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Date night is a ritual that’s become an institution in the Briggs household. It was established years before my wife Rhonda and I became parents, consistently observed before we married and eagerly anticipated when we were dating.

When I tell people that every other Thursday is reserved for date night with my partner-in-crime, I sometimes get a look of amazement. It’s as if once you say “I do,” date nights instantly become “We don’t,” and occur with the frequency of a Big Foot sighting, a coast-to-coast total eclipse, or a Cubs World Series championship.

But ever since we married in 2009, Rhonda and I have made time to date. Halloween 2017 triggered a flashback to Halloween 2015 when we observed date night by dancing the night away at a wickedly delightful fundraiser in Chicago known as the Big Orange Ball.

That year, we saved the date with our babysitter and stopped at Party City to buy the ingredients for our costumes: a tiara, a Day of the Dead hand fan, a cape, and a top hat. Rhonda got all dolled up as a flamenco dancer; I transformed into a ghoulishly undead gentleman. It was one of the few occasions where it took me longer to get ready than Rhonda because of my makeup, not hers. (It’s hard to look undead.)

After eight years of date nights, from Halloween and beyond, here are three reasons why date nights rule:

1 | Date nights help solve the puzzle of dinner

Sometimes it feels like the purpose of marriage is to have someone in your life committed to helping you answer (’til death do you part) the most challenging question of our time: “What’s for dinner?”

Somehow we aren’t terribly indecisive about breakfast or lunch, but when it comes to dinner, we need IBM’s Watson to calculate the possibilities.

I thought I was alone in the struggle until I heard about a recipe book by Zach Golden titled “What the F*@# Should I Make For Dinner?” which seeks to be “your go-to guide to save you from headache, hunger, and your own wishy-washy self.” On date nights, this problem is easy to solve for. Thank you, Restaurants of America.

2 | Date nights carve out quality time

Like most families with a young child (or children), our day-to-day schedules are hectic. Weekdays start at 4:30 a.m. in the Briggs family and are filled with daycare drop-offs and pick-ups, commutes by train, deadlines at work, and calendars filled with meetings. In between the hustle and flow, Rhonda and I catch up and connect, but date nights allow us to shut out the demands and distractions of the world and focus on one another for a few hours. I get to talk to the woman I met B.W.W.P. (Before We Were Parents), seeing who she is now and how her inner world is shifting. Quality time keeps our bond strong.

3 | Date nights strengthen marriage

Trust me, research has the receipts on this. Harry Benson from the Marriage Foundation and Steve McKay from the University of Lincoln analyzed data for a group of nearly 10,000 couples with a young child to identify what effect, if any, date nights have on the odds of staying together or splitting up.

The frequency of date nights across the couples broke down as follows:

  • once a week or more: 11 percent
  • once a month: 30 percent
  • less often than once a month: 23 percent
  • hardly ever: 36 percent

Over a 10-year period, the married couples who observed date night once a month had the highest odds of staying together compared to the other groups.

Surprisingly, the study’s finding only held true for married couples, not cohabiting couples (more on that later).

“Compared to couples who ‘hardly ever’ went out, couples who went out weekly or more often were no more likely to stay together,” Benson and McKay noted in their 2016 report. “In other words, the relationship between how often couples go out and their likelihood of staying together is not linear. Going out more often does not help couples stay together.”

Once-a-month date nights may be the sweet spot because, as noted by The Knot, going out too often may be a buzzkill (e.g., the stress of planning, increased babysitter expenses, loss of personal downtime). Less may indeed be more, but twice a month works just fine for me and Rhonda.

So there you have it. If you’re married, get out and do something new with your boo (dinner, movie, comedy club, concert, etc.). Once a month is all it takes.

Oh, and for that bit about couples who cohabitate? Benson and McKay put it this way: “By going out every so often, married couples reinforce the importance of their relationship. Because their relationship is founded on a clear public act of commitment, a night out together makes a statement about the nature of the relationship. Among cohabiting couples, where there is some element of ambiguity about the future of the relationship, a night out of any kind is simply a night out.”

Definitely something to talk about…on your next night out.

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Baby stuff comes in such cute prints these days. Gone are the days when everything was pink and blue and covered in ducks or teddy bears. Today's baby gear features stylish prints that appeal to mom.

That's why it's totally understandable how a mama could mistake a car seat cover for a cute midi skirt. It happened to Lori Farrell, and when she shared her mishap on Facebook she went viral before she was even home from work. Fellow moms can totally see the humor in Farrell's mishap, and thankfully, so can she.

As for how a car seat cover could be mistaken for a skirt—it's pretty simple, Farrell tells Motherly.

"A friend of mine had given me a huge lot of baby stuff, from clothes to baby carriers to a rocker and blankets and when I pulled it out I was not sure what it was," she explains. "I debated it but washed it anyway then decided because of the way it pulled on the side it must be a maternity skirt."

Farrell still wasn't 100% sure if she was right by the time she headed out the door to work, but she rocked the ambiguous attire anyway.

"When I got to work I googled the brand and realized not only do they not sell clothing but it was a car seat cover."

The brand, Itzy Ritzy, finds the whole thing pretty funny too, sharing Farell's viral moment to its official Instagram.

It may be a car seat cover, but that print looks really good on this mama.

And if you want to copy Farell's style, the Itzy Ritzy 4-in-1 Nursing Cover, Car Seat Cover, Shopping Cart Cover and Infinity Scarf (and skirt!) is available on Amazon for $24.94.

Motherly is your daily #momlife manual; we are here to help you easily find the best, most beautiful products for your life that actually work. We share what we love—and we may receive a commission if you choose to buy.You've got this.

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Daycare for infants is expensive across the country, and California has one of the worst states for parents seeking care for a baby. Putting an infant in daycare in California costs $2,914 more than in-state tuition for four years of college, according to the Economic Policy Institute.

Paying north of $1,000 for daycare each month is an incredible burden, especially on single-parent families. The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services defines affordable childcare as costing no more than 10% of a family's income—by that definition, less than 29% of families in California can afford infant care. Some single parents spend half their income on day care. It is an incredible burden on working parents.

But that burden may soon get lighter. CBS Sacramento reports California may put between $25 and $35 million into child care programs to make day care more affordable for parents with kids under 3 years old.

Assembly Bill 452, introduced this week, could see $10 million dollars funneled into Early Head Start (which currently gets no money from the state but does get federal funding) and tens of millions more would be spent on childcare for kids under three.

The bill seeks to rectify a broken childcare system. Right now, only about 14% of eligible infants and toddlers are enrolled in subsidized programs in California, and in 2017, only 7% of eligible children younger than three years of age accessed Early Head Start.

An influx of between $25 to $35 million dollars could see more spaces open up for kids under three, as Bill 452, if passed, would see the creation of "grants to develop childcare facilities that serve children from birth to three years of age."

This piece of proposed legislation comes weeks after California's governor announced an ambitious plan for paid parental leave, and as another bill, AB 123, seeks to strengthen the state's pre-kindergarten program.

Right now, it is difficult for some working parents to make a life in California, but by investing in families, the state's lawmakers could change that and change California's future for the better.

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When a mama gets married, in most cases she wants her children to be part of her big day. Photographers are used to hearing bride-to-be moms request lots of pictures of their big day, but when wedding photographer Laura Schaefer of Fire and Gold Photography heard her client Dalton Mort planned to wear her 2-year-old daughter Ellora instead of a veil, she was thrilled.

A fellow mama who understands the benefits of baby-wearing, Schaefer was keen to capture the photos Mort requested. "When I asked Dalton about what some of her 'must get' shots would be for her wedding, she specifically asked for ones of her wearing Ellie, kneeling and praying in the church before the tabernacle," Schaefer tells Motherly.

She got those shots and so many more, and now Mort's toddler-wearing wedding day pics are going viral.

"Dalton wore Ellie down the aisle and nursed her to sleep during the readings," Schaefer wrote on her blog, explaining that Ellie then slept through the whole wedding mass.

"As a fellow mother of an active toddler, this is a HUGE win! Dalton told me after that she was SO grateful that Ellie slept the whole time because she was able to focus and really pray through the Mass," Schaefer explains.

Dalton was able to concentrate on her wedding day because she made her baby girl a part of it (and that obviously tired Ellie right out).

Ellie was part of the commitment and family Dalton if forging with her husband, Jimmy Joe. "There is no better behaved toddler than a sleeping toddler, and she was still involved, even though I ended up unwrapping her to nurse her. I held her in my arms while my husband and I said our vows. It was really special for us," Dalton told POPSUGAR.

This is a wedding trend we are totally here for!

Congrats to Dalton and Jimmy Joe (and to Ellie)! 🎉

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The internet is freaking out about how Peppa Pig is changing the way toddlers speak, but parents don't need to be too worried.

As Romper first reported, plenty of American parents have noticed that preschoolers are picking up a bit of a British accent thanks to Peppa. Romper's Janet Manley calls it "the Peppa effect," noting that her daughter started calling her "Mummy" after an in-flight Peppa marathon.

Plenty of other parents report sharing Manley's experience, but the British accent is not likely to stick, experts say.

Toronto-based speech and language pathologist Melissa James says this isn't a new thing—kids have always been testing out the accents they hear on TV and in the real world, long before Peppa oinked her way into our Netflix queues.

"Kids have this amazing ability to pick up language," James told Global News. "Their brains are ripe for the learning of language and it's a special window of opportunity that adults don't possess."

Global News reports that back in the day there were concerns about Dora The Explorer potentially teaching kids Spanish words before the kids had learned the English counterparts, and over in the U.K., parents have noticed British babies picking up American accents from TV, too.

But it's not a bad thing, James explains. When an American adult hears "Mummy" their brain translates it to "Mommy," but little kids don't yet make as concrete a connection. "When a child, two, three or four, is watching a show with a British accent and hears [words] for the first time, they are mapping out the speech and sound for that word in the British way."

So if your baby is oinking at you, calling you "Mummy" or testing out a new pronunciation of "toh-mah-toe," know that this is totally natural, and they're not going to end up with a life-long British pig accent.

As Dr, Susannah Levi, associate professor of communicative sciences and disorders at New York University, tells The Guardian, "it's really unlikely that they'd be acquiring an entire second dialect from just watching a TV show."

It sure is cute though.

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