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After kids, marriage changes. It just does. Life comes at you faster than ever before and it’s hard to remember to make time for your spouse.
I think it’s absolutely necessary to make time for date night. I’ve read that same statement in tons of places since having kids and everyone suggests getting a sitter and having a night out on the town.
I don’t know about you, but if I had a sitter, I wouldn’t need anyone to tell me how to have a date night. We would just do what we used to do before we had kids!
Now, we have two little ones, no trusted family in the area (or anywhere for that matter – long story), and no one to babysit on a regular basis while we go out and prioritize our marriage. Plus, we’re on a budget and going out together is financial sacrifice enough. A sitter would tip our budget over the edge.
The way I see it, we can either stay at home and stress over having no way to get some alone time for a date night, or we can make it happen. The wisest woman I’ve ever met once told me “you need to start claiming what you want.” If what we want is a date night, then we’re damn well going to make it happen!
The secret to having a date night with kids is to set your expectations at a reasonable level and not let yourself get too disappointed when even that low bar isn’t low enough.
For my husband and I, the fastest way to ruin a date night is to take the kids out to eat. I’d love to go out with him, try a new restaurant, order a brand-new food off of the menu…but when our 18 month old starts trying to run around and the newborn is screaming to be nursed, we’ll both end up stressed out and our night will be ruined.
Instead, it makes way more sense for us to try to have a date night at home. The first trick is to set some rules.
First of all, electronics are completely off limits unless they’re being used for date night somehow. If you’re going to watch a movie as part of your night – fine. But I have yet to see a successful date night that required a cell phone. Turn them off and put them in the other room.
Find a way to entertain the kids or include them. The best way we’ve found is to give our toddler a toy he isn’t familiar with which might require some planning. For us, playdoh works wonders and we just realize that there will be some clean up involved.
One of our date nights that included our toddler was a wine and cheese night. We poured our wine (I was pregnant so it was just sparkling grape juice), cut up our favorite cheeses, and made a grape juice bottle for our little one. We had a picnic on our living room floor, our toddler tried out new cheeses, and we all had a great time.
Valentine’s day this year included wine and chocolate, but we purposely skipped our son’s nap by going out to lunch instead of dinner, and he passed out early giving mommy and daddy some alone time. Even though skipping naps can be the recipe for a meltdown, it was worth it to give us some privacy on our special day. This time, it worked! He passed out, we had our night, and date night was a complete success.
For a nice date night at home, find the fun in cooking together. Instead of going out to eat, make your favorite meal at home – but if your cooking skills are anything like mine, be sure to have a pizza in the freezer, just in case.
Wine and cheese is my favorite kind of date night. You don’t have to spend a lot, just pick up some blocks of your favorite cheese, a cheap bottle of wine, and light some candles. You’ll feel like you’re being wined and dined without the stress of going out or finding a sitter.
Give each other massages. When I was very pregnant, my husband had had a stressful day, so I forced him to take a bubble bath and then I gave him a foot massage and rubbed him down with our favorite scented lotion when he was all done.
Now that I’ve typed that out, I realize just how lucky that husband of mine is. 😉
Play board games. Not every date night has to be romantic. If your kids will cooperate and either play by themselves or go to bed early, bust out your favorite game, make some snacks, and enjoy each other’s’ company.
Our toddler would never cooperate with a board game night, so we play on our X-box. We typically only use our gaming system for Netflix, but we bought Monopoly for $5 and a really old version of Tiger Woods golf and we’ve had a ton of fun date nights together with our son sitting there snacking with us and clapping at our successes. The beauty of video games is that there are no pieces he can throw or swallow!
Have a movie night! We like to make snacks and either get a $1.50 Redbox movie or pick something new on Netflix.
The point of date night is to enjoy some time together without letting yourself get pulled away to do chores or tend to anything but your relationship. If you plan it right, you should be able to have a nice and inexpensive date night at home without having to pay for a baby sitter or tip a waiter.
If date night is just impossible right now because things are too crazy busy, make the most of what little time you do find together. Sit close enough at dinner or on the couch that you’re touching each other. Go to bed at the same time and have a snuggle session as you drift off to sleep. Every minute together matters, so make the most of the ones you have!
Do you have regular date nights at home with your kids in the next room? What tips do you have for other parents? Let me know in the comments!