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How to Make Date Night a Priority

Melissa Roja Lawlor
Jan. 25, 2012

Blogger Katie Sluiter reflects on how date nights have changed for the better as part of the Care.com Interview Series

Before Katie Sluiter had kids, she and her husband never really had to plan their dates -- "life was one big date." Recalling their first night out post-baby, Sluiter quickly realized that everything had changed. Two clues: They started eating early bird dinners and outings consisted of shopping for furniture. The mom blogger, who chronicles the adventures of her family on Sluiter Nation, still says she wouldn't trade dining with blue hairs (and her kids) for anything in the world.

Describe the best date night you've ever had with or without your husband.

My favorite date nights have been with my husband. For his birthday last year, we went to a museum exhibit and then to a pretty swanky restaurant for dinner. It was one of my favorite things to do with him. I love our conversations and how we can learn for fun. We have known each other so long that our conversations can vary from the different sounds of farts, to who was the best drummer in Pearl Jam, and back to our theories about what is wrong with American government. Just being with him makes me happy.

What kind of planning was involved in your "best date night"?

Since our son was 18 months old at the time, we needed to find a sitter. Luckily we live very close to all of our family and our mothers love to get their hands on the wee one. So that was easy. The more difficult thing was saving the money for the exhibit tickets and the dinner. If we want to go somewhere really nice, we have to plan about a month ahead of time and save up. So needless to say, we don't go out much.

What made that night the "best date night"?

I think that night was one of the best ever because we realized how much we took date nights for granted before we had kids. It was one of the first in over a year! Before kids, we went out for dinner every single weekend. Life was one big date. Now, we have to plan out far ahead.

[And]Being alone together discussing exhibits and then talking and laughing over dinner felt so good...and it felt like us. We have known each other for almost 20 years, so to finally get back to the easy way we had before another human took over our attention was awesome.

Describe a date that you had with your husband before you had kids.

This question makes me giggle because we didn't really think about it before kids. Almost zero planning went into it. If we felt like going out, we went out. Almost every Saturday meant dinner out because no one wanted to cook.

I do miss the innocent dreaming quality those dates had. We would linger after dinner having a few cocktails and talking about what we would like to do to our house, when we would like to have kids, where were would like to travel...anything seemed possible in those days.

What kind of dates do you go on now that you have a child?

Now a "date night" means we plan way in advance to get a sitter for the evening. And then we do things that we don't like to do (or can't do) with a toddler in tow. We always go out for dinner on a date now, because it is so rare that we get uninterrupted mealtime together.

But now, date night also includes things like running to the mall or Target or Best Buy...any place we don't really want to take the toddler, but we want to go together to make a decision.

In fact, our very first date night after Eddie was born was dinner and then shopping for a new dining room table. That's right, we went to a furniture store. On a date. We like to live on the edge.

How have your dates changed since having your son?

They are fewer and far between and they are much shorter. His bedtime is 7:30 and he is the kind of kid that needs routine for bedtime, so we frequently try to be back to pick him up by then.

Which means instead of getting a table at 8pm like we used to, we are now eating with the old blue hairs at the early bird special.

We also dream less on our dates. Our conversations used to focus on endless possibilities. Now we talk about budget and what we have to do and what we might be able to do if we cut a bit from this or that.

But somehow, I enjoy our dates more now. Probably because they are so rare.

Who is more spontaneous in your relationship?

When it comes to dates? My husband is a bit more spontaneous than I am. He usually has to make me go out. Because I work full time and am pregnant, my first inclination is to come home, throw on jammies, and sit on my butt until I fall asleep at 9pm. He has to say, "Hey, my brother is going to watch Eddie, let's go get some food." And it's not usually spur of the moment. He usually planned it early that day or in the week.

He's even better at dates that have the toddler along. Over Christmas break I started to whine about being in the house all the time and how I wanted to get out and spend our gift card to Target, but that I wanted him to come along, and he said, "Well, let's go then. Eddie likes Target, don't ya, Ed?" And we went. I would have never even thought to do that.

Have you had a date that occurred out of spontaneity?

The only one that we have had that was sort of spontaneous was when plans we had were canceled at the last minute, but we still had a babysitter. Instead of cancelling the babysitter, we went out for dinner just the two of us. It was a nice, much-needed surprise.

Do you have planned date nights?

One of the most frequently repeated pieces of advice people had for us when we were expecting Eddie was "make sure to have a date night once a month." And we really thought we would stick to it. But then real life sunk in. And we were getting sitters for things that weren't date nights: parent/teacher conference nights for me, events we had to go to without a kid, etc. We felt bad overusing our sitters, so we never made time for just us. I wish we did though.

Great (and cheap!) dates await ... check out our Free (or Almost-Free) Date Night Ideas »

Do you and your husband take Valentine's Day seriously? How do you celebrate?

Before kids, we would try to go out for Valentine's Day and we would get each other a card, but other than that, I don't even remember Valentine's Day happening since Eddie has been around, so we must miss it every year. Oh wait! Eddie and I made Valentine's for his daycare friends last year...I do remember that. And I am sure this year Eddie will bring home hearts and things from daycare to remind me.

Valentine's Day is more about love than romance now. We share that love with Eddie and talk about how great it is to be in a loving family. But maybe this year I will surprise my husband and remember him on Valentine's Day too. Hmmm... maybe something cheesy like balloons to his work? Yeah, that would be AWESOME!

Katie Sluiter is a thirty-something working mom to a 2½ year-old son and expecting a second son in March. Her blog, Sluiter Nation, is about the challenges and joys of her family, as well as her struggles with loss, miscarriages, and post-partum depression. You can also find her on Twitter and Facebook.

Get more date night stories in the Care.com Interview Series: The Best Date I've Ever Had »

Photo used with permission from Katie Sluiter.

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