Becoming parents is a wonderful, life-changing experience, but it can put strain on a previously well-balanced relationship. As many moms and pops will attest, the new responsibilities and sleepless nights that come with a baby can lead to rocky times in the romance department. That’s where date night comes into play. Cathy O’Neill, co-author of Babyproofing Your Marriage, explains, “Date night allows you and your husband to connect as a man and a woman, as best friends—not just as two people raising a child together.” So take a breather from diapers and feedings, and love the one you were with long before baby stole your heart.
What it does for him
Mom and baby will always have a special connection; baby formed in her body and nurses at her breast. However, this can sometimes leave dad feeling like a third wheel. Date night puts him back in the driver’s seat, providing reassurance that he hasn’t been forgotten or replaced.
If you tend to take the lead at home, let your guy call the shots on date night (when he wants to, anyway). He’ll enjoy being in charge of something other than diapers and dishes. What’s more, getting out will help him see that you are still you too—becoming a mother hasn’t robbed you of your sense of fun.
What it does for you
While the thought can seem exhausting (especially when you were awake with baby half the night), getting dressed up and going out on the town will be a refreshing break from the new-mom rut. Remind yourself that you’re still a woman—not “just a mom”—and the subject of your man’s desires. Whether you’re out dancing, taking in a concert, or simply talking over a bottle of wine, a bit of baby-free time can be a welcome reprieve. (Don’t feel guilty! Baby needs you to preserve your sanity, even if it means she’s spending the evening with a sitter.)
What it does for baby
In baby’s early years, she is gathering impressions that will influence her future. What she sees in your relationship will define the sense of love and stability she feels in your home. “Your relationship is the linchpin of your family,” says O’Neill, “When mom and dad are happy together, your child will be secure and happy.” If leaving baby with a friend, relative or babysitter for a couple hours on date night seems selfish, think again! Maintaining a healthy marriage is in baby’s best interest too.
How to make it happen
Every neighborhood seems to have a couple of go-to babysitters making the rounds, but if you’re not quite ready to leave your baby with the local teenager, ask family members or trusted friends if they wouldn’t mind watching your little one for a couple hours while you go on a date. Friends with tots of their own may be more than willing to set up a babysitting swap, allowing you to return the favor and save some cash.
Leaving baby’s side for the first time will likely be harder on you than it is on her. Start small if you need to—step out for coffee or ice cream, entrusting baby to a neighbor’s care for an hour. Next time, move up to dinner and a movie. Once you’ve grown comfortable leaving baby for short periods, consider expanding your date nights to include the occasional weekend away, provided you have a trustworthy caretaker lined up.
Short on time? Barbara “Cutie” Cooper, author of Fall in Love for Life and veteran of a happy 73-year marriage, counsels, “If you’ve got five minutes, that’s enough time for a micro-date with your sweetheart. Moments of romance will keep your love alive, so don’t ever say you’re too busy to drop everything and focus all your attention on the person you adore.” While going out is the goal, if your schedule doesn’t allow for regular outings, get creative! Your relationship will benefit from a one-on-one pizza picnic in the living room after baby’s gone to bed, or a quiet talk and cuddle on the porch swing during naptime.
While you’re out
Dating should be a fun adventure for you both. Try new things and continually grow closer as you see each other in different lights. Go indoor skydiving, see what you think of Algerian food, meet some friends for karaoke night. Mixing it up keeps things fresh!
Of course, conversation is another important ingredient. It’s a tall order, but try to avoid talking too much about baby on your date. When baby does come up (it’s inevitable), hold onto a sense of humor, and congratulate each other on your new parenting skills. This is not the time to criticize hubby’s diaper disposal habits or question his unique bottle-feeding technique.
While it’s fine to check in with your sitter once or twice throughout the night, don’t obsess. Smile, hold hands, flirt, play footsie. Relax and have a good time—baby will be there when you get back.