How To Create a Date Night With Your Partner While the Kids Are Asleep

published Apr 13, 2022
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The other night, I had a glass of wine with a girlfriend on her porch after our kids went to bed. (This is one of my favorite pandemic traditions that I intend to keep up!) Among the topics of the evening, we talked about how important it was to still make time for connection with our partners at every stage — from those newborn days when you can barely keep your eyes open to the overscheduled school years.

We agreed that date nights are important, but also that they don’t have to look like they did pre-kids. She and her partner have an immune-compromised child, and because of that, they are some of the last of my friends to reenter life as we knew it. For two years, they haven’t hired a sitter or gone out to eat at a restaurant. But they have perfected their own date-night ritual, and it’s helped them weather this crazy time. So naturally I grilled her (and asked other friends, too) how to create a date night while the kids are asleep.

Make an Appointment

When my husband and I were first dating, it was a thrill to meet up on a Tuesday just to sit side-by-side, legs touching, watching whatever series was on television. This was back before on-demand, when seeing a show together actually required a little planning. But there’s also something to it: any activity you do together, whether it’s watching a show, sharing a meal, or just listening to music, becomes more sacred when it’s officially on the calendar. 

Get the Kids Down Early

We’re tempted to let our girls stay up late, especially on the weekends, but we’re always so busy that they’re exhausted by bedtime anyway. My friend Abi finds that the best date nights actually start with her daughter’s dinner: she feeds her a half hour early, then gets her to bed a little early, too, to squeeze out time for their date.

Ditch the Phone

There’s nothing intimate about trying to talk to someone who’s scrolling. Agree to put your phone on “Do Not Disturb” and leave it in another room for the duration of your date, and resist the urge to reach for it when you’re trying to remember some arcane fact. It really can wait!

Put a Timer on Logistics

It’s scarily easy to spend hours just talking about grocery lists, laundry, and who’s driving the kids where this week. Those conversations are important, but try to limit them on date night! My friend, Julie, whose kids are now grown, says she would always set aside the first 30 minutes of any date during their peak parenting years for “calendaring” — but then they would force each other to stop talking logistics and actually have a conversation about something deeper.

Add Something Special

For Abi, it’s about picking up takeout from a really good restaurant, instead of the fallback it’s-Friday-and-I-don’t-want-to-cook spot. My sister and her husband like to cook, so making the meal becomes part of the evening, but they supplement it with new cocktails through a Shaker & Spoon subscription box. I’m personally a fan of settling a table with candles and our wedding china, just to make the evening feel more intentional. (Sometimes I even wear something cute.)

Add an Activity 

My friends Kelli and Eric have a sweet date-night tradition: “One person picks a record and we listen to the whole side. Then the other person does the same. The musical road we travel is calming and energizing at the same time. It reminds us of shows we’ve seen, trips we’ve taken, and milestones we’ve reached together. We almost always end up in a dance party together, just the two of us. And most of the time we stay up way too late. But, every time — every single time — we wake up with a smile.” 

If records aren’t your thing, figure out what is: Watching travel documentaries, or thrillers? Working with (or against) each other on a puzzle, cards, or old-school board game? Find something you both love and make it part of the evening.

Consider a Double Date

As we’ve all become comfortable with video meetings, my husband and I have had a few “nights in” with another couple on the other side of the computer screen. I love having one of these every once in a while because the other couple often asks questions that we don’t think about, whether it’s about work or what the kids are doing, and we get to share stories for a new audience, too. Nice to mix it up!

… and Repeat!

No matter what you do on your date night in, my biggest takeaway from my survey of friends is that we all feel like prioritizing this time is good for our relationships — and that we should do it more often. It’s so easy to just sit down and stare at our phones after the kids go to bed, but with just a little bit of effort, we can turn even an hour or two into meaningful time with our partners.