My husband and I are not so good at dating. Even when we were “dating,” I’m not sure we were good at it. We’re not ones to linger over a meal or have the patience to sit through a movie and we’re both pretty budget-conscious, so spending a lot of money on an evening out is a little emotionally stressful because if we’re spending money, we want it to count.
And now that we have children, dating means we also need to 1) pay for a babysitter or 2) ask family for a childcare favor. So, if we’re going to be spending money and asking other people to take care of our kids for us, and since “dating” isn’t exactly something we place a high value on, we’d rather save our money and go away for a weekend once in awhile than go on “dates” on a regular basis.
However, we still need to date.
And so, allow me to present to you a great night-out alternative for the budget restricted, the intentionally frugal, the busy parents, or just the happy homebodies: the stay-at-home date night.
However, be cautioned. Stay-at-home dates are easily sidelined, delayed, edged out, and not prioritized. So here are my top tips for making that stay-at-home date as good as a “real” date.
Plan it. Make the date intentional. Put it on the calendar in advance, talk about what you are going to do, and take some time and energy to intentionally plan your date This builds anticipation and makes you feel like this is something different and special. You might not be going anywhere, but your spouse is still worth the effort that goes into planning. There’s something to be said for “winging it,” but this isn’t the time for that. That’s called a “regular Saturday night.” In my house, at least.
Plan for the kids. If you have kids that go to bed around 7, this is pretty easy. Date night starts after bedtime. If your kids are a little older, pop in a movie, make a frozen pizza, and set them up in a back bedroom or playroom somewhere. Explain that mommy and daddy are having a date night and they should only come get you if it’s really important. The first time you do this it might not go incredibly smoothly, but with regularity they’ll get it. Give yourself grace and let go of the guilt of nutrition, TV time (let alone eating in front of the TV), and excluding your child. You have plenty of time to focus on those other things. But in the meantime, showing your kid(s) that your marriage is your priority is the healthiest thing you could do for them.
Splurge a little. Whether it’s splurging on your calories for a special meal, splurging on your budget for some take-out, or splurging on some flowers to dress up your dining room table, do something different to make your date special.
Make it yours. Dates don’t have to include dinner. (But they always will in my house.) Do whatever you need to do to feel like this is your special time together to reconnect. Watch a movie (sitting on the same couch and not browsing the internet on your phone), play board games, look through photo albums from before you had kids (you know, when you actually had time to make photo albums), talk, or dream about the future. And if you’re not good with conversation, try a fun conversation starter!
Give yourself grace. This could be the hardest part, but let go of any work that remains undone in your home. Don’t cancel because you didn’t get the chores done, your house isn’t spotless, or you’d rather use the time another way. A priority is a priority – and once you start your date, you’ll be glad you didn’t cancel.