My son recently turned 2, and I’ve been in a reflective mood about all the things my spouse and I have learned about parenting during the past two years.
Our relationship is stronger now than ever before and I think one of the factors that’s helped us is our prioritization of date time. Creating time and space for dates takes dedication and creativity. Below are some of my tips to keep your relationship strong with fun and regular dates.
Be flexible and creative.
- Coordinate a time for you and your partner — if you both work — to each take a vacation day from work and have a date during the day. Catch a matinee, grab lunch, go on a hike, etc., all before it’s time to pick up your little ones from school/daycare.
- If your jobs allow it, sneak away from work for a quick lunch date together.
- Maximize the hours after bedtime to get some quality time: Subscription boxes like Date Night in a Box offer creative ways to have fun from the comfort of your own home — and without the need for a sitter! Subscriptions run about $34.99 a month and require minimal planning on your part (and cost far less than the average night out).
- Pick up your favorite snacks and beverages and stream a movie from the comfort of your own living room. (Put your phones out of reach.)
- Bust out your favorite card, board or video game for two and play the night away.
Build a network of babysitters.
To ensure schedules align and to minimize guilt about asking the same person over and over, I recommend building a sizeable list of people (family, friends and paid sitters) you can call on for babysitting. Then try to rotate through the list.
Proactively interview potential sitters ahead of time so you’re not in a pinch when you’d like to plan a date.
Try something new!
It can be easy to fall into a pattern with date nights and repeat the same itinerary each time.
Maximize your one-on-one time and friendship by getting out of your comfort zones together: Sign up for community ed classes, visit local museums, go to concerts, visit art galleries, work out together, take cooking classes, go on tours of your city (on scooters!) or plan group outings with friends.
Looking back at those early years raising kids, I’ll admit my husband and I could’ve done a better job of keeping date night alive. All I can remember is the busyness and sheer exhaustion of juggling work, three kids, their school responsibilities and sporting events, pets, home and garden: There was always someone or something else needing attention, not to mention the cost of hiring a sitter and going out.
And yet, when we did carve out time for dates, everyone won: Our kids got two refreshed parents ready to get back in the parenting game; the neighbor girls who babysat earned a little spending money; and, most importantly, my husband and I were able to nurture and strengthen our relationship, the foundation of our family.
My advice to all parents raising kids is to make dates a priority. Schedule regular time together — and be sure to take turns planning the outing. Dress up for each other, dab on a little makeup, perfume or cologne and give yourselves the chance to experience why you fell in love with each other.
If finances are tight, take advantage of free or low-cost events in the Twin Cities. (See the list below.)
Sitters scarce? Consider bartering with neighbor families: They watch your kids one night, you watch their kids another night; or ask Grandma and Grandpa.
Investing in your relationship is a fabulous gift you can give yourself, your partner and your kids, so do what it takes to keep dates alive. And try not to talk about the kids all night!
Cheap (or free) date nights!
- Enjoy free samples at a brewerytour. See mnbeer.com.
- Stroll through the free Minneapolis Sculpture Garden — and enjoy free Walker Art Center gallery admission Thursdays from 5–9 p.m.
- Travel back in time at the Minnesota History Center with free admission on Tuesdays
- from 3–8 p.m.
- Explore the Minnesota Landscape Arboretum with free admission on the third Monday of the month.
- Check out the always-free Minneapolis Institute of Arts (Mia) with special programming, drinks and live music on the third Thursday of the month.
- Visit the Como Park Zoo & Conservatory in St. Paul. Open until 6 p.m. from April to September.
- Bike or walk around nearby lakes.
- Attend a free concert in the park. Check with your city or see tinyurl.com/mplsmusicintheparks or stpaul.gov/musicintheparks.
- Sniff your way through the Lyndale Park Rose Garden in Minneapolis.
- Tour the newly renovated Minnesota State Capitol and the Cathedral of Saint Paul.
- Bird watch at Minnesota Valley National Wildlife Refuge in Bloomington.
- Explore Indian Mound Regional Park in St. Paul.
- Stargaze at the University of Minnesota in Minneapolis or at the new Bell Museum and Planetarium in St. Paul (opening July 14). See www.astro.umn.edu/outreach/pubnight or bellmuseum.umn.edu.
- Awe at the Weisman Art Museum, showing a Prince of Minneapolis exhibit through June 17.
Mary Rose Remington, a baby boomer grandmother living in Minneapolis, is documenting her journey in this occasional series with her daughter, Laura Groenjes Mitchell, a millennial first-time mom who lives in Denver.