Did you ever try to celebrate Valentine’s Day on a budget?
My budget includes borrowing art supplies from my children and crafting a card that would rival any second grade artist, but I wanted more for this year’s love fest.
I asked myself if I could make a romantic dinner for two at home, after tucking the kids snugly in their beds. Sounds budget-friendly and doable in theory, but allow me to demonstrate a real-life romantic dinner at home.
5:30 pm – Throw several dinosaur-shaped chicken nuggets in the oven, rescue favorite stuffed animal from the grasp of the dog’s jaws, inspect and sign homework papers, and throw the clean laundry into the dryer. Take the dog outside because she’s chewing on your slippers. Answer the phone.
6:00 pm – Get OFF the phone and scrape all black residue from the chicken nuggets. Serve your kids dinner.
6:30 pm – Listen to reading homework; make sure the kids shower and brush their teeth; do the dishes; don’t kill the dog; go to the bathroom.
8:00 pm – Assign your daughter the job of setting a ‘fancy’ table. Make her promise not to lick each fork to remove dishwasher spots. Send your husband down to the corner market to get the cashews for the cashew chicken.
8:30 pm – Tuck your kids into bed, and take a much-needed shower. Put the dog in her crate so she doesn’t push the bathroom door open and run off with your clean underwear.
8:40 pm – Tame your hair, paint your face, and dress in the first clean outfit hanging in your closet.
8:55 pm – Snack on the burnt crisps leftover from the kid’s nuggets.
9:00 pm – Start cooking. Again.
9:30 pm – Serve a lovely cashew chicken dinner minus the cashews, because apparently there was a run on cashews this afternoon.
9:40 pm – Light the candles and take out the crying dog.
9:45 pm – Just as your husband leans into the flickering light of the candles to smooch your lips, the dog freaks out because your neighbor decides he’s going to shovel the sidewalk. Save the kiss for later and grab the dog before she wakes up your kids.
9:47 pm – Too late. The kids filter through to use the bathroom and get a drink. It’s an emergency, of course. You can faintly see symptoms of dehydration in their eyes. Let them taste your cashew-less chicken.
9:55 pm – Explain the importance of alone time between parents and threaten their lives with ten years of morning-til-night homework, year-round school, and a chore list that stretches to New Jersey and back.
10:00 pm – Throw out the cold chicken and go straight to dessert. Assure your spouse that yawning and drooping eyelids are the latest signs of true love.
Reality says, when you have children, romantic dinners at home do not work. My heartfelt advice to you is, forget the budget and GO OUT. Beg your parents, friends, coworkers, family, neighbors, and the teenagers next door to watch your kids for a few hours. Even if you have no money, go sit in the car (without the kids) and steam up the windows. Just get out of the house!