Even couples with kids need a date night: 10 date night tips for busy parents.
Spending time with our kids is really important to us, but so is our relationship. That’s why me and Mr T have worked hard to plan in some quality time together over the last few months. Setting aside time to spend together as a couple each week has made a real difference, enabling us to reconnect and get reacquainted! In fact, ‘date night’ is one of the highlights of our week and we really look forward to it.
I think every couple needs a ‘date night’, especially if you have children.
Time flies when you’re having fun!
I can’t believe me and Mr T will be celebrating 20 years of marriage next year! I’d like to say I was a child bride, but that would be a big fat lie! I really don’t know where the time’s gone. It doesn’t seem that long ago we were walking down the aisle. Yet, so much has happened since, not least of which being the arrival of our two wonderful daughters, now 14 years old and 10 years old.
What a blessing they are to us! I only need to curl up and watch an episode of Call the Midwife with the girls (youngest loves that programme – although I do have to check the content) to be reminded what a gift it is to have them. They are a delight and a joy and we are really proud of them both.
Having kids inevitably has an impact on how we spend your time. For a while, our children become the centre of our world and demand and need so much of our time and attention. However, if we’re not careful, it’s easy to forget about the other important person in our life, our partner.
Why every couple needs a date night.
Remember the heady days when you first met your partner? If you’re anything like us, we had so much time together. If we wanted to go out for a meal together, we did. Fancied the cinema, theatre or shopping, we’d go. Many hours were spent chatting on the phone and often in a telephone box at the end of the road!
Now post-kids, our free time is often dedicated to them, and what’s more – so are the topics of our conversations. So setting a date night is really important for our relationship and I firmly believe that it is possible to carve out some quality time for each other, no matter how busy family life is…It just requires a bit of careful planning.
Our date nights.
Despite our busy lives, Mr T and I have managed to set aside one evening a week (or at least from 8pm onwards!) as our ‘date night’. Although I’d say we have a great relationship, our regular time to ourselves has brought us closer together and we both look forward to it.
Our date nights started small with what I call the ‘bronze package’, comprising a night in, a TV boxed set, a bottle of wine and a bag of posh crisps (we know how to live!). However, we’re getting a bit cocky now and are planning to upgrade to the ‘gold’ package where we actually venture beyond our own doorstep to dine out or go to the cinema (steady on!). The gold package does need more investment, in the form of a babysitter or the cheaper ’14-year-old daughter option’ to look after ‘youngest’, but we think it’s worth it.
If you’re busy parents in desperate need of some quality time together, here are some of my top 10 date night tips for couples with kids.
Top 1o date night tips for busy parents.
1. Try and choose a set night every week and stick to it.
It isn’t always easy to set aside a particular night of the week where you can spend quality time together. Sometimes, you’ll only be able to find a few hours a week and not necessarily the same night each week. Monday is the only night of the week that’s relatively free of activities, so it’s our designated date night. Having our date night at the beginning of the week works well for us because it also means we’re fairly fresh and not too tired to enjoy our date!
Little and often is better than not at all! We try our best to have our date night every Monday, unless we’re away or something comes up which we can’t rearrange. Sticking to the same night every week means it becomes a regular feature. It becomes a routine or a habit. Not in a bad way, but something to rely on and look forward to.
2. Protect your time together.
Once you’ve set a date or time, it’s important to stick to it. Protect it fiercely so you both know there’s nothing you’d rather be doing. It makes me feel special and appreciated to know that Mr T will drop things or get home on time so we can have our ‘date night’ and he feels the same when I plan around our date night, too.
3. Do not disturb.
Once you’ve set a date, let your kids, family and friends know about it so they know you’re not available. Hopefully, they’ll be less likely to call you on your ‘date’ night or arrange events on that evening.
If your kids are old enough to stay up beyond the time you’ve set aside, ask them to go to their room or another room so you have time alone.
4. No phones, tablets or tech.
When date night arrives, don’t just be there in ‘body’. Turn off your mobile phone, set the answer phone, ask the kids to answer the door, close your book, laptop, whatever! Give your partner your undivided attention! If you’re having a night in watching TV together, sit next to each other. Snuggle up and get comfy! Simple things like sitting together and holding hands have been proven to increase feelings of closeness and intimacy.
5. Enjoy the simple pleasures.
Date nights don’t need to be grand. They don’t need to involve a night out (which is just as well as it isn’t always easy/practical to get a babysitter). An evening in can be just as special or romantic as an evening out. After all, it’s not so much about what you do, but who you’re with!
As I’ve said, most of our date nights so far have involved a night in with a TV boxed set, a glass of wine and a family bag of crisps! Simple pleasures! The beauty of a boxed set (in our case, we usually pick something from Netflix or Now TV) is you don’t have to wait until the following week to see the next episode if you’re enjoying it. I think our record is three episodes back-to-back. We ‘ve really enjoyed watching Mad Men, The Bridge, The Crown, The Night Manager and Happy Valley together.
6. A meal for two.
If you’re a parent with kids, you often end up cooking in shifts or having a family meal earlier in the evening. On your date night, why not have a meal for two later in the evening, when the kids have gone to their rooms or gone to bed? That way, you can have a good catch up and chat before tucking into the next episode of your TV boxed set or doing whatever else you plan on doing.
Make your meal together matter, either by having one of you cook something special or, if you fancy a night off, why not treat yourself to an M&S ‘Dine in for £10’ (with wine!) or order a takeaway?
7. Get a babysitter.
If you’ve set a regular date, why not see if you can get a babysitter or ask a friend or relative to look after the kids? If cost is an issue, perhaps you can return the favour for other couples you know who have kids. Maybe you can even alternate your date night with your friend’s date night and take turns babysitting.
8. Don’t wait for date night!
We’ve found spending time together on date night has a knock-on effect in the week, ie, we’ve started as we mean to go on.
That simple act of spending time together builds intimacy in a relationship. You may not have another chunk of time for each other during the week but, hopefully, you’ll be more mindful of each other in the busyness of the week ahead. Why not send a thoughtful text or pop a note in their packed lunch? Why not buy your partner a gift?
9. Plan ahead.
Make the most of your date night by planning ahead. Will you go out or stay in? Do you need to book a babysitter? Will you have a meal out or eat in? Will one of you cook or will you order a takeaway? By planning ahead, not only will you make the most of your evening, you’ll have something to look forward to as well.
10. Take turns choosing what you do on your date night.
Your partner’s idea of the perfect date night (Top Gear, beer and ‘bed’) might be different from yours (any film with Hugh Jackman in, candlelit dinner, bath for two and ‘bed’). Take turns choosing something you can both enjoy, or why not ‘humour’ your Top Gear loving mate and watch it with them because it’s something they enjoy?
Over to you.
Whether you’re parents or not, do you have regular date nights or plan in quality time together? If you have young children, do you have any tips for carving out some quality time together with your partner? What’s your idea of the perfect date night? As always, I’d love to hear from you.