When you have a new baby, It’s all too easy to get stuck in a rut of not communicating properly, not giving your partner your full attention.
At home you may fall into playing the parenting tag team game (’you bath the baby while I put the dinner on’), then subsiding into a slump in front of screens, grunting at each other while listening out for the the baby monitor.
You may be filled with unspoken resentment (the unwinnable who’s most tired argument, feeling displaced by the baby or that you’ve lost your sense of self) or you may simply have lost the habit of showing your love and appreciation for each other. That’s why date nights are so important - for you, your relationship together and for your child to grow up seeing parents enjoying each other’s company.
The phrase ‘date night’ can sound unappealing; a post-baby cliche that reaffirms your fear those days of snap decisions are gone. Re-phrase it as ‘going out’ and you’ll lose all the negative silent-couple-in-the-restaurant connotations or smug-married angst.
The important thing is to focus your attention on each other, celebrate your new role as parents but remember why you enjoy each other’s company.
Day time ‘date nights’ count too
In the early months of a new baby, arranging to go out during the day can be much more manageable, when you feel more alert. Go for a walk together, explore a new area, visit that exhibition everyone’s talking about, grab a coffee together.
Remember babies are portable
If booking a babysitter seems an impossibility, you can still have quality time together while your baby sleeps or is carried around in a sling.
“We used to go to the cinema with our baby fast asleep in a sling,” says mum-of-two Louisa. “No one had a clue she was even there, as long we timed the trip between feeds.”
Many cinemas now offer parent and baby sessions too, so you don’t even have to worry about your baby waking. Stepping out into the daytime after the suspended time of a film can feel wonderfully indulgent.
Meet up with friends
Being out together with friends can be a fabulous stress reliever. You’ve made the effort to be out together, but being in company can also force you to be your best selves - funny, interesting, entertaining. Plus, you’ll have lots to talk about afterwards about what friends have been up to.
Enjoy a nostalgia-fest
Reconnect with your pre-baby selves by doing something you used to love doing together. Whether that’s going bowling, to a pub quiz or a favourite restaurant, a blast from the past will give your relationship a boost.
Laughter is bonding, so seek out triggers, whether that’s going to a comedy night together or just taking the time to tell each other funny anecdotes. “My husband can make me cry with laughter, more than anyone else can,’ says Becky, who’s mum to a 10-month-old baby. “I was in danger of forgetting how much I love his sense of humour, until we started going out every week when Alfie was six months.”
Stick to the plan, even when you’re tired
Babies have an amazing ability to scupper plans but try to commit to that diary date. Just making the effort to change out of your trackie bots and go out together will lift your mood instantly.
Do something new together
Make a plan to try something new and different together. It could be a dance class, arts class or visiting a new place together. Being open to new experiences forces you to connect in new ways.
Start a babysitting club
You’ve probably made new friends through NCT classes or baby groups. When you find your kindred spirits and your baby is in some sort of evening sleep routine, suggest taking turns babysitting for each other’s babies for a more cheaper date night.
Short and sweet works
When you’re new parents, a long evening of intimate conversation over an expensive meal can feel a bit daunting. A short date, like going for a drink at the local pub, is less effortful - and a lot easier on your purse.
The key is committing to spend some quality time together regularly.