What my marriage needed: ‘date nights’ with couple friends

When we first got married I was so excited to do EVERYTHING together. I couldn’t wait. I worked at a coffee shop and I told a friend of mine that I was even going to start working with Graham—as a self-employed window washer. “This is a terrible idea.” he said.

I’m not sure if it was my inability to clean things or the fact that I wanted to spend 24 hours a day with only one person that tipped him off.

I pictured us sipping caramel mochas squeegeeing side by side–deep in conversations about life. My friend was definitely wrong. This was going to be the best. thing. ever.

My window career lasted exactly one day. It turned out Graham mostly wanted to work.

So disappointing.

Along with not being able to have a joint-career, it became clear that, although we were each others best-friends-forever, we were going to kill each other if we didn’t find OTHER friends. The problem was, we were very uncertain on how to find these friends. We weren’t sure where they were, how to meet them or how to talk to them once we met them.

About five years and three kids into marriage, we realized that these mysterious soul mates were not going to magically appear. We were going to have to find them. So, we decided to make Friday nights our having-people-over-night. On this night, we would be very mature and grownup by feeding and talking to adults. We would have to wear pants. We would need to clean our sinks. It was going to be great.

The first Friday night we were terrified. I started cleaning and cooking at 7:30 in the morning because I was certain I was already running out of time. We cursed ourselves for thinking of such an awful idea like “having people over.” WHAT were we thinking? We fought. I cried. We were certain we were coming down with something… like the REAL influenza, probably.

But then we did it. And we survived.

Actually, we even more than survived. It was kind of wonderful. We lounged on the couch after our new friends went home feeling full and more connected than we had in a long time. WE. DID. IT.

That was five years ago. Hosting still freaks me out sometimes, but now I know what’s on the other side of my fear: connection and belonging. It is hard to pursue friendship, especially when you’re busy with work, life and kids–but it is possible and it is worth it.

Here are some tips we’ve learned along the way.

Just start

We did once a week. You could decide on once or twice a month if thats sounds more doable. Whatever you do… start. Ignore your insecurity and the sometimes awkward “first dates.” Keep at it, it will be worth it.

It is normal to be scared

That urge to cancel and binge watch Elementary instead? That’s probably fear–and it’s NORMAL. The people coming over? They’re probably nervous, too. It’s not a sign you aren’t cut out for this. It’s a sign you are adulting. You are being brave and taking a risk. GO YOU.

Hide your mess

I have what I call a mess room. Some people might only need a closet… I need a room. My pre-hosting routine includes gathering all the stuff, throwing it into said room and locking the door behind me. My mother-in-law (who is my host-spiration) has an epic story about how she used to hide her bills and papers inside a stove until one day she forgot and set it all on fire. So don’t do that. (Or maybe do. It would take a lot off your plate.)

Serve food and drink—the easy way

I think the key to hosting comes down to good food and drink. It makes people happy. Now before you give yourself an aneurysm over an Ina Garten recipe, “good” doesn’t HAVE to mean complicated and fancy. Comfort food is often cheap and easy. Potato soup with crusty bread? Crock pot pulled pork and slaw? BOX BROWNIES?? I say yes, yes and yes.

Don’t aim for perfection

It’s not possible anyway, so relax. How many perfect, flawless friends would you like? I would like zero of those. You don’t need to perform–you need to be you. Be authentic and you will find the people that love you without requiring a performance.

Make it work with kids

Now is not the time to show off how little screen time your kids have. Put on a movie, appease them with snacks or have friends over after they’re in bed. Make it work.

Get good at asking questions

One of my number one concerns with having people over was what if I’m not that cool or interesting. What if they do not like me??? Good news: You don’t have to talk about yourself for two hours. And, actually, no one wants you to. Get good at asking questions and listening. It is such a gift when someone is sincerely interested in who you are. Get good at giving that gift away.

Get out a game of cards

Games are an excellent way to take the pressure off of everyone to talk. I notice that people almost immediately relax and start teasing each other when you get out a game.

Think of it like dating

Enjoy sharing meals with lots of different people. Be brave, invite people over that you really like, but intimidate you. Sometimes it will just be one meal. Other times you will want to move them into your spare room and keep them forever.

Graham and I have connected with so many wonderful people, and over time we have found our people. These people are treasures and we wouldn’t be the same without them. They come over in sweat pants and send us hilarious, inappropriate memes. We eat together, we pray together, we celebrate engagements and babies together. We go on trips and we love each others’ kids like we love our own.

We are more whole and alive because of them—and it all started with just one dinner invitation.

Cheers friend to messy rooms, box brownies and friendship

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Mom life demands efficiency. Because while the amount of hours in the day are the same as before kids, now a sizable chunk of that time is spent caring for and loving on those little people. Compromises happen—and let's just be honest, the old beauty routine is one of the first things to get cut.

But, wait! You don't have to sacrifice putting on mascara or, worse, skipping the SPF. Instead, why not flip it, reverse it, and look at the bright side? Here's your opportunity to streamline your morning makeup routine. With some savvy skin care and beauty hacks, you can get your radiant glow on in record time.

Here are our tried-and-true hacks passed down from Motherly mamas:

1. Embrace multipurpose items

If the most pressing issue is limited time, consolidate multiple steps of your beauty routine with a multipurpose item. For example, instead of starting with a SPF moisturizer, followed by spot concealer and a blendable foundation, you can take care of all of that in one go with one of our favorites: Earth Mama's 3-in-one Lady Face™ Tinted Mineral Sunscreen. The beauty stick also allows you to easily fold SPF 40 into your routine, because Lady Face doubles as super-safe, clean sun protection. Even better? The sunscreen blocks blue light from those ever-present digital screens with a ray-scattering, non-nano formula.

2. Revive dried mascara

Especially after a sleepless night (#motherhood), mascara can make a major difference in how well rested you appear to be. If you realize your tube of mascara is dried out, don't write it off as a lost cause. Simply soak the sealed tube in warm water to loosen up the mascara — or add a drop of a multi-purpose saline solution into the tube. That should do the trick until you have time to buy a replacement. (But let's face it: You're a mom. It's okay if you're tired.)

3. Keep coconut oil handy

Coconut oil isn't just for the kitchen. From a DIY hair mask to an in-a-pinch lip balm or naturally removing makeup at the end of the day, coconut oil's cosmetic hack-list is long. For summer, we especially like adding a thin swipe of organic extra virgin coconut oil to the cheekbones at the end of the makeup routine for a bit of an extra glow.

4. Multitask while deep conditioning

If your hair needs a bit of TLC, consider applying a natural, paraben-free deep conditioner before doing chores around the house or even a short workout. By working up a bit of a sweat, the conditioner will set even better before you rinse off in the shower.

5. Start your hair care routine the night before

As you work to find your new normal morning routine, it can help to simply reschedule a task or two—like hair. If you shower the night before, get a jumpstart on your look by blowdrying, straightening or even braiding it for loose waves in the morning.

6. Even out your skin tone

Between multiple wake-ups during the night and wavering hormones, complexion issues can become a thing for most mamas. Thankfully, the hack for managing that is as simple as finding a great foundation that goes on smoothly and doesn't cake or crack through a morning of momming. Scope out the ingredient list for naturally nourishing components like coconut oil, shea butter or beeswax — and skip the stress (and the return process if the shade doesn't match) by going for something that easily blends with most skin tones.

7. Find brands your feel great about

As a mom, you might find yourself considering bigger life questions: Are my cosmetics safe for pregnancy and breastfeeding? Are they helping the world my children will grow up in? Can I trust the ingredients and mission? Pro tip: read the ingredients on all your personal care products, memorize the ones you want to avoid, and look for third-party certification to ensure the product is actually what it says it is. When you find a brand that walks the talk, you're going to want to be loyal.

8. When in doubt, go for a bold lip

With happy hours swapped for play dates, your daily routine may look a bit different than it used to. But who says you have to leave your personal style behind? If you've always been a fan of makeup and going a bit glam, keep going for it, mama! The extra 60 seconds it takes to apply lipstick or whatever else gives you a bit of pep in your step is well worth it.

This article was sponsored by Earth Mama Organics. Thank you for supporting the brands that support Motherly and mamas.

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