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How to Have a Night Out -- Without the Guilt

Molly Blake
July 17, 2017

Mommy guilt happens to every mom, but spending alone time with your partner is important. Here's how to put the guilt aside on your next night out.

Feeling guilty about having "you time" away from your kids is perfectly natural. Heading to work, going to the gym or simply finding a quiet moment each week means leaving your child in the care of a sitter or partner, which makes many moms feel like they're abandoning their little one for selfish reasons. 

This seems to be especially true on a night out. In fact, a 2015 Care.com poll revealed that nearly half of parents said they took less than three date nights in 2014 (15% took zero!). Why? How can they enjoy themselves when their child is missing them?

Sherrie Bourg Carter, a psychologist and author who specializes in women's stress, says that a mom's search for balance is stressful and never-ending. Often, that search leaves everyone feeling fulfilled and happy -- except for themselves. She advises moms to shed the "supermom" script occasionally, and find time each week to enjoy a refreshing night out with just your partner without feeling guilty about it. "Happier, more relaxed and less-stressed moms are better than exhausted, tense and stressed-out moms," Bourg Carter says. "So take some time for yourself." 

Besides doing something for yourself, Devra Renner, co-author of "Mommy Guilt," says that date nights also set a great example for kids. "Setting out on a grown-up evening teaches kids what adults do and demonstrates that interpersonal relationships take effort and care," Renner says.

Tip: Post a date night job sooner rather than later so you can lock down a great babysitter ahead of time!

Easier said than done, right? Going on a date is important, but it can be difficult when you can't seem to relax and enjoy yourself. Remember these five tips on your next night out when guilt starts to get the best of you:

1) Make It Special for the Kids

Tell the babysitter that you want the night to be extra-memorable for the kids. Spring for their favorite pizza, and surprise them with a new movie, board game or video game. If you're confident that the kids are having a good time at home, it will help you relax -- and let you stay out later to order that decadent chocolate-lava dessert. Remind yourself that being out is good for your own well-being, your partner's and your kids'.

2) Set the Sitter up for Success

You've found the most amazing, trustworthy person to watch your precious babies, so when she arrives, take as much time as you need to prep for all manner of scenarios. Leave a comprehensive list of emergency contact numbers, and make sure the sitter knows where everything is in the kitchen and the bathroom. Organize dinner, and lay out pajamas, special blankets and toys. Knowing that the sitter is set up for a successful night and prepared for whatever may happen will ease your mind and let you enjoy a night of adult conversation. Then ask her to text you with an update later.

3) Deal With Challenges Before You Go Out

If bedtime or bath time is difficult, schedule the night out for a little later in the evening, and make sure that the kids are nearly ready for bed by the time reinforcements arrive. You won't feel so awful if the kids are one story away from a peaceful night's sleep. And once you find a sitter you love and trust, you can leave them with the difficult stuff -- and really give yourself a break!

4) Let One Night out Equal One Night In

While you and your dashing date are waiting for the appetizer, start planning a fun family-themed event for the following weekend. Check out a new museum, or see if a local hotel offers a cool staycation package. Spend time over a romantic dinner discussing your family's schedule and goals for the coming months, and you'll feel less stressed and frazzled. And if your kids add to your guilt trip, have " family dates" with them during the weekend as well.

5) Think Back to Your Childhood

Did your parents stay home and play board games with you every weekend? Or did they go to parties, dinner dates and on vacation -- all without you. "My parents made time for themselves," says Trista McCarthy, a suburban Chicago mom of two. "It showed me that marriage was something to be nurtured." Ask around -- every mom wants and needs some time alone with her partner. Keep all of this in mind if you start to feel bad about leaving the kids at home for a few hours. Especially if they make you feel guilty about it!

Been postponing that dinner with your partner? Here are 19 reasons you need a date night.

Molly Blake is a freelance writer and mom to two girls. She and her husband love to scour the Bay Area for the best tapas restaurants.

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