What Date Night in Really Looks Like When You’re a Parent: An Uncensored Timeline

updated Sep 30, 2020
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One of my favorite marriage memories is the wedding anniversary we celebrated the year our daughter was born. We had planned a fancy dinner date and hired a babysitter, but then our daughter got sick, for this first time in her 9-month-old life.

Our plans were canceled, but my husband surprised me by picking up ingredients for a thoughtful date night at home. We ate cheese and drank wine while we did our regular bedtime routine with our daughter, and then he cooked dinner for us after she went to bed. Sure, we were up soothing a sick baby a few times a night, but it remains one of my favorite date nights ever.

Fast forward a bunch of years, and we are now a family of four with an even busier schedule of work and commitments. Date night in is sometimes the only way my husband and I can dedicate time to each other in our hectic lives. It’s not perfect, but I relish the time we get to spend together.

Here’s what date night in really looks like when you’re a parent.

7 Creative Ideas for a Fun Date Night at Home (Image credit: Monica Wang)

What Date Night in Really Looks Like When You’re a Parent

2 p.m.: Babysitter texts, saying she’s come down with the flu and won’t be able to watch the kids tonight.

3 p.m.: After calling every other babysitter we know, we decide to make the best of it and have a date night at home.

3:02 p.m.: Woefully cancel dinner reservations.

5 p.m.: Pick the kids up from preschool and drag them to the grocery store. There are, of course, no groceries in the house because we planned to order pizza for the babysitter and kids.

5:30 p.m.: Arrive at the grocery store with two cranky kids. Bribe them with cookies from the bakery. Grab a box of macaroni for the kids, a few cheeses, steaks, wine, and salad makings for date night. Drag the kids through the freezer case looking for ice cream. Watch as one of them has a meltdown over Minions Popsicles that I won’t buy. Bribe said child with ice cream sandwiches instead and forget the chocolate ice cream I meant to buy for dessert.

6 p.m.: Get home, unload groceries and the kids. Start dinner and a movie for the kids.

6:30 p.m.: Sit down for mac and cheese and broccoli dinner with the kids. Sit there as one child wants, needs, has to know why I’m only having wine for dinner. I suspect she knows something is up.

6:50 p.m.: Our 2-year-old flings mac and cheese across the table and onto my shirt and jeans. This is what I’m wearing for date night in.

7 p.m.: Turn on the oven and pop a few sweet potatoes in for dinner number two. Husband arrives home and ushers the kids upstairs to bath, while I make an appetizer and prepare date night dinner.

7:15 p.m.: One child jumps down the stairs and spies the cheese plate, and her worst fears are confirmed: We are having a date night without her. She bursts into salty, shrieking tears.

7:30 p.m.: Bribe child into quiet with nibbles from the cheese plate and the promise of an extra bedtime story. Start making salad, browning steak for dinner date.

7:40 p.m.: Husband tucks younger child into bed and finally has his first glass of wine, while reading The Most Magnificent Thing to the older child for the 300th time.

7:45 p.m.: Dinner is nearly ready, but the older child is trying to negotiate an episode of My Little Pony for her trauma. She really loves steak, and she can’t believe we are eating it without her.

8:00 p.m.: With both kids in bed, we sit down to dinner together. My husband turns on a record, refills my wine glass, and laughs at the dried macaroni on my shirt.

8:05 p.m.: Older child call down to us; she needs water and more snuggles. My husband answers the call.

8:30 p.m.: Our post-dinner living-room dance party is interrupted by a child “loves this song” (as an aside, I’m 90 percent sure that no 5-year-old actually loves Glen Miller Orchestra). We include her in one dance before ushering her off to bed, again.

8:45 p.m.: Snuggle onto the couch with ice cream sandwiches, because I just realized I forgot the chocolate ice cream. My husband picks out The Sting.

9 p.m.: My husband is already snoring on the couch, thus concluding date night at home when you’re a parent.

Can you relate? What is date night in like at your house?