We all know it’s important to have “quality time” with our significant other. We all know it’s important to make the date nights happen. We all know that if we don’t we’re in serious danger of dwindling into roommates. But let’s get real for a second. I have three children under five. I have one with special needs and a set of twins. This requires a very particular skill set. I can’t just call up the teenager down the street who needs some extra cash to come watch my kids. We have exactly one babysitter we trust with all three and she works at my son’s special needs inclusive preschool. So here’s the deal: I’ve had to figure out ways to make the magic happen at home. It doesn’t really matter where you are after all. Intention is what counts. Intention is what keeps you from turning into roomies. So in honor of Valentine’s Day and National Practicality Day (made that one up), I’m sharing my top five ways to date your spouse without leaving the house.

5 Ways To Date Your Spouse Without Leaving the House

  1. Late Night Dinner Date

Yes, a family who eats dinner together is more likely to share meaningful conversation and have a lasting bond that will ensure that your children will look after you in old age. But every now and then it’s nice to ship the kids off to bed and eat a dinner that does not involve chicken fingers. I’ll assign the husband full bedtime duty, pour myself a glass of wine and cook something I pinned three years ago on Pinterest. And then we’ll eat, facing each other at the table, with utensil and napkins, and talk like adults. It’s beautiful and rare like an eclipse and it makes me practice the social skills that my children have sent into dormancy.

  1. Game Time

Mind games don’t count. Sometimes when naps miraculously overlap on the weekends or instead of the current Netflix marathon, I’ll crawl into the “game” closet that looks like it experienced an isolated earthquake and pull out the Scrabble, the chess, the Boggle (my favorite) and we’ll play until my competitiveness starts to have a negative impact on our marriage. We’ve also pinned crosswords to our fridge for ongoing competitions. Games make you feel like a kid when most of the time you have to be the adult. Bonus: you’re fighting senility and Alzheimer’s at the same time.

  1. Flirt

It’s hard for me to reverse out of the “to do” list mode. To run like a finely oiled machine or in our case the second hand CarMax version, we have to talk logistics…a lot. After a while I feel like I’m married to Siri. So it’s nice to work a little at the lingo. Innuendos are fun when the kids don’t get it. Good game butt taps and foot rubs work well too. It doesn’t have to be much, just a notch above normality, and you get to feel silly like you did when there was no such thing as bedtimes and meal schedules.

  1. Give it Flair

The first gift I ever bought my future husband was a bottle of windshield wiper fluid. We were dating and I’d notice the light was on in the dash. So I bought some and stuck a bow on it. He still remembers it in a “you’re so weird” sort of way. Post-its on mirrors or buying the good coffee even when it’s not on sale are the nice kind of surprises that don’t take much effort, but they prove that, yes, I did think about you today for three extra seconds. Word to the wise: this is not an excuse to give your spouse a vacuum cleaner and tell them to get to work. That’s not flair, that’s a fatality waiting to happen.

  1. Fair Trade

I am the dishwasher unloader. This has become my default duty. So when I open the door, see the blue “clean” light glowing, and rows and rows of nothing, I fall in love all over again. I’m serious. If I’m feeling extremely generous, I’ll do the last diaper changes and put the kids in their pajamas before bed. I swear my husband gives me a look of love that I thought was reserved only for our wedding day. It’s the lightening of one burden, the consideration of the other, that makes such a small thing so big. And don’t think I’m not secretly hoping that wins me another empty dishwasher.

It doesn’t have to be La La Land and dancing in the daffodils to remember why you agreed to cohabitate with this person. I’ll swoon over Scrabble and clean dishes and a man who fills my car up with gas too.

Jamie Sumner

Jamie Sumner is the author of the middle-grade novel, Roll with It. Her second and third middle-grade novels with Atheneum Books for Young Readers will be coming out in 2020 and 2021. She is also the author of the nonfiction book on motherhood, Unboundand the forthcoming bookEat, Sleep, Save the Worldfor parents of children with special needs. She is also mom to a son with cerebral palsy and she writes and speaks about disability in literature. She loves stories that celebrate the grit and beauty in all kids. She and her family live in Nashville, Tennessee. Connect with her at Jamie-Sumner.com