Parenthood is a tough job, and one worthy of a break. It’s also a good idea to focus some much needed attention on yourself, and your relationships too, whether they be romantic, familial or friendships. Not everything has to be about your kids now that you’re a breeder. For everyone’s peace of mind it’s a good idea to separate yourself from your role of caregiver once in a while, even if it’s for a very short time.
A babysitter isn’t always in the cards, or the budget. The good news is that not every date has to happen outside of your home or away from your family. While it is nice to get a night out on the town, and the rare unicorn of an overnight retreat away from the full-time job of parenthood, there are a number of small things that you can do on a regular basis, without breaking the bank, to stay connected.
Dating or get togethers with friends don’t need to be elaborate events, because a ton of planning means that they can be easily pushed aside when life gets in the way, cause it will.
Below are eight date and get together ideas, some romantic, some play time, some chill time, all to enjoy with your significant other, friends, and sometimes kids, no sitter required.
8 Coffee Date
This can work a number of ways. If you have a fairly well behaved infant you can bring them with you to any local caffeine emporium. If you’re really craving adult time schedule a coffee date at home during nap time or in the evening post bedtime at your place, depending upon whether or not the added caffeine will keep you up at night (decaf is always an option).
For parents with older kids you can enjoy a hot cup of coffee (yes I hear hot coffee for adults does actually exist) with a friend or suitor on a nearby park bench. What about when it’s cold outside, or raining? Opt for an indoor playground with a decent sightline and some seating so you can have a conversation while your little one wears off some energy. This is the type of situation where more kids playing well together can allow for more uninterrupted adult conversation, depending on how well the kids get along, a more the merrier type of situation could work to your advantage here.
If you don’t want to spring the extra dough for an indoor play facility, which can get costly fast, consider exploring your city to see if there are any coffee shops catered to parents. These neat little facilities often have toys, crafts, colouring stations and things for your kid to play with while you enjoy a finely perked brew. Can’t find a kid focused coffee shop? Consider the merits of a fast food restaurant with an indoor play area. Before you scoff at making the McCoffeeDate your solution, remember we’re talking about quality coffee time, over quantity here. Twenty to 30 minutes of focused adult conversation could have you saying yes to a greasy snack with your kid before you know it.
7 Dinner and a Movie
I’m not talking about the standard night where you just watch something that rates okay on Rotten Tomatoes in your Netflix recommendations list. Some effort is required. You can either make this a family movie night with a theme: like fun candy ice cream sundaes made to order while you enjoy a viewing of Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory, or you can opt for an adults only later dinner.
What makes this event fun is the meal pairing with the film. Think of a clever connection that really ties the meal with the movie you’re watching, whether it’s themed after the city featured in the flick. Like Pop Sugar’s suggestion of pairing Sleepless in Seattle along with iced coffee and cookies shaped like the Empire State Building. This way you can share in an old favourite or explore something new together. My husband is the master of dinner and a movie pairing, the first time I watched The God Father I enjoyed a spaghetti and meatballs feast, and the first time he watched Breakfast at Tiffany’s we had an extensive brunch for dinner. There are numerous sites that can help you tie a movie with a meal, so it’s easy to get inspiration.
To make it work for a date night one person puts the kids to bed while the other handles the cooking, in the theme of the movie you’re watching. If you’re having company, or doing dinner and a movie with friends you can make it a pot luck, order delivery or work on something ahead of time that you just need to heat up in the oven and enjoy the movie together.
There is nothing more invigorating than enjoying nature with your loved ones or friends. Have an infant? Strap them to your chest in a carrier for an extra tough work out. Older kids can enjoy nature alongside you, just ensure that you pick shorter, less complicated routes so you don’t get lost, or end up carrying complaining little ones on your back.
Many parks have websites that can direct you to shorter loop routes, so no backtracking is required, that can meet the needs of a family with small children. Hikes that are deemed wheelchair accessible are ones that you will be able to complete with a stroller.
Kids can be entertained on longer hikes when they’re given a fun task to complete on route. Many scouting websites can give you a variety of fun trail games, themed hikes, scavenger hunts and more to make the mileage go by quickly for everyone involved. Kids who are preoccupied by a game or task will give adults more opportunity for a good talk, hand holding, or enjoying all of the beauty that the great outdoors has to offer.
5 Take the family to the drive-in
The drive in movies are a great way to get some "alone" time together. A number of theatres offer double features with a family friendly, or at least PG rated flicks for the first film of the evening to watch with the kids. Because the first movie can't come on until after its dark (usually 9pm or 10pm depending on the time of year) most kids fall asleep during the first film leaving the adults to enjoy the second feature with the soothing snores of the little ones in the background. You’re probably better off making the second feature something like an action adventure, spy movie, or comedy flick just in case your kids wake up mid movie. I can’t think of many worse scenarios than a six year old waking up in the middle of a gore filled horror movie.
To make the event fun for the entire family go with a slumber party vibe where everyone wears their pyjamas to the drive in and eats great snacks. To really amp up the slumber party feel, consider making the film a double date where you bring two cars and park side by side. There can be a kid car and adult car where the kids can enjoy the thrill of having their own space, the adults can enjoy some grown up conversation, and everyone will be less than a parking space away to supervise.
4 Backyard picnic
There’s nothing quite like a good picnic. Either enjoy a homemade meal out together during the day at a favourite park or alongside a playground (again the adults can enjoy a slice of alone time along with their pie) while the kids climb the jungle gym and other playground equipment). If your little ones are still too small to play without helicopter hovering supervision, or you want a little more privacy plan a starlight picnic in your backyard patio or balcony post bed time with a baby monitor nearby just in case.
Is it too cold outside or no space for a real picnic? Use your imagination, some pillar candles (out of the reach of little hands) and enjoy an indoor version. If you find that an outdoor evening picnic becomes a fast favourite date night, or way to entertain company, consider looking for an outdoor space heater, so you can extend your outdoor evenings later into the autumn, and start them earlier in the spring (depending on where you live) with nature’s little helper, a heat lamp.
3 Take a class together
Maybe you were that couple who took a ballroom dancing class together in order to wow all the guests at your wedding with your sick dance routine, or perhaps this was something you’ve always wanted to but never made the time to do. Or maybe your friend and you have always wanted to learn to sculpt, but only talked about it, and never signed up to learn about a new potential hobby.
Now that you are a parent, you can take advantage of classes without hiring a sitter. Many fitness studios, dance academies, parks and recreations centres, and art schools offer family classes where the entire family can learn together. Other businesses will allow you to coordinate your lessons or classes at the same time as the littles learn everything they’ve always wanted to know about hip hop jazzercise.
2 Family Breakfast, Brunch or Lunch
Dinners out with kids can be tough. You’re either forced into a very family oriented environment or fighting with bed times and crankiness while you try to find something that they’ll actually eat at the gastropub you’ve been dying to try.
My kids’ good behaviour usually peaks after about 2PM and it’s all downhill after that. By timing our family meals for breakfast, brunch or lunch we are able to enjoy so many benefits. First off, you can usually get more great food for less money. Next, during the day, it’s a lot more commonplace to have children out and about, even at finer dining establishments. Finally this gives you the opportunity to teach your children about appropriate behavior in public.
Veteran parent tip: Request your bill when the meal arrives at the table so you can make a quick exit if you need to.
1 At Home Wine or Beer Tasting after Dark
This one is likely for after the kids are in bed. Go out and get a selection of wine, beers, bourbons, or whatever you’d like to try with your significant other or friends. Learn a bit about how the beverage has been prepared, what makes it unique, sample, pick your favourites and discuss. You can download a number of tasting sheets online and print them out to keep official notes.
If you want to go out a number of wineries are beginning to offer services to families, where kids are given food pairings, sparkling water and juices to sip alongside the adults. Just remember to be responsible, get a designated driver, or arrange for appropriate transportation.