There’s an ever growing pressure these days to be doing it all – amazingly energetic parents, wonderfully romantic partners, excellently efficient colleagues, fabulously supportive friends…phew! I’m exhausted just reading it and it leaves us little time or room to think about what we actually really need in life.
I got thinking about this one recently when someone asked me “Where do you go on your date night?” and I suddenly paused and felt conscious of the fact that we hadn’t actually had a proper date night in months. “Oh no, does this mean we’re failing somehow?” I thought, and I quickly went rifling through our shared google calendar to see when we could possibly shoe-horn the aforementioned romantic event in. Until I realised that, actually, we had had loads of fun recently, and whilst I do love getting out of the house, surely those times still count as dates right?
Concepts like date-night are a great idea for re-connecting with our partners, and can be a real relationship saver, but nights out of the house are not always practical when you have kids. So, what can we do to make sure we’re getting some much needed “us time” without having to call in a babysitter? Here are some top ideas to boost your relationship and have some quality time together.
Why do dates have to be nights? Quite simply, they don’t. If you are in a position where a breakfast or lunch date would be much more do-able, they why not make yours a date morning. Double it up with a good walk before/afterwards and you’ll have ticked off the exercise box too.
Early bedtime with a film:
If it’s a weekend or the school holidays, why not allow the kids to go to bed a little earlier with a film? I know a lot of parents prefer to keep screens out of bedrooms these days, and I’m a huge advocate of that, but surely once in a while, a film all snuggled in bed is exciting enough to allow you to get some peace and quiet together. Take the pressure off even further by ordering take away, or take it in turns to spoil one another by cooking a special meal.
Home spa night:
If you have an old foot spa knocking about in the garage, it’s time to dust it off! Get the calm music on, the peaceful scented candle lit and test your massage skills.
A little while ago we tried this and it was really fun and surprisingly relaxing. Our older ones were away and we managed to settle the baby down, shut the curtains, light some candles and try some home treatments. We both felt so much calmer afterwards, and because we left our phones out of the room, we actually felt like we had spent some proper, focussed time together. There were also lots of giggles too as we tested out pedicures and back massages, but surely that makes it all the more fun and a huge change from the daily routine monotony.
Dine in for 2 deals:
Most supermarkets offer these dine-in deals now and they’re usually pretty tasty and good value. If you only have a couple of quiet hours together in the evening, you may not want to spend it cooking. Instead, put the kids to bed, turn off your phones and make an it an occasion by adding a lovely bottle of wine in (often included as part of the deal).
If cooking IS your thing, why not make your date night, new recipe night? Who says date nights always have to be quiet, dimly-lit and romantic? Grab that recipe you’ve always wanted to try (make sure you order the ingredients in) and once you’ve got everyone settled, put on some uplifting tunes, roll up your sleeves and get to work together. Make sure you agree on who is Head Chef or it could end up being a bit more fiery than you imagined!
Family friendly meal out:
This can be tricky, but when you find the right place it is magical! What we’re after here is a family friendly cafe-restaurant, that isn’t full of kids running around and soft play noise in the corner, but more of a middle ground – caters enough for children that they don’t get fed up or bored, but isn’t so geared towards kids that the adults want to run for the hills.
There are lots of examples of these community centred, food-led cafes popping up. In Rugby we have a great one called ‘Bacco Lounge’ and just down the road behind Ryton Organic Gardens, is ‘The Stock Pot’ which is also perfect – a lovely place to be, but also relaxed enough to bring the whole family, with games, colouring, toys and decent food.
For us, going out to eat together can be a sanity saver. At the weekend, after a busy morning of hobbies and work, we will have a ‘family date’ where we pack everything we might need, head out and choose somewhere we can relax and take our time. We play games, read the paper (yes, I have actually been able to finish an article whilst out in such establishments!), eat what we fancy and generally unravel after the week’s stresses.
Why not pack up and head out for a picnic? It’s cheap, scores high in the romance stakes and doesn’t require a babysitter. If the weather is dry and you have lost your momentum with date ideas, there’s nothing more romantic than driving to the countryside and setting up a blanket to while away the hours. If you have the kids with you, try to choose somewhere with a park or take some outdoor games to keep them busy (you may get a few minutes to yourselves).
How about finishing work a little early and having a date afternoon? If you have young children in childcare or school aged children in after-school clubs; why not book a half day off and take the afternoon as time out together? You can collect the kids later on after a refreshingly chilled afternoon, that not only re-connects you with your partner, but breaks the week up and helps you to be a calmer parent too. Win win!
Childcare sharing is caring:
If you’ve got local friends with kids, who also struggle to with time to themselves, how about a childcare swap? Hear me out here… Yes, this does mean that for a day or an evening you end up with a house full of not only yours, but extra children too (could be pretty hellish, but with some planning/scheduled entertainment it would be ok surely?)
Once you’ve done your part, it’s then time for the others to return the favour. And the best part? You get to hand the kids over, guilt-free, because you’re all in it together!
Book in advance:
One certain change from child-free life to parenthood, is that spontaneity usually packs its bags and flies off into the sunset without so much as looking back to wave. So, instead of wallowing in this piteous situation, ask ahead – book babysitters, grand-parents, aunts or whoever is up for the challenge. Get dates in the diary in advanced and look forward to those little nuggets of golden time throughout the year.
In the past six months, we’ve done exactly this. We planned ahead, put some cash aside and booked some treats in. At first it seemed like the dates were never going to arrive, but it was so good to have the shining light of “re-charge” time at the end of the tunnel. It has also allowed us to be grown-ups together again – we’ve been walking, had a spa stay and a city break – all of which would’ve been impossible had we not planned way ahead and secured dates with willing relatives.
I often speak to parents who have no relatives nearby and so are unable to gain any grandparent/family support, which leaves them with few choices. One solution to this could be to arrange a stay with relatives as usual, but discuss the option of leaving the kids with them for a day, to allow you some ‘date time’. If it works out well, you may be able to leave them overnight and take in a mini-break at a nearby hotel next time, so it is definitely worth asking.