This may come as a shock to some people, but in our whole married life with 6 children, Art and I have never hired a babysitter. That's not to say that we never leave the house without our children, but it is very rare. We do on occasion take advantage of my parent's offers to watch the children when they are visiting for the week-end and go out to dinner. Usually we have a nursing baby tag along with us. We did get a week-end get away 2 summers ago and to attend Art's Christmas Party for work. Every family is different and what works for us might not work for others. I just wanted to share some of the ways we find time for ourselves.
As a happy homeschooling mom, my children are with me 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, most of the time. I love having them with me and wouldn't trade it for anything in the world. Raising a big family can be a tiring at times. During the day we have "quiet time" or you might call it "productive free time." Every afternoon for 2 hours the children have to find something quiet and productive to do while the littlest ones nap. This is mommies quiet time too. For one hour I do not clean or do any teaching. Usually I try to read (a grown-up book or magazine) or use the computer. This time is a great way for me to recharge every day.
Everyday on his lunch Art calls me to see how my day is going. He has done this as long as we have been married. During our brief 10-15 minute conversation, I can catch him up on our day and find out how his is going. Sometimes the time differs if he is really busy or has a meeting, but I look forward to these calls everyday.
We are big believers in early bedtimes for our children. Children need their sleep, and we need some quiet time in the evenings to ourselves. I put the little boys to bed at 7 and the bigger boys at 8. Lily usually goes to sleep between 7 and 8, and Chelsea has to go to her room at 8 every night and read until her 9:30 bedtime.
Friday nights we do pizza and a movie for the children and then watch a movie ourselves. This Friday night routine makes a great "date" night for us and a really inexpensive date.