Whole Parenting Family

when your marriage needs more than a mere “date night”

We realized this the other weekend. We need more than a “date night” in our lives.

We need actual time together. Sans kids. Not time when we’re talking over a candlelit coffee or dinner. Not time when we’re having marital intimacy (TMI ALERT!!!!!!!!). Time when we are sharing experiences outside the bounds of parenting. I could go on and on about what this means, or doesn’t mean, or what it could look like, or doesn’t look like, but the simple fact is that shared experiences are what feed a relationship good solid barley kind of meals, not fluffy puffed rice cereal kinda meals.


Like when we were dating and we went for runs together. Okay, my husband won state 7, you read that right SEVEN–or was it 12?–times in high school and ran for Notre Dame. He’s a real runner. I jogged alongside him while we were flirtatiously working out in law school. He probably was basically walking and I didn’t even notice. I did once run through a corn field to get back to my burning vegetables in the oven and sliced up my thigh. Prickly brambles on the outer edge: not so sexy to return to the apartment when he was already there stretching with a bleeding thigh.

But experiences. Like watching and laughing uproariously to Arrested Development together. Or Parks & Rec. Or something equally not a period piece that I love and want to subject him to. {did you hear Haley & Christy’s podcast dedicated to period pieces//YES//for the win but not my husband’s win}

Or like cooking together. Back before it meant hunting and gathering all the random organic foods I can find in the pantry and fridge to assemble together for the kids’ meals and tell them “Oh this looks so good don’t you want to eat cheese, crackers, humus, plain yogurt, and dried blueberries? All in one bowl??” Or spending two hours on a tomato meatloaf balls recipe that tasted like tomato balls to me and heaven to him?

These kids. Can you find the interloper who joined us for almost two glorious weeks??? He blends right in with the blondies.


I hope you have some awesome activity (racket ball? Indoor swimming? underwater basket weaving?) you share with your partner that doesn’t involve discussing and processing and re-processing your day jobs, or minutiating (that means minutely examining in my-speak) your kids’ tone of voice and then swiftness of arm before they hit you in the glasses without apology. Lay it on me. What do you do that’s not a traditional go-talk-somewhere date night or traditional go-know-each-other-in-the-biblical-sense?

holiday gift set whole parenting goods

holiday gift set whole parenting goods

holiday gift set whole parenting goods

AND Dec 10 (tomorrow!) is my last day of my etsy shoppe being open til sometime in January. These holiday gift sets are the only three I have left for stockings {I wrap them up special with a packaging label designed by Molly}! And I have very few leggings left, and a handful of Bandit Bibs (teething, drooling, eating) and a few custom order blanket fabrics. Free shipping with HOLIDAYSHIP and get ’em now while you can in time for holidays! And my mom in my latest wool scarf offering. She’s beautiful.

whole parenting goods


  1. Molly on December 9, 2014 at 4:18 pm

    We try to go to one or two concerts or shows together a year and like to do things like wander around a bookstore together. For us we don’t get regular time to veg in front of the TV together so, once or twice a month our date nights will just include a frozen pizza and a marathon of a favorite TV show.

    One of the best things I like is the times when I know we can go to the restaurant and NOT talk. It’s one thing I really enjoy about my marriage is that we can enjoy silence in each others company (and with a preschooler in the house silence is golden).

    • Natural Mama Nell on December 10, 2014 at 10:34 am

      Just to go somewhere and do something other than talk or marital relations . . . hahaha . . . excellent ideas!

  2. Caitlyn on December 9, 2014 at 6:47 pm

    Oh… we are so bad at this! We do date nights pretty regularly (though usually at home) and it is so hard not to simply catch up or talk about the kids. We’ve been trying to do things together more… we’ve picked up a few DIY projects to work on, we are both talking more about our dreams for one-day, we even just try to sneak away to a local bar every so often and act like college kids again (though we were tempered college kids so that means drinking beer and talking philosophy or something).

    • Natural Mama Nell on December 10, 2014 at 10:34 am

      Love your description of being a college kid! hahaha so us too.

  3. Ashley on December 10, 2014 at 6:05 am

    Oh man, I’ll be stalking the comments for ideas! My husband and I typically have a “date night” at home once a week, which lately has meant that he picks up takeout and we eat and watch a movie together. Last week, we decided to try something different and had a game night: Bananagrams and MadGab (and Monopoly is next, his favorite). We also like to exercise together, but that one’s tricky with five little ones always around 🙂

    • Natural Mama Nell on December 10, 2014 at 10:33 am

      Exercise is so tricky! And playing games is a great ideas. Something to have something to laugh about!

  4. Laura @ Mothering Spirit on December 10, 2014 at 6:51 am

    This is such a good point. You’re totally inspiring me for some kind of Christmas gift idea that would be the two of us doing something together that’s not just 1) catching up over the rare date night (which inevitably leads to talking about kids and/or finances – BLAH); 2) watching Hulu episodes while folding laundry together. There’s romance for ya.
    We have loved subscribing to the orchestra or opera in years past, although it’s not in this year’s budget. But there’s something great about committing to date nights far in advance with that kind of subscription (3-4 a year) and experiencing something beautiful and out-of-our-ordinary together.
    Will def be stalking the comments for creative ideas…Does getting massages together count? That’s about all I’d have the energy for these days. 😉 He always falls asleep whenever we’ve gotten these, so I don’t know if it counts as quality time, but I still consider it HEAVENLY (even when I am giggling with the massage therapist about my snoring hubby).

    • Natural Mama Nell on December 10, 2014 at 10:33 am

      Getting massages together TOTALLY COUNTS!!!

  5. Tasslyn Magnusson on December 10, 2014 at 10:31 am

    We are exactly right here, right now. We’ve been great about different individual activities, great about family activities, not so great about us activities. And taking care of the sacred bond between us – when you feel like going together to a therapy session (in recovery from a old fashioned breakdown) and laugh more sitting there than in a while, balance is still a wee bit off. Thanks for your honesty!!!!!

    • Natural Mama Nell on December 10, 2014 at 10:32 am


    • Tasslyn Magnusson on December 10, 2014 at 10:32 am

      One more thought – somebody told us – keep in mind your goal. Do you both have the same goal – healthy love, healthy family? If you’ve got the same goal, you can come back to that again and again and work together towards it.

  6. Ellie on December 10, 2014 at 11:53 am

    The hubby and I have taken cooking classes together (right in Crocus Hill), and I love going to museums with him. Recently we went to a comedy show. Although I love dining out, I TOTALLY agree shared experiences are a more meaningful investment in the marriage. Cheers to you and AA having some fabulous date nights this holiday season!

  7. Nancy on December 10, 2014 at 12:12 pm

    Go on a hike and then out for breakfast

  8. Emily Barnes on December 10, 2014 at 1:11 pm

    I think this puts into words what I hadn’t been able to figure out lately. We try to be good about getting out for dates; we both really need that time together without the toddler. We both appreciate movies, so we end up doing that a lot. But I think we need something more on occasion. Thanks for giving me a conversation starter, Nell!

  9. Sara on December 10, 2014 at 3:37 pm

    We like to do DIY projects together!

  10. Amanda on December 10, 2014 at 4:13 pm

    We do need this! It’s so hard to get since we live so far from all the grandparents! Praying we’ll get a weekend on our 5th anniversary coming up in January. Praying we can make it possible with visiting grandparents who will lovingly offer to watch the boys while we have a staycation at a bed and breakfast nearby 😉 Praying praying praying!

    • Natural Mama Nell on December 10, 2014 at 8:38 pm

      loading up on the prayers!

  11. Rachel @ Efficient Momma on December 10, 2014 at 6:40 pm

    This is so true! I’m reading the other comments for ideas. Right now with a new baby, we’re barely getting time to just talk about the budget and boring stuff like that let alone have a date night.

    • Natural Mama Nell on December 10, 2014 at 8:38 pm

      I HATE talking about the budget. IT STRESSES ME OUT SO MUCH!!! And it always comes up at like 10pm.

      • Laurel on December 12, 2014 at 10:24 am

        Yep. 🙁

  12. Ashley on December 11, 2014 at 9:03 pm

    We read aloud to each other two or three times a week. We just lay in bed with the baby, and read. Sometimes with snacks. Sometimes with wine or tea. But usually just us.

    • Natural Mama Nell on December 11, 2014 at 10:59 pm

      Oh I LOVE this reading aloud idea!

  13. Elizabeth on December 12, 2014 at 10:56 am

    Great post! My husband and I are both actors by training and have lots of friends who are in theatre, so the we have the fortunate obligation of seeing a lot of theatre. Often we get to go together. It’s always a great conversation starter. Some of my favorite memories pre-kids are of acting in shows together. But unless grandparents move to town, I imagine it will be a while before we can both be in a show at the same time.
    We sometimes get quality time out of DIY projects around the house, but I enjoy them more than he does (plus we’re usually cramming them in to our schedule such that they’re more of a chore than recreation).

    • Natural Mama Nell on December 12, 2014 at 7:37 pm

      Love that you’re both actors. I think it helps we are both lawyers so we kinda talk the same language.dIY: so fun in theory, so grueling in practice!!

  14. […] lately, earlier last week about how I can better honor my spouse, and before that about how our marriage needs shared experiences beyond the date night. Something on my mind lately is how do I love him as and who he is. Not who I think I […]

  15. Christy on December 15, 2014 at 10:07 am

    We aren’t able to get many date nights at all, probably because babysitting 5 kids takes about a month of preparation and lead time, but we try to do things together at night after the kids are in bed or on the weekends where we just make time for each other when we enforce nap time. We play a lot of games together, because we’re nerds. I’m addicted to backgammon, my husband likes some strategy games on the iPad, so we’ll lie in bed playing those and feel like really old people. We also both bought cross country skis last year, and since we live in perpetual winter and the middle of nowhere it’s perfect to go out skiing for a while on the weekends. We’ll sneak out of the house when the kids are asleep, which I know isn’t possible for everyone, but it feels good to do anything together sometimes. And not talk, and not worry about the kid who’s constantly hungry. Anyways! Just wanted to say this was really great and I’ve been meaning to comment for give days!

    • Natural Mama Nell on December 16, 2014 at 11:31 pm

      I really love these suggestions. Games: awesome!! And XX skiing? Perfect. Just to do something that’s not talking or dealing with the kids. I really love your insights. 🙂