Making Date Night work for you – yes, YOU!

It’s alright, you can admit it: Once you have kids, sneaking out with your sweetie can seem like more trouble than it’s worth.

This is fun, but it's not a date

Family time is fun, but it’s not a date.

Of course you know you need the break, some time together, a meal that someone else makes and cleans up, and that doesn’t involve a giant stack of napkins and profuse apologies to your server on your way out…

And yet something is stopping you.

Is it finding a sitter? Anxiety that your baby won’t do well? Maybe you’re overwhelmed by the prep work? Just too darn tired?

We’ve all been there. I know I have. But six years into this whole parenting adventure, I know how important Date Nights are for my sanity, our relationship and especially for my kids. Because the reality is, when mama (or papa) needs a break, EVERYONE suffers.

So consider this post your own personal nudge toward a few hours of freedom. Because you really, really need it. Did I mention there will be wine there?

But who will watch the baby?

Not sure where to start in finding a babysitter or nanny? Ask trusted friends for recommendations, meet with their sitters and nannies, and make a short list to draw from. If you meet an awesome nanny at the park, ask if she babysits and get her number! Maybe your little one loves a certain gymnastics coach, daycare worker, or neighbor? Find out if they ever take babysitting jobs!

Worried about the cost of childcare? If you’re like me and have some family in town, it’s time to utilize that home town advantage! Maybe they’ve never offered, and you don’t want to put them out. But the reality is, they’re probably dying for some cuddle time with your baby, but feel weird about asking you. Put some feelers out and see how it goes. Try a preliminary visit with baby where you just pop down to do laundry for an hour (while secretly taking a nap in your guest room), or make a quick run to the grocery store (make a beeline for the coffee shop!). Taking it slowly may give you all the confidence to take the next step.

Grandma was on monitor duty for this July date

Grandma took monitor duty while we sipped Syrah with my sister at her wine bar in July.

No relatives you can lean on? What about your friends? When Quinn was a baby, I had a mama friend with a baby right around the same age. We met up for playdates every week. One day, we decided to try a babysitting swap so we could all get a break. One Saturday afternoon, they came to our house with their six-month-old and my husband and I had fun playing with two busy babies for a few hours (especially the walk when we each wore a baby on our chest and got double-takes from everyone who walked by). We had even more fun two weeks later when we left our baby at their house and headed out for early Thai.

Don’t forget your PEPS group! Some local groups take group dates, where half the group stays at home with the babies while the other half heads out, either together, or as individual couples. Your PEPS group can also be a great source for babysitting swaps.

Think your baby can’t handle it?

Or maybe you’re worried about yourself. That’s Ok. Actually it’s awesome! You are an amazingly dedicated parent! Keep up the good work! But seriously, you need this even more. That kind of attachment is exhausting. You need the occasional recharge in order to keep going.

The thing about this whole parenting thing, is it’s an endurance game. You may be able to power through for months, but at some point you will burn out if you don’t take breaks. Believe me. I’ve been there! You need to come up for air every once in a while. I promise your baby will still need you in one year, two years, 20 years….

But how do you start? Take baby steps. Once you zero in on a trusted friend, relative, neighbor or babysitter, you can start small. Maybe you stay home the first time they come, and get a nap, work out or read a few chapters of a good book. If your baby is crying, try taking a few laps around the block or heading to a local coffee shop for a while. You can make the sitter promise to text if baby doesn’t settle within 10 minutes – or whatever you’re comfortable with.

Even if it doesn’t go well (maybe baby screamed for 15 minutes, or you were a ball of nerves and didn’t enjoy yourself), try it again. Know going in that it may take several times for you to be comfortable enough to leave. Be loving with yourself and your baby and set a date to do it again next month. Keep trying. It WILL get easier!

Worried you’ll fall asleep?

My sister-in-law was in town last month, so we snuck out for half price tiki drinks

My sister-in-law was in town last month, so we snuck out for half price tiki drinks

I personally am not a fan of the dinner date, at least not until my kids get a little older. Between the sleep deprivation, the prep work that goes into having someone else get my kids to bed, and then having to stay up past my bedtime knowing I’ll be up in a few hours nursing and rocking…it’s just too much for right now.

Todd and I have gone on maybe four traditional evening dates in the past six years – and I think I was pregnant at all of them. So I’m not sure they count 🙂 . But we still go on dates pretty regularly! How do we do it?

We are big fans of the Happy Hour date. We love leaving our kids in good spirits, and the more informal happy hour atmosphere – and price-tag – is perfect for parents.

Whenever we have houseguests, we take a Monitor Date. That’s when we get our kids to bed and then leave someone on the couch with our monitors. It’s a low-key babysitting job, and totally stress-free for us too. These are usually quick and spontaneous dates, a nip into a neighborhood pub, a walk around the neighborhood, a stroll along the beach or popping into a record store.

But sometimes, you just want to stay home. I have a friend who pays a babysitter to come early Sunday and take her kids our to the park for a few hours. This lets her and her husband enjoy a lazy morning, a true rarity for parents. It’s also often a very easy (and affordable) time to find childcare, and easier on friends and relatives who may not have energy to take your kids later in the day. Just don’t give into the temptation to get house- or yard-work done – unless that’s your idea of fun.

If all else fails, put a date on the calendar, get the kids to bed early, and slap on some lipgloss and your most flattering yoga pants and enjoy a lazy evening at home. Drink cocktails and play a board game – or maybe a friend has houseguests over who can monitor sit their kids while they join you for a poker night?

No matter what it looks like, make Date Night a priority. Watch the stars, pop the corn, eat the worm, knock over some pins – whatever! Just do it.

October is PEPS Date Night Challenge Month. Todd and I are going on a Happy Hour date this weekend (squeeeeeee!) and making a gratitude donation to PEPS for their important work in our community. Take the PEPS DateNight Challenge in October and if you post on the PEPS Facebook page, you can win one of four fabulous date night prizes! Party on, parents!

About the Author

photo 1-5Shawna Gamache is a former newspaper reporter and co-founder of the local blog Moms Alive. She is mama to Ruby, 4, Quinn, 6, and Nora, 13 months. In her quiet moments, Shawna loves writing, knitting and avoiding eye contact with her laundry pile.

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