When my kids were babies, they were stage five clingers. They wanted me or my husband, and only me or my husband. Add a tight budget to the mix, and date night in general was a stressful, anxiety inducing event. But we still wanted date nights, so we found a workaround: home date nights. We’d get the kids settled, whether in bed for babies or with food and entertainment for older ones, then set up our own dinner separately.
Here’s how we made it work when we couldn’t have real date nights, which ended up being great practice for this whole living through a global pandemic thing.
Our dates are generally made up of two components: a meal and entertainment. Below I’ll share some great options for both. Home date nights can be as inexpensive or expensive as you wish, so read on for what to do with the kids while you’re on your home date, and some budget and splurge worthy options.
What to do with the kids?!
For babies, putting them to bed and then proceeding with the date, baby monitor nearby, was our strategy. When they got older, we’d set up snacks and a movie, set up the baby monitor in the living room with them, then set up our own date in the adjoining room. We still had a few interruptions, but we’re fortunate that a movie can captivate our kids and give us a bit of a break. Or you can just make bedtime a bit earlier, and then have your whole date after they’re tucked in. If you have an older child, you can always enlist them as the babysitter, letting them get some practice under their belt, and pay them or give them a reward. Since we give our kids snacks and a movie, it’s a special treat for them as well as for us!
We often have to pause our date to put the kids to bed, so we usually start with dinner, pause for bedtime, then resume at entertainment.
Make it Special
While it’s a date at home, it’s still a date. So if you’re looking for an excuse to get dressed up, here it is! Wear that pretty dress you miss, put on the fancy mascara you’ve been saving, break out that lipstick. Get dressed up as if you were going out and ask your partner to do the same.
Make a special space for your date. Whether it’s a card table with a tablecloth in the kitchen, or you clean off the bistro table from the porch and tuck it in your bedroom, try and find a place to enjoy your meal with your spouse where you can close the door (a barrier, like a door, is a great reminder for our kids that we’re on a date and they should already have everything they need; plus we have the baby monitor, so we know if they actually need us!). Set the table with your favorite dishes, chill your favorite drink, and prepare to enjoy a nice night.
Let’s be honest: another date night plus is getting a break. Ordering takeout or delivery helps you enjoy the date, especially if you’re the main one setting everything up. If dining out isn’t in the budget, you can buy a pre-made or frozen grocery meal to help break up the cooking cycle or just make it in advance and heat it up on date night. Or choose a special recipe to make together. Leave the dishes for tomorrow and let future you take care of present you.
What can you do, other than a meal, for date night? As someone who has now celebrated birthdays and an anniversary during pandemic days, I can say there are actually quite a few options.
Here are some of our top choices:
Movie: You can go as big or small as you like with this. You can watch a movie you already have access to on your TV or you can get a projector and a white sheet and make a mini-home theater in your home. You could rent or buy a movie to watch at home. Bonus: you won’t miss anything when you have to make a bathroom run or if the baby monitor interrupts.
Games: Whether you buy a new board game, play one you already have, or learn a new card game together, playing a game together is a fun way to bond and spend time together.
Date night subscription boxes: Another KM contributor put the hard work in to test these date night subscription boxes, so you can reap the rewards! You can read her reviews here, here, and here. There are loads of options out there, from mystery solving to craft brewing — the choices are endless.
Craft: Wait, stop! Don’t discount this one. You can make something together. Whether it’s working on a project for your home or just being silly together, creating together is really fun. Check out this Pinterest board for a variety of fun date night craft activities. One of my favorites is to make a bucket list or fill a jar with ideas of activities you’d like to do once the world is a bit more normal.
When in doubt, go the rom-com route: In every romantic comedy’s falling in love montage, the couples do all these activities. So let’s re-enact them, but at home! You can stargaze, whether you have a telescope or not. It’s the cozying up with blankets and snuggling outside to look at the stars that’s the romantic part, and sometimes talking is easier in the dark, under a blanket of stars. Read each other your favorite lines from books or poetry. Do that ‘36 questions to fall in love‘ thing from psychologist Arthur Aron. Make a signature drink together. Slow dance in low lighting. Take a bubble bath together. Do a puzzle. Make fondue. Play a game but make it *spicy*. Have a tickle fight. Have a mini-photo shoot. Have an at-home tasting, wine or any item you enjoy (chocolate, brews, coffee, juices). If Meg Ryan or Kate Hudson has done it in a movie, it counts.
Tip: If you want to celebrate Valentine’s Day as a family, try these delicious ideas Julia shared last week! After dinner, you and your partner can dive into one of the entertainment options above!