this is something you desire, pray that God will provide a way for the two of you to get out. I cannot tell you the amount of times we have gotten random phone calls or emails from dear friends who tell us they are coming over to watch our kids whether we like it or not, even though we have so many that are so young. God has been good to provide us with sweet servants who want to bless us, and He is faithful to continue giving all of us good things.
Quick addition, Bill and I also still date on the weeks Jess isn’t here. We just do an at-home date after the kids go to bed. These have been some of our sweetest times together.
Because this is dear to our hearts, I’ll spend the next couple of weeks giving good dating resources, telling some cheaper ways to date, sharing how we plan dates, and we hope to begin posting what we did on our dates to help get your creative juices flowing.