How to Prepare for Date Night Without the Kids
Date Night for Parents
Dating Tips for Parents
Some parents out there are probably asking: what is a date night? A date night is when parents of young children actually have the opportunity to escape the confines of their home without the children, leaving them and their bulky diaper bags in the safety of a sitter, preferably a dependable citizen from the older generation (a.k.a. grandparent). It’s a time when the parents can enjoy a movie, dinner or silence without the diaper changes, whining, shrieking, feedings, etc. that would typically accompany the presence of small children in public.
Date night sound foreign to you? It did to me up until last week when a grandparent offered to watch the children so we could enjoy a dinner by ourselves. It had been quite a while since we were able to do that.
You too can enjoy such a date night if you are willing to prepare beforehand. All it takes is a little bit of time and effort to make sure all goes well for your children, their sitter, and most of all, you.
Parents and Dating
How often do you get to have a date night?
Finding a Babysitter
I would start here. For us, it was pretty simple. One of the three grandparents offered to watch the children, and we accepted. We also have an abundance of family members who have volunteered to watch the children. For some parents, however, it might be a matter of hiring someone outside of the family. Do you know any responsible, reliable teenagers? If not, ask your friends for recommendations. Often times you can find sitters from local colleges (those with early childhood majors tend to like babysitting) or from sites like Care.com which provide information like reviews, references and even background checks. Be sure that the sitter you choose is responsible, reliable and good with children (I can’t emphasize responsible and reliable enough!).
Date Night Plans for Parents
So, when are you going to go and what shall you do for your date night? Both depend on a few factors:
- Your schedule—The available month, day and time will have to coordinate with that of your spouse/significant other and the sitter. I wouldn’t pick a day too far in advance, though. The odds of one or more of your children becoming ill increase greatly for every day that is not the ‘date night’ day (not factual; just Murphy’s Law…).
- The weather—Check the forecasts, especially in the winter. You don't want to schedule a date night to a ball game if it's going to rain, nor do you want to risk traveling or getting stuck in snow.
- Your budget—We are on a slightly tighter budget right now, so we decided to just do dinner at a local restaurant. You may decide to go to dinner and a movie. You might decide to go to dinner and a Broadway/off-Broadway type show. You might decide to hop a plane and go to a tropical island (you do have to come back within the evening, you know….). Even a simple walk around town could be considered a date. Whatever it is, make sure it’s enjoyable and affordable for both of you.
How to Find a Babysitter for Date Night
List for the Babysitter
I like lists. They make my life just a bit easier. When I leave the children with a sitter, I also leave a list that includes important information for each child. For example, my daughter takes a formula bottle every few hours. I wrote down where the bottles were and about how much she would drink. I wrote down what snacks were available to my son if he should ask (he’s a bit of a snack-aholic…I choose healthy snacks for him, like apples and grapes that thankfully he likes). I wrote down where the diapers and other items were, where we’d be and how to contact us if anything should happen while we were gone.
It might also be a good idea to write down other information like: where to find extra clothes, allergies, emergency number if 911 isn’t available in your area, and contact information of a neighbor or friend who could offer assistance.
Date Night Tip
Make the time you're going to be away from your kids seem like fun to them! Tell them about all of the fun they'll have with grandma or the babysitter. By the time you need to leave, they won't even bat an eye at your departure.
Preparing the Children for Date Night
This is the step I dreaded. My son is in a stage where he becomes very upset if we leave to go somewhere without him, so I needed to approach this in a delicate manner. During the days leading up to our ‘date night’, I kept making comments like, “Oh, guess what! Grandma is coming to visit on Friday!” or “I bet you can’t wait to show your new picture to Grandma on Friday!”. Either way, I was trying to build up the excitement of the visitation of Grandma in the hopes that it would overshadow Mommy and Daddy leaving him behind.
It really is just a matter of making the whole event seem like it’s a natural part of the day. Your children will be doing the same things they always do, just with someone else. There doesn’t have to be a dramatic preview of what is going to happen. Keep it simple. “‘The sitter’ will be coming over to spend time with you tonight. Maybe they’ll watch SpongeBob with you, or play with your favorite trucks. Mommy and Daddy are going to have dinner while you’re having fun”. Short, simple, and to the point.
Notice there is no mention of how the children might feel. Don’t go there. Avoid things like: “There’s no reason to be scared when we leave” or “I know you will be a big boy/girl and not cry when we leave”. Those kinds of phrases open up the vast imaginations of the children, making them actually think of being scared or sad when you leave, which will then make matters worse when it actually comes time for you to physically leave.
Date Night Tip
Do you have a goodbye routine with your kids? Make sure you implement it before you leave. My son always asks for a hug and a kiss, which I gladly give him before I go anywhere, with a reminder to be on his best behavior.
The Exit--Leaving the Kids Behind
This too is a delicate matter. It can go either way, so it’s best to be prepared for the good and the bad. To avoid any potential meltdowns of epic proportions, ask your sitter to come 15-30 minutes earlier. That will give your children time to adjust to the sitter, you time to show your list to the sitter and your sitter time to ask you any questions. During this time, it is also a good idea to give your children a kiss and tell them to have a nice time, then allow the sitter to engage them in some sort of playtime activity. Once a few minutes have passed and they are all adjusted, give a quick ‘goodbye’ and then you’re off to your destination.
Will it always go that easily? Nope. It is worth a try, though. Some children will become upset when you leave. Just keep assuring them that you will be returning and that perhaps you’ll bring them something nice when you return (a bribe? Maybe, if you want to call it that. But don’t forget, this night is about you and your spouse/significant other having a nice time alone in public for the first time in a long while….and maybe not again for a while…). I told my son that we’d bring him a little toy when we returned. It made him happy.
Date Night Dinner for Two
Have a Fun Date Night
You’re out of the house. Good job. Now enjoy yourself. Don’t feel guilty. You did everything possible to make sure your children would be safe and well taken care of in your absence.
If you’re like me, you’ll miss them—terribly. I actually began thinking about all of the nice times we have had as a family in public (isn’t it funny we forget all the other times?). And I began talking about the children. While my husband and I certainly enjoy talking about them, I also made it a point to talk about grown-up things as well, like national/world news, sports and the future. It made me feel like an adult again to not be talking about potty time or Jungle Junction.
The Return Home after Date Night
It was nice to return home after our date night. Both children were happy and grandma didn’t look like she went crazy after we left. I gave both my kids a kiss and let them know I missed them. My son didn’t even ask for his little toy (which was good, because I had forgotten!). They played with toys, ate snacks, watched a DVD and had fun.
Make it a point to ask your children about their time away from you, and feel free to let them know you had a nice time as well. Having this conversation now would help to ensure a happy ending the next time you have the opportunity for date night.