Time to read: 7 minutes
I was 6 months pregnant on a zoom call with co-workers talking about a date night that Michael had planned for us. One of the people on the call, already with a family of three, spoke up and half-jokingly said “enjoy it now because when the baby gets here date night will be a thing of the past.” I laughed it off in the moment and then later on really sat to think about it – does having a baby mean that I can no longer have date night with Michael? How much of our life is going to change? Do we have any control over it?
For some reason whenever other parents would share their experiences with us while we were preparing for kids and all throughout my pregnancy the stories centered around loss or challenge. We heard a lot about no more sex, and date nights being on pause for years – but of course “it’s worth it”. On the one hand I was grateful – I wanted us to be prepared for the worst and fully understand what we were getting ourselves into. On the other hand, a part of me wanted to hear about the couples making it work regardless. The truth is that I didn’t want to give up on date night.
My relationship with Michael is the foundation of our family. Our connection is where our kids will learn to love and accept love, work through conflict, show up for others and receive support. We take this responsibility very seriously and prioritizing date night is something we committed to even with a baby in tow. We decided that it was not a sacrifice we were willing to make.
Does it look different? Yes. Do we stumble and mess it up? Absolutely. Are we sometimes totally exhausted and not into it? Yupp. However, just the act of trying, planning and working on continuing our weekly ritual connects us more deeply. It is a weekly reminder that our relationship matters and it remains a top priority.
We have also gotten really creative – at the end of this article I share our ultimate date night hack that has been so fun to explore together.
Our Date Nights
There are two distinct types of date night:
- Date night with baby Shai
- Date night without baby Shai
Because Michael and I don’t live with family nearby (mine are in Canada and his in Louisiana) getting child care each week is a little more difficult. More often than not Shai joins us for date night – at least until we put him to sleep – and even then we have to stay home while he is sleeping. When we get the opportunity for someone to watch him we take full advantage and plan things a little differently – more on this below.
In either situation one thing is essential for us: this night needs to feel different than all the other nights in the week.
How do we make it feel different?
Regardless of whether Shai is with us or not there are a few things that can turn a regular night hanging out together into date night.
We get dressed up
We both work from home so it is really easy for our days to blend together. Morning blends into work, work into dinner and before we know it we are both completely exhausted, ready for bed. Being in yoga pants all day with spit up on my shirt doesn’t feel very sexy.
When it’s time for date night Michael and I both make the extra effort to clean up. Even if we are staying at home for the majority of the evening we put on clothes reserved for special occasions, do our hair and I will put on some make up. The preparation sets us up to treat the night differently and adds a layer of fun, desire and play.
We get out of the house
Evenings away from the house with a baby are a little more of a logistical challenge not to mention I am writing this while we are still feeling the impact of the COVID pandemic. It is so easy to stay at home where Shai can be in his crib and we can stay safe and comfortable. We also know that date night is not meant to be easy – otherwise we would never hear from parents about taking years off.
A change of scenery can take a typical day and turn it into something special. For us, it doesn’t have to be ground breaking – a simple walk around the neighbourhood or to the local coffee shop, a trip to the park or a drive to grab takeout. Finding ways to get out of the house that work around Shais sleep schedule has definitely turned things up a notch.
Whether you know us personally, heard us on the WAG Podcast or have been following this blog you know we think sex is incredibly important. I think it goes without saying that ensuring we have sex during our weekly date makes things feel different. It is also usually on these nights that we may try something new and get a little creative. For a lot more on sex after baby read HERE.
Conversation about anything secular is off limits
Talking about bills, chores, work or even too much about Shai can quickly turn a night meant to be about connection and intimacy into just any other night. We both have permission to politely point out if the other person is bringing in secular topics and ask them to wait for another time. When Shai is not with us we lovingly call him “he who shall not be named” (we are both huge Harry Potter fans haha!) and really try to keep our conversations around things that are more connecting like our relationship, friendships, hopes and dreams or play.
Types of date night
Date Night with Shai
If Shai is joining us we plan the evening around his bed time. We put him down for the evening at 7pm so we usually start our night around 5pm and he tags along. This ensures that we can get out of the house because once he is asleep we are much more limited in our options.
Here is an example of what a night like this may look like:
At 5pm Shai is usually waking up from his last cat nap of the day (while I write this he is 7 months old and still has 3 naps) and this is when we plan to get out of the house. We will:
- Go for a walk
- Go to the local coffee shop or park
- Head to rock climb. Yes, we are those people at the rock climbing gym holding their baby in between ascents
We get back home in time to put Shai to sleep around 7pm and then the rest of the night is focused on connecting with each other. We will:
- Have sex. We make sure to do this before we eat because afterwards it is way less likely to happen
- Cook a meal together
- Order take out (this saves us time and can make the night feel different since we mostly cook)
- Play a game
- Play music together (Michael plays guitar and I sing along)
We finish the night tired but full (of food and love) at the same time.
Date Night without Shai
These times are an absolute treat! Doesn’t happen often but once in a while we get childcare or have family in town that will take Shai for an extended period of time which gives Michael and I an opportunity to plan a date responsibility free. Unless it is our family, childcare is not spending the night so we have to keep in mind that we have a limited time window.
One thing that has really helped us maximize these opportunities is sometimes moving our dates to during the day. A daytime date can make it easier to find childcare and there is so much we can do at those times to have fun with each other.
On dates where Shai is safely being cared for by someone else it is our chance to do something that would be more difficult or less enjoyable having the baby with us. Some of our favorite options:
- Dressing up and grabbing some drinks downtown
- Going to a restaurant for dinner (definitely a treat during the pandemic)
- Seeing a movie in the theater (we love the movies!)
- Comedy show
- Get a hotel room for a few hours (more on this below – it is our Ultimate Date Night Hack)
- Playing a sport or doing some kind of physical activity – rock climbing outdoors, hiking or heading to a lake/river for a swim
The Ultimate Date Night Hack
Even if we go through all of the steps I mentioned above our date nights can still feel routine over time. Sure, they are different from other nights in the week and we feel more connected but once in a while we want to go above and beyond – really change it up.
We were listening to Jamie Wheal, co-author of Pulitzer prize winning book Stealing Fire, on a podcast where he was talking about something called Sex Magick (that is a topic for a whole other article) and he mentioned a hack specifically for parents to increase the eroticism in their relationship. He suggested paying for one night in a hotel room but only using it for a few hours or however long you have child care. Neither of us ever considered getting a night in a hotel and not staying overnight – all of a sudden so many possibilities were available. The change in scenery and access to a bedroom that is not our own or with the white noise from a baby monitor sounded like a dream.
Soon after we booked a single night in a hotel downtown Austin.
The first time we used this idea it was a beautiful sunny day that was perfect for sitting at the pool. Check in was at 3pm however you could use the amenities at the hotel for the entire day. We headed over there at 11am with Shai in tow and headed to the pool. Together we all swam, had lunch and once Shai was ready to nap we headed home. It was fun to include Shai in our plans but he was definitely not joining us for the rest of the night.
Once we were home our childcare came over and it gave us a chance to get dressed up and head over to the hotel. We brought with us candles, incense, journals, a small speaker and anything we could think of to make the evening fun, exciting and sexy. All of this preparation and intention breathes life into our relationship. I feel alive and in love.
At the hotel we set the mood with all our goodies and leaned into our baby free time together. Michael took the lead and started us off with a little meditation encouraging us both to let go of any lingering thoughts, stresses from the day and be present. Then we danced, made love, had deep conversation (reminding each other that talking about Shai is off limits – this one is hard to remember!) and finished the evening in the hotel bathrobes ordering food to eat in the room. We didn’t spend the night and instead headed back home to relieve our babysitter around 9pm.
We plan something like this once every month or two. Sometimes it is overnight, a full day (example, 12pm – 9pm) or just a few hours. These are opportunities for us to think outside of the box and plan something really special. The conversations in the lead up to the experience, the planning and sometimes mystery if there are any surprises put butterflies in my stomach.
It can often feel like we are dating again or courting each other. I am more careful about choosing what to wear, doing my hair and makeup. I talk to my friends about it and ask them for any advice on making it even more special.
What happens when we aren’t feeling date night?
There are moments when life catches up to us and the idea of organizing date night is too much. We are tired, have spit up all over and even the thought of getting all dressed up is exhausting. We look each other in the eye and it’s one of those moments where you can read your partner’s mind and say “are you thinking what I am thinking?” then end up curled in a ball on the couch watching a movie or tv show.
The fact that it is on the calendar means we have to think about it and it’s a weekly reminder about our priorities. Sometimes we nail it and have such an incredible experience, others it flops and we end up having a good laugh.
I love Michael so much and our marriage is the most important thing to me. He is my person for life – one day Shai will grow up and find his person – it’s Michael who will still be by my side. I have not a single doubt these date nights will be moments I cherish forever.