It was something we had neglected the two years before after we'd had our first child. We never ever went out. Mostly due to lack of money, but also due to lack of energy or time or making it a priority. We forgot we were a couple, too. We would spend time together at home watching TV or talking after dinner, but it wasn't enough. We were bickering over silly things. We didn't ever have enough time to talk about our work days or things we were planning or even just house projects. It seemed there was always something else we had to do, talk about, etc. So I made it my goal to get us out of the house once a month, around the 17th, which is our anniversary so I thought it would help me remember to do it every month.
We still had a lack of money this past year so we relied on gift cards we'd received from Christmas to save thorughout the year for our dates. Some of our dates out were pretty lame compared to real dates pre-kids (one was a 9 a.m. morning bagel date out to see a new pre-school for our son). Some of these dates were sort of planned for us (we went in July to a wedding with friends, minus the kids). Once we had to do a date night IN because our sitters weren't able to make it ... so we just got some takeout food, rented a movie, and played a game. So sure they weren't all super exciting, but nevertheless they all counted as getting out of the house, just the two of us, no kids around to distract us.
I am happy to say we succeeded with this resolution and went out every month for the whole year last year - including being 9 months pregnant and the month we had a newborn! We have the same goal again this year to go out once a month. I wish it were more often but with two kids under the age of 3 and both of us working full-time jobs plus side jobs and a huge family around us, there isn't a lot of time to get out just us more than once a month. In between date nights we make it a priority to connect every day, every weekend, by watching TV or making something cool for dessert together. It's the little things that count.
We need to remember we aren't just parents...
and that it's OK to be exhausted and still need to get out of the house!
Date nights out helped us to:
-have fun together
-be silly, joke, flirt
-compliment each other (I'd always try to actually do my hair and makeup, put on something nice instead of the sweatpants I wear all weekend, and he'd look handsome in a button-up shirt some nights, it was fun to pretend we were young again!)
-Talk about bills, plans for the house or future, car repairs that are needed, plan for Christmas or birthdays, etc. or NOT talk about those things - whatever we needed at the time.
-update each other about stories from work, our friends' Facebook posts, or family stuff we hadn't had 5 seconds to talk about at home with kids running around
-talk about our kids - how cool they are growing up to be or issues we think we should address and how to stay on the same page doing those together
-plan future date nights or shows we want to watch at home or meals we should try, etc.
-TALK without being interrupted! It's a beautiful thing!
-reminisce about the past, all those "remember when" moments
It really does help you de-stress, focus, and remember how fun you two used to be before kids and spit-up and diapers and chores came along. It's OK to want that back every now and then. You met and fell in love first, then had babies. It happened in that order for a reason. So remind yourself that it's important to nourish your relationship, too.
(this is me squeezing my 2-month-old littleest baby after I got home after the first date night out away from her! And below is me and my hubby all happy after date night out!)
Here are a few date night ideas that are cheap, easy and fun:
1. Take a walk.
2. Take a drive to look at pretty houses or Christmas lights or snow, grab some hot chocolate or coffee along the way.
3. Go out for ice cream.
4. Go to the movies.
5. Go bowling.
6. Go shopping.
7. Walk around Home Depot or Lowe's and pick out house projects to do together.
8. Go out to eat.
9. Have a couples' night out with friends, play board games.
10. Have a picnic outside at the beach, lake, etc. when it's nice out.
11. Go ride go karts or the ferris wheel in the summer, or play at an arcade at the mall in the cold weather.
12. Go to the food court in the Mall, get something cheap to eat, and make up stories about the people you see walk by.
13. Go test drive a car, just because, not to really buy it. Pretend you are these ritzy people with super big jobs and no kids for a night!
14. Drive to LL Bean and walk around and talk about the cool camping trips or fishing trips you could take.
15. Rent a canoe or kayak in the summer.
16. Clean up the yard together while someone else entertains your kids. It's easier and more fun to do yard work, gardening, etc. while you are side by side and not yelling to find a child or two.
17. Cook something together while someone takes your kids out.
Some tips for making sure you make YOU TWO a priority:
1. Remind yourself often why it's important to go out with your partner. You need to remember why you're in this thing together. You started by falling in love, being a couple who talked and spent time together. Don't lose sight of that or else you'll be miserable for a few years while the kids are growing up. I'm not going to lie, it IS effort to plan date nights out when you have kids, it's definitely not as easy as it was when you were single together, BUT you need to remind yourself it's WORTH it to get out. We always feel refreshed, relaxed, and happier together when we get out even for an hour.
2. Schedule it in. Yes, that sounds not as fun as impromptu date nights you used to have, but we all know weeks go by without us realizing it, so putting it on the calendar is important. I remember to do it around our anniversary week, so maybe that would work for you.
3. Have a good list of babysitters you trust and can call any time. We have a zillion siblings and parents of our own who are always up for watching our kids. Rotate through them to give them all a chance and a break!
4. Take turns planning date night. This makes it more fun if you and your partner alternate being in charge of planning where you go, who is watching the kids, etc.
5. Lower the expectations. It doesn't have to be a fancy dinner out where you dress up. Going out in sweatshirt and jeans and just grabbing a burger or a milkshake somewhere counts as date night out. It could be for just one hour if that's the only time you have and can get a sitter for. It can be in the morning, or it can be during nap time if that's easier for you to leave your kids while they are sleeping. Do what works to make it happen, not what you recall date nights being pre-babies.
6.Have a plan. Have a routine for getting out of the house and leaving your kids that's easy and that works for you. It's stressful sometimes, I admit, to prepare your house and kids and routine for a sitter to take over so you can get out. It adds a whole new dimension to date night that wasn't there pre-kids. But... it is' what it is. So be it and work around it by being organized, planning ahead. We try to go out when our kids are asleep already or after we feed them dinner so the sitter only has to put them to bed. Write out instructions if the sitter is new, make it easy.
Kids are important, but don't let them get between you forever.
Have fun with your partner. It'll be time, energy and planning well spent when you laugh a little together.
This is one New Year's Resolution you will WANT to keep :)