When you met your partner, was it love at first sight? (Or “site,” seeing as so many of us meet on social dating sites these days!) Were you swept off your feet and whisked away to many a romantic rendezvous?

No matter how you met or how hot and steamy the beginning of your relationship was, you likely went on dates. Often they started out simple, allowing you to get to know one another, maybe long soul-syncing talks at a cafe or slow and intimate home-cooked dinners with wine. Then they may have become more active: out to a concert or sporting event, rock climbing followed by some beers at a local pub, strolls up and down the beach boardwalk.

The options were endless! The time—abundant! The mood—carefree!

And then you had children.

Now, your daily interaction is often a transaction. You two run the business of keeping your home functioning and this doesn’t leave much time for galavanting around town, kid-free, blowing through your hard-earned moolah.

So, if time and pockets are so short, why bother? For one, do you enjoy engaging with your life partner in this I’ll-do-this-if-you-do-this sort of manner? I’m waging a bet that the answer is a big fat “no.”

Here are three very good reasons why you should keep dating your spouse.

  1. If you plan to be with this person for life, as you most likely intended when you promised this at your wedding, then you might need to work on your marriage just a smidge to keep the spark alive and well. You’ll be reminded of you why you love your partner in the first place.
  2. It will be fun! And it will be a welcome break from the monotony of the every day wake-parent-work-parent-sleep lifecycle.
  3. Your kids will benefit! As you and your spouse strengthen your partnership, you will be a wonderful role model to your children of how a healthy couple should be. Additionally, these lovey dates may refill your frequently empty parenting tank, allowing you to be a better, more patient parent.

Okay, so I’ve sold you on why you should date your partner, but how to find the time or the money to plan a date?

What my husband and I have done with intention this year, is plan one official date per month where we line up babysitting for the kids and we leave the house. That’s the biggest hurdle. We are lucky that my parents (mainly my mom) are often available to help out and that saves us some money. If they aren’t free, then we hire a sitter. Yes, this adds to a date night expense, but it is worth it, promise.

If you don’t have the extra to spend on a sitter, see if one of your mom friends would be willing to come sit at your house while your children sleep (and her partner stays home with their own kids). You could pay her in unlimited Netflix usage during her stay. Heck, she may even appreciate the “evening off” with her own kids.

And now the big question: what to do? Um, anything?! You’re kid-free, remember?

Here are some great and budget-friendly date ideas:

  1. Go for a walk in a green space near your house during sunset
  2. Grab happy hour drinks downtown while you people watch
  3. Go to a cafe where you listen to a podcast together and then discuss
  4. Drive away from the city to stargaze together
  5. Eat out somewhere nice but affordable. Savor eating at your own pace (hooray for not having to tend to kids or shovel your food down!)
  6. Use sites like TravelZoo and Groupon to get discounts of what would be a more expensive date, like a couples massage or concert tickets
  7. Take a bottle of champagne on a hike (like we did many many moons ago)

Any of those resonate with you? This is getting me excited for my husband and my next date! But, what if you and your partner have different ideas of fun? You could each make a list of five to 10 date ideas. Put all the options together and then pick one at random!

Whatever you do, the goal is to connect and have fun. And if dating one another fortifies your relationship foundation—that has shifted as it made room for your new roles as parents—well then that’s worth planning for, isn’t it?

This post originally appeared on Real Life Mama.
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