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Stay-at-home date night ideas for when you can’t get a sitter or you’re just plain broke

It’s damn hard to date when you have young children. Sarah Bichan asked all of the brilliant and amazing mums she knows to share their best tips for romantic nights in.

Since the birth of our dear, sweet child, my lovely husband and I had kept up the pretense of date nights but, really, they were just like many other nights after many other long days. They usually consisted of a rented movie or TV, dinner and maybe, a wine or two. Usually not much interaction, talking or touching. We would sit back, sigh the sigh of parents who’ve just put their child(ren) to bed, and stare at the screen, spending “quality” time side by side, but not really together. And I know you get this: it’s hard to be creative and pro-active about keeping your relationship fresh and interesting once kids are on the scene. We came to realise that we were putting a lot of time and effort into our little one, but had let time for ourselves as individuals and us, as a couple, slide right down the poop chute.

So, I decided to crowdsource some ideas on Facebook (as you do). It all started with an innocent little post:

… I’m looking for ideas for date nights at home. We’re hoping to make it to the Film Fest in a couple of weeks, but in the meantime, Sat night has to be a stay at home date night while our one year old sleeps (hopefully). Dinner and a DVD is getting kinda old. What do you guys do? #keepingtheromancealive

I posted this thinking, in my naivety, that I would be the only parent feeling this way. So, when the deluge of replies hit, I got a whole heap of new ideas as to how to spice up our stay-at-home-date-nights, while simultaneously being at the potential beck and call of our delightful, yet oh so needy, 14 month old.

I realised I wasn’t the only one who struggled with parent-dating. One mum said:”I have zero energy for dates. We spend all our time talking about where to eat, only to go to the same three restaurants and order the same two dishes.”

Another mum said: “It is almost Friday night here for us and guaranteed what will happen is we will put the kids to bed, then I will go out and get Chinese food which we will eat on the sofa in our pyjamas and drink a few beers and then we will fall asleep on the sofa watching old episodes of ‘The Office’ (American one) which is our current favourite box set. So romantic.”

It made me think that I need to make sure I don’t put too much pressure on myself, because other parents feel as I do. Here’s a list of the best, most hilarious, original and entertaining suggestions I was given for dates.

Food, glorious food

  • Years ago when we had no money we used to surprise each other with an at home dinner, pretending it was a nice theme restaurant. I remember doing Italian one day with the gingham table cloth and an old wine bottle with candle then nice pasta and tiramisu, plus an Italian themed DVD.
  • Cheese! We love cheese. Cheese board in summer, fondue in winter with mulled wine. Depending how many wines we have we often end up on YouTube singing along to our 90s favourites.

Getting all cultured and what-not

  • Book club with just you two.
  • Tarot readings.
  • Wine tasting
  • Chocolate tastings with all the different flavours when Whittakers bring new ones out.
  • Arty date night, where we sketched portraits of each other in the style of Modigliani.
  • Chinese calligraphy…We’d been given the ink, pens and sheets, so watched this documentary about it and gave it a go.

Getting your geek on

  • Geek-theme night – Guardian crossword, pizza, scrabble.
  • Sherlock Holmes board game.
  • We used to do Alphabet Dates. So the first one could be Apple Pie, Art (do some painting), Avocado Toast, Armies (play Risk and watch a war movie)… Then Board Games, Baking, Banoffee Pie etc. We would take turns and aim to do it every couple of weeks.

Getting jiggy with it

  • Board games – the loser gets their kit off.
  • Strip poker (We find strip euchre to be more even, FWIW).
  • Massage night with oils.
  • Listen to music and have sex. Or my husband’s favourite thing is to have a deep philosophical discussion that results in me getting really defensive and him getting annoyed! It’s a great time.
  • Going to bed to read a book before 9pm and me saying “do you want a quickie?”
  • The 30 day challenge. It’s when you commit to having sex every day for a month…Intense but it does help kick start the love life.
  • Bathtub big enough for two? My man’s got a fierce big mane and he absolutely loves it when I wash his hair for him.
  • Hubby and I once met at Mission Bay and pretended to be strangers who just met at our children’s preschool. We flirted loudly and then went to ‘his’ place…
  • “Massage parlour” = cushions on the floor, scented candles, soft music and lingerie.

Low maintenance

  • We do audiobooks as an alternative to movies, and sometimes read aloud.
  • We love our bed. It’s SO comfy and warm. It’s even better when the kids aren’t in it! We’re both so tired by the end of the day I think we both like doing nothing in particular.
  • We never really get past pudding and Netflix on the couch, although on holidays we don’t take the laptop and end up having proper conversations which is nice.

Credit: Pixabay

Al fresco

  • If you have an outdoor space – can you put in a little fire pit? I love just hanging next to a fire, having a drink and a chat. Add a baby monitor and boom – it’s a babysitter-free date night at home!
  • We are pretty movie oriented but on a nice summer night love to sit outside and drink wine. We also go camping a lot, nice to hang out and play cards after kids go to bed.
  • We have an illicit packet of cigarettes that we pull out once a month. We stand on the balcony and smoke and pretend we are teenagers.

If music be the food of love…

  • A while ago we were driving late at night with the kids asleep in the back, we started putting on songs from when we were at Uni and it was really cool. Things which provide a connection or relive an old connection. I find dinners out not that rewarding because it puts a lot of pressure on to have a quality conversation and I’m always aware that we need to be getting $15 and hour of fun to make the babysitter worth it! Too much pressure!
  • Before we were too tired and too long married to bother with anything, we used to find lists like try and watch all the Movie Oscar winners and listen to the Rolling Stone top 500 albums of all time.
  • If we have an evening at home to ourselves we might have a few wines and listen to our favourite music from when we were teenagers. It’s nice to reminisce and to share our memories from before we knew each other.
  • Dancing in the lounge, with lights down if you prefer, is a great way to be touching, without having to go further if you’re in that space where sex isn’t on the menu.

Planning and projects

  • Do a project together. We’re currently making a light fitting for the living room, last week we did kokedama, next up is a bookcase
  • I read this psych exercise that was to list 100 life goals. It’s a lot which means you have big ones and tiny ones and short, middle, and long term ones. It’s quite a cool thing to do together. 

Just… different

  • Rearrange the lounge! We are at our best when we are doing something logistical together. I lead an exciting life.
  • We love our work day lunch dates … when our kids are both at school. It’s lovely to go out together without one of us having to organise childcare and is a great way to break up the day.
  • Do “The 36 questions that lead to love” together.
  • One thing we did once do as a couple which was totally silly but so much fun, is build a blanket fort and then just plop down in it, talking and reminiscing. I don’t know why, but it kind of created this intimate, confessional atmosphere. And it never hurts to be goofy together and get in touch with your silly side.

What are your best tips for at-home dates? How do you keep the romance alive when young children have you all touched out? Make sure you share your tips. We all need a bit of help sometimes.

Sarah Bichan is a blogger, a linguist, a foodie and a mother of one delicious, little boy.

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