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Confessions of a working mother: How we cooked up a perfect date at home

By Karen Ireland

Thank you Mr Simon Cowell for creating the wonderful Britain’s Got Talent! Thanks to the programme I finally got the date that I have been begging, hinting and pleading for since last September.

My Facebook friends saw picture proof that Tom and I finally got all dressed up and had our date night.

And of course everyone was curious to know where he finally took me after about eight months.

When we said ‘The Kitchen’ everyone thought we had found a trendy and quaint new eatery.

In truth we actually meant our kitchen in our own home. I have joked that we locked the boys in their bedrooms but in actual fact thanks to BGT — they were nowhere to be seen and when they did appear they were so completely grossed out that their parents were on a date that they quickly disappeared again.

Jesse (10) was mortified and stayed as far away from us as possible — insisting that parents shouldn’t go on dates (well not around their kids anyway) and that it was disgusting.

The other two just giggled a lot anytime they came anywhere near the ‘date scene’.

In truth, aside from getting dressed up, we didn’t really do anything that abnormal for a Saturday night — we had a lovely meal cooked, of course, by Tom and then we watched a movie after the kids, suitably grossed out, finally went to bed.

But the thing was it felt special as we had planned it and we had made an effort to do it.

And okay, I have been sick and something of a recluse for months, but it was one of the best dates I have had.

It cost next to nothing and we didn’t even have the hassle of hiring a babysitter or ordering a taxi.

It is easy in the busy-ness of getting on with life to stop making an effort and not to make spending quality time together a priority.

This is as true for family life as it is for marriages. Only last week research came out which revealed that an average family only spends about 49 minutes a week of quality time together. The rest is the ships in the night scenario.

I admit it is hard — it has taken us months to have a romantic dinner in our own kitchen for goodness sake — but we have vowed to make this a more regular occurrence.

And, hopefully, the more the boys see their parents in a ‘date’ situation the more normal and less gross it will become to them, although something tells me as they get older they may follow Jesse’s example more.

With both of us working and Tom being involved in so many organisations it is difficult to get proper family time together but this is something we have always worked hard at — if we don’t we know all about it and suffer for it.

If we don’t spend enough quality time with the boys each reacts in his own way — from Jesse who becomes over-emotional to Korey who gets withdrawn and quiet to Teo who just throws a strop and tells us what he thinks.

As he follows Tom everywhere anyway, there isn’t much chance for separation anxiety and whether it is cutting the grass or working with wood in the workshop — he is like a mini me at his side helping and hindering in equal measures.

The five of us try for the most part to do something as a family at weekends. This week it was orienteering in the forest which — no surprise — I was useless at, so I opted for helping organise the food for the returning troops.

About 10 families joined in and each came back saying how much they enjoyed working together and doing something as a team.

Coming into the summer with later nights and lack of organised groups and activities (ie less running around) then it gets easier to spend time together — whether it is a simple walk, a visit to the park or just getting the paddling pool out in the garden. It is just good to do something together — even if it is only all of us actually sitting down around the table at the same time.

Now all I have to do is organise a date that involves leaving the house — that will be real progress.

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