Back in the day, I was part of a parenting group for new Mom’s. During one of our sessions a fellow mom mentioned having a neighbor girl come over once a week after their baby went to bed so she and her hubby could run down the street and have a date night. All the other mom’s jaws simultaneously dropped to the ground at this idea. Leaving your new baby?!? Unfathomable. But she responded that it was the weekly fuel that kept their relationship healthy and happy.

We love them to death, but our children do take up a great deal of our time and energy, often leaving little for the relationship that founded them. But, maintaining a loving relationship with your partner is known to be one of the best things you can do for you children, and of course yourself.

Date nights can be such a great reset for the day-to-day doldrums and stresses of life and parenting. After polling some of my lovely mom friends, I’ve come up with a list of 7 Date Night Do’s and Don’ts for Busy Moms that I’d love to share.

1. DO Set a Reoccurring Date.

This can be weekly, monthly—really whatever works for you as long as you get something reoccurring on the calendar.It takes out the tedium of securing childcare, which is often one of the biggest challenges for getting out, and gives you something to look forward to as a couple.

Inspired by Gretchen Rubin’s sentiment in her book The Happiness Project that all couples should have an indoor and outdoor game they engage in, my husband and I scheduled a sitter to come every Wednesday evening so we could play tennis, then grab dinner and drinks at our local country club.

We also have a rule that for our birthdays, the non-birthday partner plans an overnight celebration, including securing childcare with the in-laws.

My good friend Anna and her husband are both teachers and at the end of the school year they keep their kiddos in daycare an extra day and enjoy a spa day to relax and unwind.

Several friends of mine in our community drop their kids off every Thursday evening for a few hours at a local church where the kids run around, eat snacks, and listen to a few (non-denominational) Bible stories. They all rave about getting a few guaranteed kid-free hours to connect each week.

2. DON’T Take on all the Planning.

Speaking from many a conversation with my fellow mom friends, we ladies tend to bare the “mental load” of all things planning and scheduling when it comes to family life. The in my marriage for getting us out for a night, because I’ll be honest, it makes date night feel like yet another thing to schedule and plan on my to-do list.

As discussed above, creating a reoccurring event can help with this, but another tactic is to alternate the planning, including setting up childcare, between you and your partner.

And because most couples don’t have the same exact ideas of what’s fun, both of you get a chance to explore things you’re interested in, bringing your loved one along for the ride.

Sure, you might end up getting pedicures one week and watching March Madness at a sports bar the next, but it’s a great way to add a little mystery and adventure to the mix!

3. DO Seek out the Things you Enjoyed Doing Before Kids.

Like me, you are probably thinking what did I even do before I had kids? Well, I can probably guess had a wee bit more fun (joy and fun are not the same thing my friends).

Having a baby often puts a hard stop on a lot of carefree couple activities. But it’s definitely worth putting an effort into revisiting those things that obviously made you happy with you were less beholden to the needs of others.

My husband and I certainly spent more time with other couple friends, tried out many hot new restaurants and watering holes, played tennis (see above), remodeled houses (not fun for everyone but we love it), enjoyed lazy weekend brunches, and traveled. A close friend of mine and her hubby love sneaking off to small-venue concerts to listen to live music, dance, and let loose.

While they probably would have summoned up a group before kids, they enjoy going with just the two of them, and sneaking out a little early when they wear out, need to relieve a sitter, or have to work the next day.

So, I challenge you to think on those things you loved pre-kids, and try to incorporate them more into “flashback” future date nights.

4. DON’T Pick Something Your (or other) Kids Love Doing.

Maybe you don’t suffer from the incurable affliction called Mom guilt, but I certainly do.

So, when on a date with my husband I tend to avoid things I know my kids would enjoy. Pumpkin patch, mini-golf….no way Jose!

I learned this the hard way when we had an overnight recently at a hotel with an awesome, kid-friendly pool. My heart hurt a little bit because I knew how much my kids would love it, and that was not the point of our getaway!

And, to be honest, I tend to avoid activities where they will be lots of kids all together. Because we all need a break sometimes. And that is OKAY.

5. DO Get Out!

Ever hear the sentiment that every night before kids was date night? While there is certainly some truth to that, I believe getting out of the house is super important.

When I spend an evening at home, I have an incredibly hard time getting out of my routine or cleaning and caring. My son needs another glass of water before bed, the TV is covered with yogurt finger prints, I just remembered there is wet laundry in the washing machine to dry.

We all probably do quite a bit of Netflix and chilling after the kids go to bed, but are we actually engaging with each other much? Probably not.

So even if you need to be a little creative to get this accomplished (i.e. lunch dates/post-bedtime sitters/community care groups), in order to truly reset, relax, and focus on your relationship, you probably need to get out and about.

6. DON’T Limit Yourself to Evenings.

Have you heard the sage advice “Don’t Let Perfect Be the Enemy of the Good”?

Ideally, we’d probably all love a romantic evening out to a fancy restaurant or show, but this isn’t always in the cards. Maybe the budget is tight, or getting your toddler to sleep is not something you’re comfortable outsourcing quite yet, but don’t give up, just think outside the dinner box a bit.

Coffee or lunch dates can be a great alternative, because often your kiddos are in preschool/school during this time and require no added care. Or, a lovely weekend brunch or afternoon hike can feel reminiscent of those lazy pre-kid weekends afternoons.

7. DO Add in Some Spontaneity!

Parenting, especially youngsters, is all about routine. It’s keeps us Mamas, and the littles sane.

But date night should be a chance to mix things up a bit, and fire up some of the spontaneity of days past. This can be accomplished in a variety of way, including the aforementioned alternating of planning duties between you and your partner.

Other creative ideas include pulling up Eaters Heatmap and heading straight to the newest hots spots, taking a walking tour of an unexplored neighborhood, or learning a new skill together, be in salsa dancing, cider making, golf lessons, or the like.

My friend Kate and her husband like to hit up a local movie theater that serves dinner and drinks, see whatever movie playing has the best reviews on Rotten Tomatoes without reading anything else about it, and go for it!

Having children is certainly one of life’s greatest adventures, but don’t forget to keep the door open for spontaneity with you and your spouse!

Have some fun date night ideas of your own? Any personal do’s and don’ts to share. We’d love to hear them!

~Elizabeth Curtiss, Happy Mom Life Lab Founder

Feature photo by Adobe, ©Happy Mom Life Lab. Article images licensed through Ivory Mix (woman writing) and Adobe (couple with tennis rackets, couple hiking), all in the context of this article are ©Happy Mom Life Lab.

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