In a life without children, the vision of romance tends to be conjured as such: candlelit dinners, trips to far-off places, days spent in bed or nights spent sitting up talking.Post-children is a different story, one in which the aforementioned romance picture pretty much vanishes.

Days are spent cleaning up messes, running wildly to and fro to get errands completed, with nary a second to express much to your partner outside of, "Did you pick up that dog food I asked you to?" Does this mean that romance is a totally dead concept once children are part of the equation? Absolutely not — it just becomes a notion that evolves as the journey of parenthood does.

“The reality of romance does change when we become parents. You and your partner are not only in a bonded relationship to each other, gazing into each other’s eyes, but there is another tiny person in the house [or more] demanding that we become really ‘grown up’ and put our personal needs to the side most of the time,” said Annette Cycon, LICSW, Founder and Director of Training at MotherWoman in Hadley.

“Taking out the garbage, paying off the household debt, feeding the hungry hordes and mediating conflict does not set the tone for romance. It's easy to be irritable and take out stress on the closest target — your spouse or partner. We often forgot that this person is our closest ally, is in it up to their eyeballs, too, is exhausted and stressed just like us and could use what we are missing, which is gratitude, compassion and recognition.”

"Me" time becomes "we" time. Romance is not just reserved for the couple; there are times it can actually include the kids, lending a new perspective to the whole notion.

“For Valentines Day, we've made valentines together as a family and for each other, which made us redefine ‘romance’ considerably, but was a practical approach to our new reality and established a new holiday ritual,” said Jenn Dorfield of South Hadley.

"What is romantic and bonding is not only time together, but time with the family together," Cycon added. "It shows that our love and hard work have paid off with this beautiful family that we have created together. Just take the mental snapshot before the bickering starts again."

Big nights out become big nights in. Who could remember to call for reservations at a time when there are a ton of other things going on at once? Romantic evenings no longer have to be spent at a fancy restaurant; they can just be constructed through simple time alone, at home.

“When I had babies and didn't have the energy or resources to go out on a date, we used to put the kids to bed and have an ‘at-home date’ where we would open a bottle of wine, turn the lights down low, put on our favorite music, light candles and remember that we were once ‘girlfriend and boyfriend’, not co-parents,” Cycon said.

“At-home dates are a norm even with older kids,” Dorfield noted. “They’re on a budget and must be scheduled ahead to curb our inclinations to go separate ways at separate tasks.”

Grand romantic gestures become pretty scaled down. Who needs flowers and chocolates when an hour alone — uninterrupted by children — to take a nap is the way to a parent's heart? The way in which partners show they care changes quite a bit as the years go on, and become more simplified actions.

Leaving love notes around the home that have nothing to do with parenthood, but everything to do with recognizing your partner is special even outside of the co-parenting relationship becomes a way to whisper sweet nothings into his or her ear, just in a more convenient fashion.

"Hearing the words, ‘Let me take the kids for an hour’ or ‘Go lay down’ is like hearing ‘I love you’ a thousand times," said Karen Wysocki of Agawam. "That shows me how much you care and cherish me, and want me to be happy."

Sometimes it's simply expressing gratitude.

"Say thank you every day for all the big and tiny things,” said Lauren Harris of South Hadley. “Make it a thing you both do each night before bed.”

"Sexy time" is no longer just about sex. Not only do our environments change once children are introduced to them, so do our bodies. Women may feel more self conscious post-baby, we may be too tired to really get into things — suddenly, though sex is certainly nice, it's not exactly what we need to get the job done.

"Laughing together is the best sex," said Liz Friedman, MotherWoman Program Director in Northampton. “My post-kids body isn’t nearly so amorous, so foot rubs are my new foreplay,” Dorfield added.

Noted Cycon: “Sometimes just making out a little without sex is a nice way to show closeness to each other.”

Foreplay becomes "choreplay." If you’ve never heard of the term “choreplay,” you may want to become acquainted with it; it’s the act of being turned on by your spouse or partner doing housework, and it’s something many couples with children of all ages find to be applicable to their lives.

"Emptying the dishwasher, even taking 10 minutes to pick up the kids' toys," said Jeannine Golden of Leverett, "are the unprompted tasks he does that make me extremely happy and sometimes a little weak in the knees."

Moments for self-care are fewer and far between and may no longer necessitate things like a trip to the spa. Romance isn't reserved just for the partner, but the individual as well. If you make time to give yourself a little love, that's going to reflect back to your partner.

“When we put ourselves on our ‘to-do’ lists and take care of ourselves in small ways, we feel better about ourselves, feel less stress and come home refreshed, whether it is home to a partner or to our children,” Cycon said.

These self-loving acts can be the tiniest of things: a phone call to a friend, a walk by yourself or with a friend, a long shower or not answering e-mails after a certain time of day.

Though there are times you or your partner feel the romance is gone, remember that it isn't — it's just changed. Love is still expressed, just in different ways. And, perhaps, you can look at it as falling in love all over again — not with a husband or wife — but now with the father or mother of your children, someone you

can appreciate with new eyes every day as they kiss boo-boos and clean up snotty noses. What's not romantic about that?