A quick search about relationships lets you know how important regular date nights are for a couple. Going to dinner together, a movie or a romantic getaway will do wonders for your marriage.
But there’s a catch: Who is going to watch the kids?
The panic of having to find — and pay for — a babysitter can make the idea of a weekly date night laughable. But the New York Times lets us in on a little secret: It’s not the date itself, but the quality time together that matters. Research shows that spending time with your spouse will help rekindle that spark, build up your relationship, and create deeper connections with each other … especially if you are doing something a little bit out of the ordinary. The goal of date night “is to keep injecting novelty into the relationship;” something you can totally do without paying for a babysitter.
One Fish, Two Fish
Make reading a bedtime story something you do with your spouse, not just your kids. After Dr. Seuss is read and the kids are in bed, light a candle or two and snuggle up together with a book you both want to read. Take turns reading a page or two out loud, but be sure you kiss a little bit before you trade off (it’s crucial to the plot).
Barnes & Noble babysitting
Your kids love a trip to the library or the bookstore, so why not make running errands into a date? Many bookstores offer a children’s hour, where puppets, crafts and storytelling captivate kids. This is essentially free babysitting. You’ll still be in the store, but you can steal away to the store’s café with your love and enjoy some uninterrupted time, sipping drinks and asking all those “first date” questions you haven’t used in years … or ask some questions with a twist.
While scheduling a Zumba class together would be great, sometimes that just isn’t an option; but you can still use exercise to spend quality time with your spouse. Take the kids on a bike ride, and linger behind with your partner for some one-on-one chatting (while you keep an eye on the kids). Or go for a run together and pack up the kids in a stroller. Don’t forget, Youtube has some awesome workout videos (for free!) you can stream in any room, making it easy to fit in some couple’s cardio while the kids are upstairs playing.
Soupe du jour
Not every night can be a romantic dinner for two, but you can still make weekday dinner dates count as a date night. Print out some coloring pages for the kids (just like at a restaurant!) and let them color while you and your partner spend some time prepping. Set up a kid’s table where they can color and eat, while you and your spouse can have time to dine in the room next door. When planning your menu, don’t be afraid to experiment a little bit in the kitchen — try a deceptively simple but elegant roasted chicken that would be great for kids (and grown-ups).
If ballet and piano lessons are eating up your Saturday mornings, let that work in your favor. Coordinate for lessons to overlap and arrange a carpool occasionally, so you and your spouse can have some alone time in the house. Or take advantage of what your kids are doing on Saturday. Postpone the projects and deadlines so both you and your spouse can attend your son’s tennis lesson. Or, play along! Use the neighboring courts to play a round of tennis until he finishes. You can also pack up a picnic to munch on while you watch him play.
Of course, when Gramma and Papa volunteer to take the kiddos for a weekend, by all means, take advantage of it. But in the mean time, get a little creative with the time that you have, and enjoy your creative date nights!