A couple of months ago, I was reminiscing about when my husband and I were dating then newly married but didn’t have kids yet… we also didn’t have much money but it didn’t matter because our favorite thing to do was just spend time together. In keeping with our focus of giving experiences instead of gifts in our family, we’ve been working on ways to rekindle that early dating spontaneity and find creative ways to spend time together.
Of course, life and 5 kids happened and while it is wonderful, it does make it a little tougher to spend quality time alone together. I wouldn’t trade our life now for the world, but there was something special about those early days of our relationship when a perfect date was just spending time together.
Date Nights: Then vs. Now
Pre-kids, when we wanted to go on a date, we would just go. Usually it was something free or very inexpensive because we were on such a tight budget, but even a walk at the park or a picnic was great.
As any parent of young children can probably appreciate, these days, going on a date is more of a nine step process:
- Decide to actually go on a date and have enough time to ask the other person if they want to go
- Call 3-5 people until you finally find a babysitter
- On day of date, pre-make food for whichever meal you’ll be missing at home so the kids are well-fed
- If the date is at night, also pre-bathe children so the babysitter doesn’t have to
- Remind kids to clean rooms, do chores, etc
- Find something to wear… if you’re an over-achiever, maybe even put on makeup
- Make list of all instructions for babysitter
- Finally make it out the door to go on the date
- Almost fall asleep during dinner/movie/etc because you have small children and aren’t used to staying awake after 9:30 PM
Date Cost: Then vs. Now
The cost to go on a date has changed a lot too over the years!
It used to cost $0-$10 to go on a date because we would go for a walk or hike or to a free event at a local outdoor theater. If we were really splurging, we would go to a bar for drinks or out for coffee.
Now, a babysitter usually costs at least $40 for an evening, a nice-ish dinner is easily $30+ and if we went to a movie, that is another $22. $92 for a basic dinner and a movie seems like a lot, especially because there aren’t great restaurant options where we live and I’d honestly rather watch a movie at home.
At-Home Date Ideas
A few years ago, out of necessity (for budget and time) we decided that we would make weekly date nights a priority, but also that many of these date nights would happen at home after the kids were in bed (cheaper, easier, and not a problem if we fall asleep by 10 PM).
Over the years, I’ve developed a list of some of our favorite at-home date ideas. We’ve found that even if we are just spending un-interrupted time together after the kids go to bed but are intentionally not on our phones or computers, we have a great time and can rekindle some of that fun quality time spontaneity and romance of our early dating years.
1. Massage (My Favorite)
The whole five-babies-in-8-years has made me a big fan of getting a massage. Pregnancy and nursing are a big demand on the body and my back/neck were often sore from carrying or nursing babies. Unfortunately, a good 60-minute massage can cost at least $70 in our area, and as a mom, it is hard to get away for over an hour on a regular basis, even if budget allows.
A great solution would be for my husband and I to give each other massages, but for a long time I was out of luck because he didn’t enjoy giving them and I didn’t want to always nag him to massage my shoulders when they were sore.
A few months ago, he gave me one of the best gifts ever and not only got an at-home massage course but watched the videos and learned how to do it!
The PG-rated Melt Massage For Couples course is taught by a husband and wife team in an easy-to-learn format and the full course costs less than a date night away from home or both of us getting only one massage.
2. Sports (His Favorite)
Marriage is about compromise… my favorite date night involves getting a massage, and my husband is a great sport about those date nights, even though I have a suspicion that they aren’t his favorite.
I’m lucky because one of his favorite date ideas is also a favorite of mine: watching sports. We share favorite baseball and football teams and have weekly dates to watch games.
Not an at-home idea, but for big anniversaries or birthdays, I’ll try to work out getting actual tickets to a game so we can go together.
If you don’t already have a Chess board and set, you can pick up an inexpensive one and learn to play together. It’s fun and great for your mind, and also a great game to teach your kids!
4. Rekindle the Fire (Literally)
We built a fire pit in our backyard and some of our favorite at-home dates involve sitting by the fire, sipping wine, and just talking.
5. Documentary Date
We enjoy watching documentaries together and often this leads to good conversation about a controversial topic. Some great documentaries that are available on Netflix or Amazon to stream online are:
- Jiro Dreams of Sushi
- Fed Up
- The Business of Being Born (my fave, not his)
- Man on Wire
- Microbirth (another one I liked)
There are literally hundreds of options depending on what type of documentaries you like.
6. Personality Quizzes
Really fun date ideas that also help you learn more about each other. There are several personality tests you can take for free online (Myers Briggs Free Version, Love Languages, Color Code Basic Analysis, etc.) and some that are low-cost and really interesting (Color Code Full Version, Fascinate, etc.).
7. Hiking or Camping
These require a babysitter or leaving home, unless you happen to live on a lot of land, but spending time outdoors and disconnected from technology is a great way to reconnect.
8. A New Show
We don’t watch much TV, but over the years, there have been a few series that we’ve really enjoyed and that gave us an excuse for regular date nights at home. We usually don’t watch them live but record them or watch on Hulu or Netflix later so that we can avoid the commercials and watch once the kids are in bed.
9. Cook Together
Another activity that I probably enjoy more than he does, but cooking together can be a lot of fun, especially when trying new recipes or cuisines. Pick a recipe to make together. If you have the time, pick a movie that corresponds to the cuisines and enjoy dinner and a movie. Make an Italian meal and watch an Italian movie together, or try your hand at sushi making and watch Jiro Dreams of Sushi.
There are probably many other stay-at-home date ideas that I haven’t thought of. What other one’s do you enjoy and would recommend?