With all the fun of scrubbing dried pumpkin off walls and wrangling back-arching toddlers in car seats, the nature of parenting doesn’t exactly provide the ambience required to keep the spark in your marriage burning. It’s generally a role clouded by mess and mayhem and a lot of flare ups. Then there’s toilet training, night feeds, bedwetting. Let’s face it, living in a house overrun by little people and their routines can easily lead to the death of time alone.
In fact, kids can be such an effective antidote for romance it’s a miracle any of us have a second child. The very idea of both parents leaving the house – at the same time – without a child clinging for dear life or a snot trail on your shoulder, can feel something between daunting and impossible. What do you mean I can’t wear leggings and ballet flats?
Having several little humans can worsen the odds. Even those who have easily transferable children and manage a night out, often spend it worrying about the kids, feeling pressured to have fun. Or, dreading the three-am feed, skip dessert and head home early, thinking was it worth the hassle?
But spending time with your partner out of parent mode is just as important as fostering the relationship you have with your kids. Don’t forget, when the kids leave home, you’ll be stuck with each other. So, what are some practical ‘date night’ options for busy parents who want to keep the spark alive?
- Access Cheap Babysitting. For those without the luxury of grandparents close by, consider forming a babysitter’s club with school parents, mother’s group friends, or family members to swap ‘credits’ for child minding, guilt free (we’ll mind yours if you mind ours!). Enjoy live music, theatre, or five-star dining – anything you’d never pull off with kids in tow. Mix it up a little and try a cooking or massage class.
- Day Drinking. Young kids are often up with the sun – which can be disastrous after a night out. So, consider the benefits of day-dates – matinee movies, Sunday sessions in a beer garden, or a winery lunch tour. The benefit of daytime dates is that you don’t sacrifice well needed sleep nor do you have to dread the morning after. And don’t berate yourself for not partying ‘till dawn. What constitutes ‘fun’ is allowed to change as you and your priorities do.
- Get back to nature. Nothing de-stresses like a picnic in a rainforest, a hike up a hillside, or swim in the ocean. Escape the routine by getting as far away from your usual habitat as you can, and even a day away can feel like a holiday.
And if leaving the house isn’t an option, schedule a ‘date-night-in’ and spend it:
- Reminiscing. It’s hard to savour the precious moments your cherubs can bring when you’re fed up with the daily grind. Dust off your photo albums (if you’re organised enough to print them), or if you’re tech savvy, figure out those extra buttons on your smart tv and enjoy a modern-day slide show streamed from your phone. Get sentimental about the special moments you’ve shared. Feel proud of the family you’ve worked hard to create.
- Indoor picnicking. There’s a plethora of food delivery options available in most big cities now. As a viable alternative to the logistics of leaving the house, scatter a rug with pillows in the living room, find the non-plastic plates and eat by candlelight together (with the screens turned off and your favourite music in the background).
- Stargazing. If you’ve got a trampoline, grab the blanket and a bottle of red, and gaze up at the stars to get perspective on life and not sweating the small stuff.
- Late night spa retreat. Anyone say massage? Convert your bedroom into a night-spa with relaxing music, oils and candles and work away the tension of having to be the grown-ups 24/7.
Even if your ‘alone time’ is just a stolen hour laughing together over bad tv between wrangling kids and falling asleep yourself, or a fifteen-minute miracle drive when they all flake out in the back seat, savour the uninterrupted time you have in couple mode – ‘date’ or no ‘date’.
Strong marriages don’t happen by accident. It doesn’t have to be expensive or adventurous, just regular and intentional. You spend much of your day prioritising your children. Make time together a priority, too. You’ll be surprised how more attractive your partner appears when seen from a different perspective – as a person, not a co-parent.