Life is busy, right? And trying to fit in a date night – between soccer games, school band concerts, cub scout pack meetings, work and whatever else you have on your family’s calendar – can be a challenge. But we all know that date nights are important for the health of our romantic relationships.
Before children, my husband and I would go on lovely (and leisurely) dates. We would go out to dinner, and then, watch a movie together. Sometimes we would drive to the nearby lakeshore city of Grand Haven to walk along the beach, people watch, and catch a sunset. We spent entire days hiking at state parks or driving across state to shop at our favorite outlet malls.
But with three children, time is a scarce commodity now. Can you relate? Fitting child-free couple time into our already overpacked busy schedules is difficult. It’s difficult but not impossible. It can be done but it might take a little creativity.
With a little creativity and some planning, busy parents can still have the quality couple time they crave.
The Busy Parents’ Guide to Dating
Have you seen that YouTube video where the wife is disappointed to learn that her husband didn’t hire a babysitter for their date night only to discover there is no babysitter needed for the amazing night he has planned? Instead of hiring a babysitter, the husband had creatively brought date night to their own backyard. He set up an inflatable pub and surprised his wife with bar games, smoke machines and strobe lights all while a baby monitor was set up for them to keep tabs on their sleeping wee one. A super fun time was had by all.
Although that date night looks like a ton of fun, it also looks like a lot of work to set up. Good news though! Date night does not have to be that much work. With a little creativity and some planning, busy parents can still have the quality couple time they crave.
Work With Your Children’s Schedules
Look for openings within the children’s schedules. And if you can’t find an opening, then get creative and create one. Here are a few ideas on how to do just that.
Are your children in school or at daycare during the day? Take advantage of that time by setting up an occasional lunch date for you and your spouse. My husband and I typically meet up for lunch once a week, and I’ve heard from several of my friends that they do this, too.
Soccer Practice Dates
Sometimes the stars align, and your children have sports team practices (or other extracurricular activities) at the same time. Take advantage of little Suzie’s soccer practice time!! It may not be enough time for dinner and a movie, but it is certainly enough time for enjoying ice cream sundaes together at Dairy Queen or a nice walk through the neighborhood. Or, do they have tennis courts or basketball hoops near the soccer practice fields? Maybe you could use that time to engage in a tennis match or a one-on-one hoops match.
Quiet Dinner For Two
Every once in a while, I will plan a quiet dinner for two at home for myself and my husband. On those nights, I rent a movie for the kids and set up a little table in front of the television for them. I fix two dinners – a frozen pizza for the children and a nicer meal for us adults. While the children happily munch pizza and watch their movie, my husband and I can enjoy a peaceful candlelit dinner in the kitchen. It works surprisingly well.
Movie and Dessert
After a long Saturday of family time, we sometimes just want to chill out on the couch without the kids and watch something that is not animated. For those days, we sometimes put the children to bed a little early, pop in a movie that we want to see, and eat a favorite treat. (Yes, kids! We are staying up and eating ice cream while you are sleeping!) While one parent is tucking in the kids, the other one is making a run to purchase a yummy treat. We’ll splurge on some luxurious ice cream from the grocery store or even swing by a local restaurant for a decadent dessert. Black Tie Mousse Cake, anyone?
Backyard Bonfire For Two
A favorite summer activity for our family is to enjoy a backyard bonfire on weekend evenings. The children enjoy helping Daddy build up the fire, roasting marshmallows, and then, watching for bats to come out as the twilight skies darken around us. Once the kids seem like they are beginning to get bored, we tuck them into bed. Then, we get to enjoy some quiet time to ourselves around the fire. We stargaze, watch the embers die down in the firepit, and best of all, we can chat without little ears listening in.
Family Picnic with a Twist
Pack a picnic for you and your spouse. Then feed the kids at home. Drive out to a park with an amazing playground. The children can run and play while you and your spouse leisurely enjoy your sandwiches and some chat from a bench near the playground. The trick is to make sure that the playground is “age-appropriate” so that the kids don’t need constant help with playground equipment. Bonus points if you can find a park with picturesque views along with an awesome playground!
Make It a Quickie
No, not that kind of quickie! Come on, readers, this is a family-oriented blog you are reading! I’m suggesting that you find activities you can enjoy in a very short amount of time. Here are just a few suggestions.
Dinner OR a Movie
We used to (before children) go out to dinner and watch a movie as a typical date. But that doesn’t work for us anymore.
Now, we often rely on family to watch our children for our date nights. (Aren’t grandparents the best?!?) Because we are receiving free babysitting, we don’t like to take advantage of our help by staying out too long. Thus, we try to keep our dates down to three hours or less which is not enough time to eat dinner AND see a movie.
So we changed our expectations. These days we choose to go out to dinner OR we go to a movie… but not both in the same evening. And because we are not stressing over how to fit both activities in to that tiny time frame, our dates are more leisurely and enjoyable. It works for us.
Shorten the Show
As I have mentioned, it can be difficult for parents to fit in a 2-hour movie on date night. One solution would be to find shorter shows to enjoy. For instance, we have discovered that our local planetarium features daily shows that are considerably shorter. We don’t always have time to see an entire movie at the theater but we can often fit in a 45-minute planetarium show.
Go For a Walk
Before children, one of my favorite dates was a day trip to a state park where we hiked for most of the day. These days, my husband and I rarely have an opportunity to spend a full day hiking as a couple anymore. However, we can usually find an opportunity to fit in a short evening walk. Even a short walk around the neighborhood (without the kids) can be a great way to reconnect as a couple.
Fitting in quality couple time requires a little work. You have to be intentional about scheduling the time and planning activities. Because spontaneous opportunities for a date night are few and far between Otherwise, it doesn’t happen. Here are some great ways to fit more date nights on to your calendar.
Purchase Season Tickets
One of my friends suggested purchasing season tickets. If you already have the tickets, you are going to make sure you get out to see that show. It’s a great way to build date nights into your calendar on a regular basis.
This is what Maggie from www.fromtoddlertotraveler.com recommends. She says:
“In all honesty, my husband and I constantly forget to take date nights for ourselves. Something about the hassle of scheduling a babysitter and finding time off work…date night gets lost. In order to establish a new routine this year, we invested in season tickets to a local theater. Once every 6 weeks or so, we now get dressed up, have dinner down the street from the theater and enjoy a show. We have sobbed through some excellent performances (my husband at Hamilton and me at Bright Star), and we can now plan on some quality kid-free time together. As a side bonus, we also now have much more interesting cocktail party conversation.”
Take the Day Off
One thing that has worked exceptionally well for my husband and I is to plan a day off together. For the past several years, we both take a day off from work around Christmastime. However, we leave the children in school (or daycare when they were younger). Then, my husband and I spend the entire day together. We go out for lunch and finish the Christmas shopping. We don’t have enough vacation days to do this very often but we can definitely afford to do it once a year. And, we have come to really look forward to this day each December.
Enlist Grandma’s Help
Are your parents always saying they would like to spend more time with the grandkids? That is your cue to enlist Grandma’s (and/or Grandpa’s) help. Take advantage of that opportunity, set up a sleepover for your children, and then, plan an evening filled with all of your favorite activities for you and your spouse.
This is what Pam from www.pamgann.com recommends. She says:
“Between my husband’s full-time traveling career and our busy home life we struggle to find time for a date night. One of our favorite date nights is date night in. We purchase the ingredients for a meal we don’t often make at home and we carry the kids to their grandma. We buy delicious cheese and drink a glass of wine while we stir up our version of a culinary masterpiece. With our favorite music playing in the background we can sing along, dance, or talk about life! We are able to enjoy one another with no kids at home, cook and enjoy an amazing meal and since we are doing it all together we also don’t mind the clean up. This date night is a great way to connect, and can really come in handy when you want to be frugal.”
Trade Babysitting with Friends, Family or Neighbors
Another great way to schedule regular time on your calendar for date nights is to swap babysitting with trusted friends and family. A few years ago, one of the other preschool moms told me that she did this with a neighbor, and I thought it was a brilliant idea! The neighbor babysits her kids one week, and she babysits the neighbor’s kids the next week. That way both couples get to go out for a date night every other week!!!
Do Things That Interest You Both
Do you and your spouse have a shared hobby? Or, do you both love a certain sports team or movie series? Look for events centered around that mutual appreciation because those are activities that you both will gladly make time for on the calendar.
This is what Rachel from www.rachelcorrine.com recommends. She says:
“My husband and I both work full-time, and with my commute, I’m away from home between 7am – 6pm, Monday – Friday. This barely leaves any time at all for me to see my husband and 18-month-old son. Especially, when you factor in things like dishes, laundry, and other household chores. Needless to say, date nights happen very, very rarely, but when they do happen, we go all out. My husband and I are huge Cincinnati Reds fans, and were married on Opening Day in 2016 on top of Carew Tower (it’s a huge building downtown). Can you guess where we have date night?! Great American Ball Park! Obviously, if you don’t live in Cincinnati, another sports team would work just as well. It gets you out of the house, there’s amazing food (and beer), music, and loads of other fans cheering for your favorite team! Baseball games usually start after 7pm, which is perfect timing for us! As an added bonus, the Reds have ‘Fireworks Fridays.’ Which means that after the game, you get to watch a fireworks display. Highly recommended!”
Plan a Day of Relaxation
Life is busy and stressful. How wonderful does an evening of relaxation sound?!? A date night to the local spa may be the perfect activity to entice you to schedule a date night.
This is what Emily from www.henryandandrewsguide.com recommends. She says:
“Being busy parents with little time to be alone, we really have to choose wisely when we go on dates. Going to the movies leaves us not really talking to each other, and going to dinner gets kind of boring, and sometimes exhausting being at a crowded restaurant. If it’s during the day, we like to go hiking but we rarely ever get to leave the kids during the day.”
“So we came up with our favorite date that we can do usually in the evening that is super relaxing and gives us room to talk – go to spas with pools and baths! Many of the spas (at least in San Francisco) stay open fairly late (some until midnight!), and have the option to get a day pass to the pools and baths without booking a spa appointment. We love going there just to lounge, sip on hot tea or spa water while we literally soak up the tranquil atmosphere and wash our kids… I mean worries… away. One of our favorite places even has a bar and a rooftop lounge area with the views of the San Francisco Bay. It’s a date night that can be done within 2 hours, and we come home so happy and relaxed!”
For more ideas of fun stuff to do around San Francisco, be sure to check out Henry and Andrew’s Guide at www.henryandandrewsguide.com/sfbay.