Dating after kids

16 September 2019

Thanks for your sweet comments on this mini series, friends! It’s been fun to write and especially fun to have John contribute. (He contributes often behind-the-scenes, but doesn’t usually get the byline!)

Today, I thought we’d wrap things up for now by offering a few thoughts on how to date your spouse, especially after having kids. It’s been an evolution over here, and I have a few tips you might like to try!

To back up a little bit: going on dates wasn’t really a “thing” in our early marriage, pre-kid life. For one, we were on a VERY tight budget ($135/month for dining out and $30/month for entertainment!). We spent a ton of time together and did lots of fun stuff, so it was kind of like we were constantly “dating,” but we very rarely went on traditional sit-down dinner dates. Instead, our weekends were an abundance of together time with lots of inexpensive fun all running together: a morning hike followed by a visit to the State Farmer’s Market followed by a country drive followed by a $3 outdoor movie.

Then, we had June, and we still went on adventures, but they felt even less like dates since we now had a third wheel. As she began to be more and more interactive, we enjoyed her company even more, but also felt the pinch of time for just the two of us. So, we tried something new: official dates!

From about her 1.5 birthday to now, with a short break when Shep was 0-8 months or so, we have gone on a dinner date every month – and it is our favorite!! A few ways we make this work well for us:

1. We mostly use high school babysitters that we know from church or our neighborhood. We pay them $9-$13 an hour depending on how many kids they’re watching and whether those kids are awake or not :)

2. Our kids are for the most part VERY reliable sleepers, so once they’re down, they’re down. Especially when they were younger and I was either breastfeeding or they could be trickier to put down, we would put them to bed a bit early, have the sitter come at 7:30 once they were already asleep, and head out for an 8pm reservation. This worked SUPER well for us.

3. Another reason we liked this plan: it maximized our time with our kids. As working parents, it can feel hard to voluntarily spend more time away from them (even though we know it’s a good thing!), so we liked that with an 8pm reservation we could still spend the whole evening with them and put them to bed – but also fill our marriage’s cup.

4. For the last few years, at the beginning of the year, we have taken out $600 from the bank and put it in a special envelope. This started one year when one of us got an unexpected bonus. As intense budgeters, it would have been very easy for us to just fold that amount into our annual budget, where it would have immediately been swallowed up. Instead, we never entered that amount into our budget, and instead took it out in cash. Every month, we use $50 of the cash toward our dinner out. (If we spend more, we just pay with a card and put it in our normal dining out budget.)

Note that this is PURELY mental gymnastics – all the money is ultimately coming from the same pot – but it FEELS different, and when it comes to money, you can’t discount feelings! From the beginning of the year, setting aside this money makes us feel like we’ve already planned for these dates, and it makes us look forward to them even more!

As I mentioned in my last post, our dates are almost always dinner out – we tend to alternate between a new spot in Raleigh or Durham and an old favorite. Either new or old, we always make a reservation – again, this helps build the anticipation, and just like with travel, the planning is half of the fun!

In addition to our dinner out each month, we try to plan one date night IN each month, as well. This is a money-saving concession at this point in our lives, since we obviously don’t have to get a babysitter! We mark these dates on our calendar just like we do for outside reservations.

What do we do? Most commonly, we’ll get takeout from a favorite spot after the kids go to bed, then choose a new-to-us movie to watch together. No phones or laptops – which it makes it feel different and special from our typical evenings. Nothing revolutionary, but it’s funny how fun a simple dinner and movie can feel when you plan in advance for it and call it a date! :)

I’d love to hear: what do you usually do for your dates? Any brilliant ideas to share with the rest of us, either for going out or staying in?

P.S. More from our wedding, because it never, ever gets old. Tanja is the best!

Notify of

Inline Feedbacks
View all comments
September 16, 2019 9:36 am

Our date nights are little more frequent as we are not yet married and don’t have kids. So we love going to casual dining spots, or having charcuterie night on the floor on Fridays, where we debrief from the week. When we like to up it a notch we either take a day date to some place close by, like Sierra Nevada in Asheville, or a nicer restaurant in town. But I feel like even our 20 minute walks around the block feel like a little date, because its time spent just connecting.

September 16, 2019 9:54 am

Thank you for these tips, Emily! My husband and I are expecting our first child (a baby girl!) in the next couple of weeks, so this was especially encouraging right now. The last few months we’ve been trying to squeeze in as many date nights as possible: a cooking class at Sur La Table, a movie theater date, checking out the art exhibition / restaurant we’ve been meaning to try — you name it! We look forward to figuring out what dates work for us post-baby, but I imagine there will be more “date night in” nights for a while. :)

Kelly Strawberry
September 16, 2019 10:02 am

We love concerts and stand-up comedy, so we usually splurge for tickets if someone we love is coming to town.

September 16, 2019 10:23 am

I love hearing how other couples navigate this!! The main things that have worked for us are:
1. Setting aside a specific date night budget, separate from our overall monthly restaurants budget.
2. Implementing weekly Friday homemade pizza night dates at home, which we are fiercely protective over :)

I would say we make it out on real dates about every 4-6 weeks…if we get to two months without getting out of the house alone together, we both start to feel really antsy about it. The main thing that gets in the way of our monthly date night plan is if we have to get a babysitter for something else that month (like preschool parent orientation or an evening church event). It is hard to cough up babysitting money twice in one month when we only budget for needing it once!

September 16, 2019 10:33 am

My husband loves going to movies used to go to 2-3 a month. I used to tag along if it was something I didn’t mind seeing but our tastes don’t often overlap. Since we’ve had kids, I don’t think we’ve been to a single movie! When we consider it, it always seems kind of pricey to sit in the dark not talking at $10/hr! Funny how things change!

I am trying to be more intentional about at home date nights. We enjoy eating as a family, but maybe we can try the takeout option for something different! Though we usually eat at 5 and the kids go to bed at 8, so it might have to be a dinner round 2! Do you have any other ideas of things you do for an at home date night?

September 16, 2019 2:01 pm

Love this! One thing that’s helped us, since we’re similarly on a budget with no wiggle room, is to swap babysitting with other couples with small children. This eliminates the need to pay a sitter and gives our kids a special “play-night” with their friends! Practically speaking, it’s easier to schedule this for earlier date nights to avoid bedtime at someone else’s house.

September 17, 2019 2:40 pm

I adore the idea of pulling money out at the start of the year for date nights and will have to suggest that to Andrew!

We don’t yet have a dependable babysitter for the kiddos (or one who will bravely handle our two boys) but we do love our biweekly marriage counselling dates (they are FUN) and midday lunch dates. It feels nice to carve out time while we can, in the middle of the day, until evenings become possible for us.

September 20, 2019 11:07 am

I really like #4 and appreciate the “mental gymnastics”! It’s like you have a coupon for your date! :D I also like that you are cool with keeping it simple, going to dinner and just having fun. I listed to the Coffee and Crumbs podcast last week that suggested we could make “surprise dates”, where you try to plan something for the other person. I think that would be fun…if I were planning my OWN surprise date, lol!! Anyway, as it stands we like to go out to eat or stop to see friends at a local brewery, and we also do the take-out and movie date at home about once a month.

September 22, 2019 1:55 pm

We love our date nights – with three children and a very busy work schedule for my husband – we have to make t a priority! We do stay in dates, fun night out dates and even some sneaky day dates…