“I’m available to babysit so you guys can celebrate a Valentine’s dinner,” my mom had mentioned. Valentine’s, along with other special occasions like anniversaries and work holiday parties, is one of the few opportunities my husband and I spend dressed up and out of the house after sundown. The lack of regular date nights isn’t due to a lack of sitters—we’re surrounded by family and friends who have generously kept watch over our son while we stepped out. With the importance of maintaining a happy marriage post-kids, I wondered:
Why don’t my husband and I have frequent, regular date nights? I came up with a few reasons.
- I like keeping a free calendar instead of scheduling regular date nights.
- Frequent date nights can cost money.
- Ever since our son started sleeping through the night, we’ve had pretty much every evening to ourselves. Sure, we’re at home, but those evenings give us a semblance of life without kids.
- It’s easier to drop our son off with during the day so that we can grab lunch or run an errand. Do “date days” count?
- Staying up late and partying are only fun up to the point when your kid wakes up at 7am the next day.
Whether you go out regularly or once in a while is completely up to you. Some couples may not have a plethora of available babysitters while others rely on couple time to maintain a sense of sanity in parenthood.
That said, I understand and encourage whatever date nights you can manage to make happen. Why?
- You’re reminded of your role as a partner and not just as a parent. When you have a healthy relationship first with yourself and then with your partner, that translates to a happy and healthy relationship with your kids.
- You’ll also remember to have a different kind of fun, perhaps a fun that you had forgotten. When most of your outings include trips to the zoo or even a family dinner at a restaurant—both of them fun—it’s also nice to go out to places that aren’t always suitable for kids. When my husband and I eat at restaurants, I always try to choose the least child-friendly places and wear jewelry that my kid can’t pull on!
Yet with all the importance of me time and date nights, parents shouldn’t place them so high on a pedestal that doing so causes more stress and you feel like you’re not doing enough. Sometimes it’s more difficult to find that alone time than it is to make the arrangements needed to make it possible. Sometimes it’s not affordable. Other times, there’s just no desire or energy to do so (ahem: newborn days, anyone?).
Spending time with your partner should be something you look forward to and enjoy, not something you feel obligated to do because everyone stresses that you have to find that time. No one should do anything that doesn’t reap rewards in the end.
But if there’s a desire to leave the kids home for some adult time, do it. Go all out with an elaborate date, or go simple with a movie and dinner at home. Make your time purposeful.
So… date nights: necessary or over-rated? I would say neither. To imply that a family requires date nights for its survival places too much stress and energy on outings that may not even be feasible or desirable for many couples. But to dismiss its importance would be just as silly, considering how much couples can benefit from having time away from the kids.
Instead, find what works for you and your partner. If you have no available babysitters, your date night could include ordering from your favorite restaurant and eating at your leisure once the kids are in bed. Conversely, don’t force yourself to go out just because every other couple you know seems to be partying while you’re stuck at home.
Perhaps the argument about date nights isn’t whether to make them a priority or not, but to incorporate its benefits into your lives in whichever way you can—without the obligation, and with all the fun of reconnecting.
Do you go on regular date nights or take them as they come? Are date nights necessary or over-rated? How are you able to spend alone time with your partner, if at all?