If I'm being honest, date nights with my husband haven't always been a priority. After a full day of work and parenting, we can barely stay awake long enough to get past the first 20 minutes of a movie. Besides that, our evenings are often committed to manageing the kids' busy schedules and chauffeuring them from one activity to another, which doesn't leave much time for a date.
But the COVID-19 pandemic has changed all that. When the long days of being at home began stretching from a couple weeks to a couple months, and now possibly beyond, my husband and I realised we needed to secure time for weekly date nights at home. Being surrounded by our kids who demand every ounce of our attention and energy, every hour of the day, has been incredibly draining. With no option to hire a babysitter, it quickly became clear we needed time to intentionally connect. Not to mention that with nowhere to go, and hardly a reason to wear anything but sweats and an oversize t-shirt, we needed something to look forward to and perhaps a reason to dress up.
So we decided to schedule a weekly night alone, on our back deck. Date night is no longer about a night out on the town — it's about a night out of the house, which these days means we can't go far. These nights are a combination of social distancing from our kids and getting out, even if it is only to the backyard. For that one night per week, for two or three consecutive hours, we establish boundaries between ourselves and the kids, so we can focus on each other. Now, we're still supertired because working, parenting, homeschooling, and doing basically everything else with zero help is exhausting. That's why date night starts at 6 p.m., so we can still crawl into bed at a decent hour.
Here's how it works: we give the kids a dinner of their choosing and set them up in front of the TV. We provide an excess of snacks and candy, and give them permission to eat as much as they want. They choose what they want to watch (within reason, of course) and proceed to zone out in front of the screen. We tell them they can stay up late (at least an hour, sometimes two, past their normal bedtime) as long as they don't interrupt us during our date, which seems to be the clincher. I'm not sure anything excites them more than staying up past their bedtime, and so far, they haven't crashed one of our dates. Basically, we give them whatever will keep them happy, quiet, and self-sufficient.
While the kids are busy binging on junk food and TV, my husband and I meet in the kitchen, dressed in our finest attire.
While the kids are busy binging on junk food and TV, my husband and I meet in the kitchen, dressed in our finest attire. Yes, I'm talking sequins and neckties, because a date is the perfect reason to drop the loungewear routine, and honestly, it feels good to dress up for each other. We plate a takeout dinner from one of our favourite semiupscale restaurants and eat outside on the deck. There's just something about fresh air, a slight breeze, singing birds, and chirping crickets that gives the experience a romantic vibe. We eat, talk, and watch the sunset without interruption, which as a parent is about as magical as it can get.
Having time set aside every week just for the two of us has been a welcome change in our routine. In the rush of prepandemic life, I can't remember the last time we sat down together and had deep, meaningful conversations. That makes us sound kind of sad, doesn't it? But when kids are involved, it's difficult to find pockets of time just for each other. While challenging in many ways, this new normal of pandemic life has brought my husband and I closer together by gifting us with both the time to reconnect and the realisation of how important it is for us to date each other again — every week. Our kids are important, yes, but meeting their needs is no excuse to neglect our own or that of each other.
I'm not sure what life will look like when social-distancing requirements loosen. But I hope when our calendars begin to fill up again, having a weekly date night will be so deeply etched into our routine, that it will remain a priority. I've realised that our relationship needs to be at the top of our list, and by showing our kids that their parents prioritise each other, I hope they'll learn how to do the same for their future partners.