Date nights. If the movies are anything to go by, they’re a lovely idea. Long dinners with a few glasses of wine. A stroll up to the cinema to catch the latest release. A solid night’s sleep and a leisurely lie-in before you pick up the kids, as late as you possibly can.
But most of the time, the reality is a lot different. If you’re lucky enough to even find a babysitter (is there some kind of secret club they go to most nights, which we don’t know about?), the chances are they’ll only be willing to stay for a couple of hours, and it may cost you more than the cost of your drinks to keep them sweet while you’re gone. And, if you just want to pop out for a couple of drinks, trying to arrange a full-on sleepover just may not be possible.
So that means, you may find you end up staying in most of the time. If so, there are still things you can do to either re-connect, or stay connected to your partner.
Eat dinner together – at the table
If neither of you feel like cooking, pick up the phone to your local takeaway or grab a supermarket Dine in for Two meal. These are great value for money, there’s plenty of food for both of you, and you get a decent bottle of wine. Win.
But whatever you end up eating, do it at the table.
Dust off the old candles, turn off the TV, put on some music (streaming from sites like Spotify is great for finding those tunes from your younger years that you never thought you’d hear again). Take the time to chat whilst you eat. It’s amazing all the things you find you’ve not has chance to tell each other. Some parents make a rule not to talk about the children too. Just the two of you. It may take some practise, but hopefully you’ll both enjoy your special meal and time alone together.
Play a board game
Whether it’s the kids’ Jenga or the more sophisticated Trivial Pursuit, a game will allow you to interact with each other and have a laugh. Being silly is really important for your relationship, and it easily gets lost amongst the details of day-to-day life. Who has time to be silly when there are professionals to deal with, packed lunches to make, appointments to schedule and school uniforms to iron? If you’re having a couple of drinks and making a night of it, see if you can dig out Twister or, even better, play some rude-word Scrabble.
Sitting on the sofa and looking at the TV may sound similar to what you do most nights! But film night is all about choosing something you both want to watch, snuggling up with some popcorn and having a chat about it after (you don’t have to get too deep). You’re not zoning out to rubbish programmes, flicking through Instagram or Twitter when you get bored, and forgetting you’re sitting next to each other. Instead you’re both enjoying the same movie together. And if it turns out to be rubbish, the other person picks next time!
Plan something together
Whether it’s a weekend away, or just an overnight break for something to look forward, sitting down and planning it together will get you both excited about it. If an overnight stay just isn’t possible, plan a day date, while the children are at school or if the Grandparents are able to have the kids for the day.
Have a look at what shows or exhibitions you’d both like to visit, you’ll be surprised about how much goes on in local areas, let alone big cities. Is there somewhere you’ve always wanted to go? Or a restaurant you’ve always wanted to try? Museums are a great place to head to, a lot of them are free, and there’s usually some good cafes or restaurants nearby for a something to eat.
Have a nostalgia night
You’ll probably both have a million photos of the kids on your phones, but what about the photos and videos of you both before you had kids (they do exist, we promise). Dig out whatever you’ve got or get your laptop out and reminisce about the old days. It will jerk forgotten memories and give you the warm and fuzzies about each other all over again. If you’ve been together for a really long time, there may even be some camcorder footage hiding in the back of the TV cabinet. Guaranteed to make you both smile, it will also make you appreciate a much more modern hairstyle.
Whatever you end up doing, remember not to put too much pressure on yourselves. It doesn’t have to be a perfect night and you don’t have to be out in the fanciest of places. If you feel anxious about leaving the kids, for whatever reason, having them upstairs whilst you and your partner are having fun downstairs, may even help you feel more relaxed. Do whatever works for you.