Before you had kids, you never really had to think about “scheduling” time with your spouse, right? You just…did things together. Well, now you do! Because if you don’t schedule that time, just like any other goal, it just won’t happen.
I know it sounds weird to plan a date night, but it really is so critical to the health of your relationship with your spouse. Scheduling date nights allows you to make space to be a couple, which is impossible to do with the kids.
Life before kids vs life after kids
Picture this: You and your spouse roll out of bed around 9:30 and casually make your way to the kitchen. You whip up an amazing breakfast together, complete with every breakfast food you love.
Then you talk and laugh and enjoy each others company. You get ready for your day and then leisurely decide what you want to do, because all of the weekly chores have been done throughout the week. Then you head out and go do whatever you want.
This was your life before.
Now, things are a little different.
You’re jolted awake at 4:30 am by the call of a little person who needs you to wipe their butt. Alternatively, you’re startled awake by the sound of something crashing in the kitchen while your precious child tries to get themselves breakfast.
You tell your spouse its their turn. The only problem is, no one is really sure who the last one to get up pre-daylight with the kid was, so you both do.
After 10 minutes of arguing over what the child wants for breakfast, which is something you do not have or do not have time to make, you settle on whatever is most agreeable to both parties; usually cereal.
Then you argue over clothing, and explain why 40 degrees is not a great day to wear shorts. This is followed by trying to brush teeth on something that is either dancing or screaming. Maybe both. Neither parent is completely dressed yet and the dogs, if you have them, are still crying to be let outside and need to be fed.
Once the kid is ready, mom and dad rush around trying to get themselves together, and feed the pets, while being called away several times to “look at this!” After about an hour and a half, everyone is finally wearing clothes.
It’s 6 am and your day of chaos is only just beginning.
This, my friend. This is why you need to plan a date night. Because in the chaos that controls your life after kids, the only time you will spend together without planning it, is sitting in front of the television at the end of a very long day.
No matter how organized or strategic you are, life with kids just makes it hard to have time alone with your spouse to connect. Between school and daycare schedules, reorganized work schedules, household chores, trying to do fun family things, and trying to have down time, it just doesn’t happen organically anymore.
The solution? Plan a date night!
How date nights help
Date nights help in a lot of ways. They help keep us connected in ways besides just managing a household. Date nights also are an outlet for fun and relaxation. Below is a list of ways in which making the effort to plan a date night is beneficial.
Avoid becoming just logistical partners
Once you have kids, and as they get older, you might notice that a lot of your time, if not most of it, is spent planning. Planning and organizing every facet of your life. Most things do not just casually happen anymore.
For a myriad of reasons, the addition of children creates a lack of time problem that may not have existed before. There are also lots of additional things to keep track of, so it can often feel like we’re cramming a lot more into a lot less.
Because of this, married couples who are parents often become logistical partners. The bulk of our conversations and time is spent figuring things out.
Who’s picking up kid A from school?
What time is kid B’s music lesson?
The dog has to go to the vet next week, kid A has a dentist appointment, and Mom is working late on Tuesday so Dad has to figure out dinner for that night.
This just scratches the surface of the quantity of logistical problems that need talking over, solving, and scheduling.
If you keep up running through life at that pace, you will become nothing more than logistical partners. You need to schedule time to ramp down and talk about something other than organizational household tasks.
Because the tasks never end and you will continue talking about them forever in an endless loop unless you schedule time to stop. Let’s be real here; you’ll still be logistical partners, but you can be MORE than just logistical partners.
Keep a strong connection through mutual conversation
In addition to avoiding falling into the logistical cycle trap, regular date nights will help married couples with kids stay connected, primarily through conversation.
We all know how hard it is to have a conversation about virtually anything without little ears listening in and wanting to be a part of it. I don’t know about you, but it’s pretty difficult for me t feel connect to my spouse when every conversation has to include a small child.
Our conversations that have nothing to do with him, or that are about life in general, usually include about 20 interruptions. It can take 30 minutes to get out a basic paragraph of conversation. I cannot tell you how many times I’ve repeated the start of a sentence over and over until I’ve forgotten what I was even going to say.
When you plan a date night, however, that entire time is open to whatever conversation your heart desires. And you can actually get to the end of the conversation!
You want to talk about gruesome news? Not my thing, but you go for it!
Want to discuss an episode of a show you watched or the most recent movie you saw? No interruptions that make you forget what you saying.
You can talk about whatever you want, without ever having to feel like you need to be entertaining someone. It’s just a conversation. Like you used to have. Where you’re each able to express thoughts and feelings and opinions that these days never make it past all of the other kid nonsense floating around in your brain.
You can actually connect about deeper topics, or heck, even shallow topics that are actually complete thoughts.
Keep having fun together
Planning regular date nights allows you to have fun together. Especially when you do dates like this cheap fall date!
Life with kids is so busy that we adults often forget to have fun. When we do, it’s usually in the form of spending time with friends whom we rarely see anymore, or as a family with our kids.
That’s all well and good, and definitely needed. But we also need to actively make time to have fun together as a couple.
Eventually, the kids will grow up and move out of the house, and we need to ensure that we still have a strong connection. We need to remind ourselves that our partner isn’t just our partner in running a household, paying bills, and raising kids.
Our partner is someone we used to, and should continue to, have fun with!
Keep common interests active
Speaking of the kids moving on, having fun together and reconnecting on date night helps with keeping common interests as well.
When the kids are gone and it’s just the two of you again, you’ll want to make sure that you haven’t grown apart, pursuing only separate interests. If you don’t, your elder years may wind up less enjoyable than you anticipate.
I don’t know about you, but when Zach is on his own, I don’t want to spend all of my free time doing things I enjoy while Andy does completely different things. I want us to be able to enjoy some of the same things. This requires that we pursue common interests now. Date night is the best way to do that!
Key ingredients to plan a date night that rocks
Okay, so you’re on board. You’re ready to plan a date night, but you want to be sure it’s awesome. It really couldn’t be easier. It just takes a little bit of effort and a few key ingredients.
The first key ingredient is really a no brainer. No kids!
Find a babysitter so that you can head out and do something fun. This is much easier if you plan it in advance.
We usually plan our date nights at least a week in advance, sometimes several weeks, in order to secure a babysitter (usually Grandma).
Be sure it’s also a babysitter you completely trust. Date night is no fun if one or both of you is constantly worrying and feeling the need to check in on the kids.
Do something you both enjoy
The second key ingredient is to find something you both enjoy. A fun date night cannot happen if one person has zero interest in the activity.
This isn’t to say that you shouldn’t try something that your partner has interest in that you’re not sure about. If you’re unsure, definitely take a chance on trying something your partner loves. It’s a great way to find new common interests!
But seriously, if the activity is something you have done before or you really just know you will hate, let your spouse know and find something you can mutually agree on. You can’t force someone to enjoy something they don’t like.
Choose an activity with an element of interaction
Okay, here’s one that trips people up. A movie is not a good date night for a married couple!
What? But we love movies and we never get to see non-animated ones anymore!
I hear you, but hear me out. A movie does not allow for any interaction. This means there’s no connection. It might be relaxing and enjoyable, but it’s a great way to relax, not date.
That being said, a movie can be a great part of a date night.
If you have your heart set on seeing a movie, or perhaps it’s something you both really love to do, then by all means do it. However, save it for when you have more time and can do something else either before or after the movie.
Maybe you go to a nice relaxing dinner first so that you can reconnect before relaxing at the theater. Alternatively, if you’re really into movies, see the movie first and then have dinner after or go to a cafe or ice cream shop and discuss the movie.
Basically, just do something together. Sitting in a theater in close proximity does not qualify as “together.” This is virtually no different than sitting on your couch and watching TV. Actually, watching TV at home might be even more engaging because you actually can interact without bothering others.
To reiterate: NO MOVIE DATES.
Additionally, watching TV and ordering take out can make an okay date night from time to time, especially since it is the easiest, cheapest, and most convenient of options. Just don’t make it the regular habit. It’s really easy to get stuck in that rut. Mix it up a little to get the most out of your date nights.
If you need some ideas, here is a post on 20 great ways to celebrate an anniversary that can totally work as date night!
Make the date about you as a couple, not others
Another way in which date night can get squandered is by counting nights out as a couple with friends as date night. This doesn’t count.
While it’s great that you can spend time with friends, the interaction between the two of you is minimized because you’re focusing on others. If you haven’t seen your friends in a couple of months there can be a lot of catching up to do.
While everyone is going over all of the details of what has happened to them in the last few months, you’re not focused on listening to your spouse. You’re focused on listening to everyone else. And rightfully so! It’s a rare opportunity to see others, so you want to make the most of it.
Just don’t mix it with date night. Keep your friend connection and spouse connection time separate. This way, you can get the full benefits of both.
Make sure to plan a date night that’s long enough
Finally, you want to make sure your date night lasts long enough to really be beneficial. You don’t want to be rushing to get through your plans. If you’re rushing, you won’t be relaxed or enjoy it nearly as much.
Shoot for a date night that is at least one hour, preferably two to three hours if possible. We mix it up to not put too much pressure on our babysitters. Sometimes we’ll do dinner and only be out an hour and a half. Other times we’ll do more things and be out for a few hours.
Go plan a date night!
If you weren’t making the effort to plan a date night every now and then, I hope this convinces you to start. When kids are babies, it’s still easy to spend lot of time together. As they get older, and their lives become more chaotic, yours will too.
Avoid losing that connection and becoming a couple that just focuses on the logistics of getting through the days, weeks, and months. Take the time to plan a regular date night. Do it as often as you can and feel comfortable with. The important thing is that you just do it!