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Can’t remember the last time you had a date night? Get solutions for all of your excuses and tons of fun date night ideas for busy parents.
I literally cannot remember the last time my husband and I had an honest-to-goodness date.
Sometimes it feels like we’re co-officers in Orsino Family, LLC rather than two people who like to get naked together. So, I’m on a mission this year to change that. Therefore, I’m publishing a blog post about how essential (and easy!) it is, in order to hold myself accountable.
You didn’t know you were my accountability buddy, did you?
Sure, there are all sorts of reasons why dating your spouse is hard, but we parents have to make the effort to keep our relationships going strong.
According to the Date Night Opportunity Report published by the National Marriage Project at the University of Virginia, weekly date nights led to greater satisfaction in marriage, less incidence of divorce, better communication, and even increased sexual satisfaction.
Mama, I know you’re probably touched out, tired, and annoyed at the mental load you carry. You might feel like the last thing you want to do is head out for a date with that guy you’ve hung out with every day for the last umpteen years. Your marriage is worth making the effort, though, right?
Still got some excuses for why you just can’t manage a date with your partner? I’ve got solutions, along with dozens of date night ideas for parents. Read on.
Excuse #1: Date Nights Can Be Expensive!
Dating was often too expensive even before we had kids. Add on the cost of a babysitter, especially for families that are getting by on one income, and going out for a date can seem impossible once you’re a parent. This problem is a two-part one: we’ve got to save money on the cost of the sitter, and save money on the cost of the date.
Let’s do this.
To save money on child care
- Stay at home: no, it isn’t the most exciting thing, but even your living room, back yard, or bedroom can be a fun date location if you plan it right.
- Take your kids with you: Again, in an ideal world, you’d go out alone, but especially if you have a baby who might sleep in a car seat/stroller or an older child who might hang a bit on his own with a playmate, family dates can work.
- Take advantage of childcare you already have: Do you belong to a gym with childcare? Could you have a day date while your kids are in school? Does your school, neighborhood, or daycare offer a Parents’ Night Out as a perk? Take advantage of any services that are already part of the family budget.
- Get help from relatives or friends: It probably goes without saying, but if you have friends or relatives who wouldn’t mind watching the kids for free or for a bottle of wine, be sure to take advantage.
- Double date and share a sitter: My neighbors and I used to share sitters a lot so the grownups could have a fun night out. We paid the sitter a bonus on her usual hourly rate to watch more children, but it was still a bargain when we divided the cost amongst everyone. The kids LOVED having a play date with their friends, and we got a relatively affordable night out.
- Set up a babysitting swap: Check with the parents of your children’s friends to see if they’d be up for a babysitting swap. They take their kids and yours for one day, you take their kids and yours another time. All the grownups get a date, the kids get two play dates. No money changes hands. Everyone’s happy.
To save money on the cost of the date itself
Dates don’t have to cost a lot. Heck, you can go for a long walk around the block for free. Here are some ideas for ways to make things more affordable.
- Watch deals sites like Groupon and Living Social for specials
- Clip coupons: new restaurants and attractions often publish coupons
- Sign up to receive email updates from your favorite restaurants and attractions: insiders often get perks
- Go out at off times: (try earlier in the day or on a weeknight)
- Go on free admission days: lots of attractions offer these once a month or once a season
- Get memberships and season passes: often the cost of buying a membership to a place you love is just a few dollars more than the cost of going one time
- Check your local college for free or cheap stuff: lectures, musical performances, etc. are often available to members of the community
Excuse # 2: I’m too tired
Yes, it’s hard to find the energy for your spouse when you’ve been up all night trying to find a comfortable sleep position or nursing a crying baby. It’s worth the effort.
You and your sweetie could go together for a caffeine boost at a coffee shop or a sugar rush at a fancy bakery or ice cream parlor. Maybe you could boost your energy with a walk around the block together. You could grab a fancy breakfast or lunch together at your most energized time of day, Whatever you do is worth your trouble.
Excuse #3: I can’t find the time
I do a little trick every time I say, “I don’t have time for [X].” I rephrase it to say, “[X] is not a priority for me right now.” And then I note how I feel.
If I feel shitty, it’s a good indicator that my priorities are out-of-whack. Try it.
“Connecting one-on-one with the person I’ve vowed to spend the rest of my life with is not a priority for me right now.”
Definitely feels yucky for me.
Sure, life gets busy sometimes, but you have 168 hours a week. You have 1440 minutes a day. Your marriage deserves a spot near the top of your list of priorities. If you and your partner are in a busy season of life, go for quality interactions rather than planning to spend tons of time together.
What makes a quality date night according to the people at the Marriage Improvement Project? One that fosters communication, novelty, romantic love, commitment, and relaxation.
If you’re strapped for time, you’ll likely want to forego the movie at the theater around the corner (little novelty or chance to communicate). Instead you might choose an hour-long cooking class, a trip to an escape room, or a quick drink at a new restaurant’s happy hour.
All these activities are relatively quick, but pack a lot of bang for the buck.
RELATED: Time-Saving Tips for Busy Moms
Excuse #4: I can’t find a babysitter that I trust:
Yeah, I know. I interviewed an embarrassing amount of people on Care.com before I left my kid alone with a stranger for the first time. (Oh and he was 14 months old before I even started the interviews.) Turn over every rock when you’re considering caregivers, and think outside the box.
- Do you have any friends or relatives that would sit with your little one for an hour or so—especially if the date were during the day or you brought the child to the sitter’s house?
- Have your friends vetted any sitters in the area already that they could recommend?
- Could you do a babysitting swap with a friend or neighbor that you trust?
- Does your child have a drop-off class or birthday party coming up that could allow for a quick date?
- Could you put on a movie for the kids while you had a little grown-up time together or make a fancy no-kids dinner or dessert after they go to bed?
If you’re a new mom, remember LOADS of activities can be done as a date night with a baby. In addition to all the at home date night ideas, you could go on a date during nap time to anyplace that is outdoors or relatively bustling, and leave your kiddo in the stroller or sling. Driving dates on scenic byways or to drive-in movies are also an option if your kid, like mine, loves to sleep in the carseat.
Excuse #5: I don’t know what to do:
I’ve got tons of ideas for you below, but keep an eye out for dates specific to your area. You’ll want to save date night ideas as you come across them. Download my free Date Night Ideas for Busy Parents Trello Board, and you’ll have all my ideas as well as a place to store your own.
Remember, the activity itself is less important than the fact that you’re with your spouse in the first place—spending time talking together. relaxing, and remembering why you had kids together in the first place.
The Giant List of Date Night Ideas for Parents
At Home Date Night Ideas for Parents
At home dates might not feel like the most exciting thing in the world, but with a little bit of effort, date nights at home can be a great opportunity to connect. Get creative—your date ‘night’ can happen while the kids are asleep, but also while they’re at school or in someone else’s care.
Wondering how you can make a romantic date night at home? The most important thing to remember when you’re doing a date night at home is to go the extra mile to make it special. Turn off your screens (except for maybe the baby monitor). Take time for a bit of self care to primp before your date. (It’s hard to feel sexy if you can’t remember the last time you showered). Basically, elevate the experience wherever you can. You can do better than the usual Netflix and Chill.
- Make a fancy dinner together or have one delivered
- Have a DIY wine and painting night
- Do spa treatments on each other
- Play a board game: My husband and I always enjoy a game of Yahtzee together, but something like this might spice things up…
- Do an at home wine tasting
- Try Date Night In A Box: they’re a subscription service that will send you a ready-to-go date-in-a-box complete with interactive activities, snacks or mixers, chef-curated dinner menus, etc. every month!
- Do a blindfolded dinner: Fancy restaurants are popping up all over the place that will serve your food to you while you’re blindfolded or sitting in the dark. Why not try it with your sweetie?
- Get a couples massage: If you don’t want to massage each other, the company Soothe will send a professional masseuse to your house!
DAYTIME DATE IDEAS FOR PARENTS
If you’re tired of paying for a sitter while the kids are sleeping, why not try a daytime date? The bonus is that you and your husband might both have more energy!
- Head to a coffee shop
- Go out for breakfast
- Do a couples workout at your gym: You can try a class together and share a drink at the smoothie bar afterward. Lots of gyms even provide childcare.
- Head to a bookstore to browse and grab a coffee
- Have a picnic
- Head to a farmers’ market together: Make this date last a little longer by picking up supplies for a meal you can enjoy after the kids go to bed.
- Take a walk, hike, or bike ride together: This can easily be combined with a picnic for a great day.
- Go for a swim in the ocean or river
- Be a tourist in your own city: Where would you take someone who was visiting your city for the first time? Why not go there with your date?
- Take a brewery or winery tour: Often these come with samples. Good times.
- Rent a canoe, paddleboat, kayak, or paddle board: if you love the water, a boat ride together could be really romantic.
- Grab some ice cream
KID-FRIENDLY DATE IDEAS (TO SHARE YOUR DATE NIGHT WITH KIDS OR JUST FEEL LIKE A KID YOURSELF)
Ok, so maybe your babysitter cancelled at the last minute or you just don’t feel like you have anyone you can trust to watch the kids. These dates have the potential for fun with or without the kids—especially if you have older kids that want to walk a few steps behind you anyway…
- Hit the arcade
- Go bowling
- Try mini golf
- Go ice or roller skating
- Head to a theme park
- Go Go-Karting
- See a Movie: Drive-ins are great if you’ve got a baby in a car seat. If you’ve got older kids who can safely be unsupervised for a bit, you might choose movies in separate theaters.
LESS EXPENSIVE DATE IDEAS FOR PARENTS
I already hit on some inexpensive options above, but here are some more cheap ideas.
- Try stargazing
- Take in a local ball game: minor league or high school teams less expensive give you a chance to snuggle on the bleachers for less
- Share a dessert from fancy bakery
- Grab a cocktail: this works especially well as a day date during happy hour
- Try an Art Gallery Walk: many cities open up their art galleries once a month for tours. Some even provide free wine and hors d’ouvres
- Go Window Shopping: Stroll a cute shopping district together, test drive a car you’d never actually purchase, or even visit some open houses for sale. Window shopping costs nothing and is a great chance to chat.
MISCELLANEOUS DATE IDEAS FOR PARENTS
These didn’t easily fit into the categories above.
- Recreate yourself first date: Was your first date a memorable one? Why not do it again?
- Have a staycation: Send the kids to Grandma’s and hide out at home. Utilize one or more of the date ideas above, and no home improvement projects allowed.
- Take a class together: My husband and I have enjoyed cooking, dancing, and art classes together. It’s great to have a buddy while learning something new.
- Take a drive: Is there a scenic byway near your home or a destination just an hour or two away? Car rides are a great chance to talk.
- Go to an escape room: Enjoy solving puzzles? Why not try it together? You can also try this at home escape room.
- Head to the theatre: there are options in all genres and all price ranges. In the summer, you can even enjoy a show under the stars.
- Attend a Music Festival or Concert
- Go to Karaoke together: you’ll have at least one person in your cheering section. And if you’d rather karaoke in the comfort of your own home, these instructions will show you how to set yourself up at home for free using Youtube.
- Try a trivia night: lots of bars and restaurants host these. Enjoy teaming up and putting your heads together. Sporcle is a website/app that has fun trivia quizzes in every category if you’d prefer to have trivia night at home.
- Go dancing: If you don’t know how, lots of places will offer a dance lesson early in the evening before the party officially starts.
- Get a room: Yes, I am suggesting getting a hotel room for a few hours. You can take a little picnic and some champagne, bring along some massage oil and…reconnect.
Guys, let’s pinky swear that we’ll try a few of these date night ideas for parents this year. Yep. I know you’ve got all sorts of reasons why it feels hard sometimes. Me, too. But we owe it to our kids, our partners, and ourselves to make our relationship with our partners AWESOME.
Do It Now:
- Download the Date Night Ideas Trello Board.
- Move your favorite ideas into the “Soon” column.
- Pick one of your “Soon” ideas to add to the calendar right away, and get started making plans!