3 Date Night Tips for Parents
This week my husband and I were planning our tenth anniversary weekend getaway.
We’ve been deliberating about what would be the most beneficial for these few days away - going back and forth between fun and rest because both options are very enticing after having three children. Do we want city life and adventure, or silence and solitude? I tell you this because I am both giddy about our getaway and extremely thankful for a husband that makes time together a big priority.
The Huffington Post released an article that listed the 10 most common reasons people divorce. The third most common reason given from their polled audience is becoming “lost in their roles”- primarily as parents. With the divorce rate in America being around 45%, and even higher (up to 60%) in Orange County where I live, I am not at all shocked that having a very time consuming, emotionally and physically intensive role like parenting could create distance in a relationship.
So, what is the role of date night for married couples?
What’s the point of getting ready to go out when you see each other every day? The big idea is this: setting aside time and space for connecting with each other that is out of the ordinary. It is allowing yourselves time to build and strengthen emotional intimacy within the most important relationship you will ever have. This is difficult to do within the walls of your home. If you are anything like me, there are literally a million things that can grab your attention instead of your spouse. A whole myriad of tasks or distractions or other things you “should” be doing. This doesn’t build connection. This creates a roommate dynamic instead of a partnership.
Now, the biggest excuse I hear people give for why they don’t have date nights is child care.
To be fair, it’s an excuse that I used for years until I became such an emotional wreck, that my husband came home to me crying in the corner of our bathroom because I was so desperate to get out of our cement condo prison and have some adult conversation and fun. Not that I don’t absolutely adore my three hilarious and rowdy children, but let's be real: having one night a week where I don’t have to listen to someone complain about dinner, do one more load of laundry, or sweep up old cheddar rockets that have become lodged in the strangest places throughout my house - has become my “corona moment”.
Over the last seven years of child-rearing, my sweet hubs and I have had to create, adapt and adjust various ways that we do date nights. This can still happen every once in a blue moon, but for the most part, we have a strong basic foundation that works well for us. So without further ado, we have found three areas where a little creativity or thinking outside of the date night box works well.
1. Get creative with your community and resources.
For the first two years of becoming parents, our resources were limited - or so we thought. We had moved to a new city, all of our parents still had full-time jobs, our siblings lived out of state, we were trying to start a church from scratch and make new friends and my husband was traveling 2 out of four weeks a month. I was miserable to say the least (*cue previously mentioned crying scene from my bathroom*). It was a lonely time and I wish I would have researched or reached out for help sooner. My biggest hesitation, was in large part due to the fact that I am very particular about who I let watch my kids. The idea of a stranger from a random website coming into my private home and being left alone with my kids gives me the creeps. However, I let that anxiety keep me from looking for other options and that wasn’t ok.
Here are some of my favorite resources:
A lot of preschools will host a parents night out. They have random nights a month that you can drop your kids off at school for a very small fee and go out for a couple of hours while the kids play. Sometimes they even feed your kids to make it extra easy on you. I like that they are with other kids and supervised under an educational instructor.
Once I began building strong relationships with some of my neighbors and spending lots of time watching them parent their own children as we had playdates at the park near our house, it was a no brainer that I would trust them to watch our kids. It’s a great way to reciprocate and meet each other’s basic needs. Also, if you trade off with other neighbor parents then the child care is usually free!
Some of our best friends are at our church and I see them and live life with them week in and week out. I know them, trust them, they know our parenting style and my kids are comfortable with them. It’s a huge blessing. Some churches even offer child care throughout the month for parents and most volunteers are required to have a background check and to never be alone with a child.
Most gymnastic centers for kids host a parents night out each month for a fee. The kids get to play for hours and have the time of their lives (not to mention they sleep really well those nights) and you get some free time. You don’t have to be a member for your kids to attend either!
We have a couple of friends with older kids and they are awesome. They love to make a little extra cash and have pretty flexible schedules.
2. Get creative with your time and rhythms.
Often times we have an unsaid expectation of what date night should look like (e.g., 6 pm on a Friday night at a nice restaurant). But by letting go of some prior standards or expectations and instead putting the focus on time to connect with your spouse, you can open up a world of possibilities. For example, we make it really easy to babysit, almost guaranteeing our friends and neighbors will want to do it again. We get the kids down for bed at 7:30ish so they are asleep when date night starts at 8pm. This often means I don’t know my kids that day so they are extra tired. When the sitter arrives, kids are asleep (or just about), I have cookies baked (I make a large batch every so often and just freeze them in single servings so I always have some on hand and don’t have to bake the day of!), and netflix is ready to go.
If that doesn’t work, a weekend brunch or lunch is a great option - you could go out for a bit and then pick them up or be back in time for naps. Sometimes I even bring lunch to my husband and we do a lunch date during his work break. This tends to be a little more rushed but a girl needs some affection and attention so I make it happen.
We also make sure that we get quarterly or at a minimum annual overnights. If the kids have grandparents or dear friends that you know can handle the chaos for a couple of days, this does wonders for your marriage. Sometimes a couple of hours just isn’t enough and having an extended amount of time to relax, sleep and chat is fabulous.
3. Get creative with your budget and activities.
As you know, I need rest and fun. Those are my mojos. My husband loves tasty food and good, thoughtful conversation. If the point of any date night is connection and caring for the other person, then a great place to start is by asking both yourself and your spouse a simple question: what do you need? Some weeks one of you needs something more than the other, other times not so much. One of my favorite date nights of all time came during a busy and crappy week. I didn’t really feel like going out and honestly just needed to let out some aggression and frustration. I believe we were also on a super tight budget at this particular time so it needed to be cheap.
Since on date nights I’m usually throwing some sort of dinner together for the kids to eat, I just packed us up a little something in a Tupperware and we headed out to a driving range down the road from our house. We sat in our car, eating a basic meal out of Tupperware, catching up on life, chatting and laughing at how seriously some people take the driving range and reconnecting. Then we grabbed a large bucket of golf balls for $10 and drove the mess out of them. Mind you, it was my first time at a driving range and I simply channelled my inner Happy Gilmore. It was a great mix of connecting and fun. Conversation and memory making.
So, what do you need?
What would be helpful for getting out of the mundane and chaos of life and building up affection and making time for your significant other- the most important relationship in your life? What “fills your tank” and what activities, places and spaces allow for you to feel refreshed? Do you just need a good cup of coffee and conversation? Is it time for a wine and dine kinda night? Or would a simple late afternoon hike be what you need to clear your head and connect with your spouse? Does your spouse just want to grab some in-n-out and stare at a sunset?
Whatever the case, break away from your daily roles and find your community, utilize your resources, and schedule a time that works for your family.
The hope is, long after you retire and the kids are grown and gone, your marriage will remain. But that requires intentionality, creativity and a willingness to put the other person first.
Get creative with your resources, rhythms and activities to create a marriage that will not just survive but thrive.
Written by Kim Bogardus
Kim and her husband, Nick, live in Orange County with their three energetic kiddos. They planted Cross of Christ Church and enjoy all the chaos and joys of ministry. Kim loves teaching, counseling, and baking and has a passion to see women live with courage through owning their story and being content with who and where they are.