If you're a parent, you know that scheduling a date night isn't always easy. Here's 10 ideas for making date night happen at home.
Medically reviewed by Samantha Mann
Becoming a parent can be one of the most exciting undertakings of one's life, full of emotional milestones and memories and everything in between. You likely know that it's also important to nurture the other relationships in your life, whether that's with a spouse or partner or even friends. However, scheduling "adult" time isn't always easy, and similarly, it's no simple feat to get a date night on the calendar.
One way to circumvent this problem is to schedule at-home date nights. We spoke with marriage and family therapists to get the skinny on why these are so important for parents, how best to schedule and structure at-home date nights, plus 10 smart and easy ideas you can try today.
Why Date Nights Are Important for Parents
In short, parents are people, too! “Without setting intentional boundaries, children can potentially take up virtually all the space in your life—consuming your time, energy, and also your identity,” says marriage and family therapist Lisa Marie Bobby, PhD, LMFT, LP, BCC, the founder and CEO of Growing Self Counseling & Coaching. “You may become so mentally and emotionally fused with your kid's needs, and your identity as a parent, that there could be zero left over for anything else including your partner, your friends, and yourself.”
Not only does date night give you a chance to be someone besides a parent, but it offers you an opportunity (if you wish) to be a sexual adult. Sexual intimacy, coupled with emotional intimacy, can be critical for many people when it comes to maintaining a strong bond. “This is an important component of healthy relationships and also, for many people, an essential part of themselves,” Dr. Bobby says.
Related: The Sex Life of New Parents
The Perks of At-Home Date Nights for Parents
If you have young children, you know that even the simplest outing can turn into a logistical nightmare, and attempting to plan date nights outside the house is no exception. That’s just one of the reasons that having date night at home can be a great solution. “At-home date nights provide opportunity for meaningful and intentional connection without added stress of finances and coordination of child care,” says Katie Steele, MA, LMFT, a licensed marriage and family therapist in El Dorado Hills, CA. “There is also the comfort of our environment at home that can help assist with being vulnerable.”
Things to Consider When Planning an At-Home Date Night
It's important to keep in mind that your at-home date night is going to look different from a night on the town. If you have children under 8 years old, or thereabouts, you’ll likely need to wait until after they’ve gone to sleep, or or set aside time during the day when they’re not around. If your kids are older and able to be left on their own, you may be able to explain that you and your parter are going to spend time together, and suggest something for them to do independently. But if your children are in the house during your at-home date night, you should be prepared for the possibility that you might be interrupted.
However, it is beneficial for kids to see their parents making time for one another. And remember: It’s the quality of the time that matters, not the extravagance of the activity. “Having a good 'date' isn't about what you do, it's about the quality of the connection,” Dr. Bobby adds. “Having a conversation about important things counts, as does going to bed early together before you're both wiped out.”
To that end, below are 10 easy and creative ideas for at-home date nights.
Have Brunch or Lunch
With many more people working from home or taking advantage of flexible work schedules, this approach is more feasible than ever. Consider ordering takeout or cooking a meal together during the day. “One of the best options I've found for many parents of young children is to have at-home dates while their kids are in school or otherwise occupied out of the house,” says Dr. Bobby. “Meet at home for lunch, have late start days together, or take a midday break to go on a walk, have a conversation, and hang out.”
Build or Make Something
Who doesn’t have an accent wall they’ve been meaning to paint or a shelf or photo they’ve been meaning to hang? At-home date night can do double duty: Spend time with your partner and check something off your list!
Try a Date Night Swap
If you are friendly with other local couples, this could be a great choice for you. “Develop relationships with other couples or families who also want some alone time and get into a 'swapping routine' where you trade off hosting each other's kids for an afternoon or evening,” suggests Dr. Bobby. “This is a much more affordable alternative than having a sitter, plus you can spend time together in the privacy of your own home.” Inexpensive and private? This strategy ticks all the boxes.
Design a Theme Night
Travel wherever you want from the comfort of your own home! “Say you pick Italian night, which would be all things Italy,” says Steele. “Get the music to match the vibe. Pick a meal to prepare together. Maybe watch a movie from that country.”
Make a Plan to Plan
For the couple who loves to travel, design a date night around planning your next adventure. Select some food or drinks to match the mood, then park in front of a computer and start designing an itinerary.
If you don’t want to spend the time and energy cooking a new recipe or playing a game you’re not sure you’ll like, Steele suggests putting together a “favorites night” instead for guaranteed enjoyment. Eat your favorite food, listen to your favorite music, or watch a favorite movie or tv show. It’s effortless and low stress. Plus, you’ll be with your favorite person!
“If weather permits, a backyard picnic is always fun and removes you a bit from the regular setting of your dining or living room,” says Steele. This even works if you have babies or toddlers, as your patio or deck will likely be in range of your baby monitor but far enough away that you could put on some music or make some noise, if you’d like.
Go for Game Night
Playing a game, whether it’s a board game, card game, video game, or even a game designed for couples, is a great way to have fun together while also interacting and actively working on your connection.
Have a Wine or Beer Tasting
If you can’t make it to a winery or brewery, pick up a few bottles of wine or a few different types of beer and put together flights to sip and enjoy.
For couples who feel consumed by their parenting duties, reconnecting to their relationship and each other can be as easy as breaking out the photo albums or watching old videos.
What About Single Parents?
It can be tricky to have at-home date nights when you’re dating as a single parent. If your children will be in the house during the date night, ask yourself whether or not you'd want your kids to meet this person that you're dating. If the answer is no, consider moving your date out of the house until you're comfortable with that hypothetical, in order to avoid any potential awkwardness or stress.
But if things do become serious and you’re ready for a new partner to become more involved with your family, the world of at-home date nights opens up. “Take it slow,” advises Steele. “Pace yourself and allow for the connection with the person you are dating to grow and become secure.”
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