Raise your hand if you’ve ever stressed out about date night.
Same.

As parents, getting pockets of one-on-one time can feel incredibly illusive. To make matters worse, as days between date nights add up, the pressure to make the night “count” only intensifies. We start building unrealistic expectations of what date night should be. The setting needs to be special, the conversation top-notch, the connection unbreakable. But if we’re honest with ourselves, no date night is perfect. Meetings run late, the weather is crappy, reservations don’t get made. If we’re lucky, we’ve probably had one movie-worthy date night in our lifetime.

But here’s the thing—date night is not a nice-to-have.
They’re critical to keeping a partnership strong.

Deep down most of us know this. But It’s concerning to see a trend of date nights getting put on the back burner. 50% of moms strive to have at least one date night a month, but 77% say they have to sacrifice them on a regular basis. Only making the pressure compound.

But let’s take a moment to relive said pressure.

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The function of the date night is not a cascade of romantic gestures. It’s to build connections and a rapport with another human being. In this case, building a rapport with one of the most important people in your life. Date nights are not a passing phase. Something that you “did when you were younger.” Life is moving fast and you are changing with it. That requires regular check-ins with your partner and dating them is meant to achieve that. Continuing to date, past marriage and the baby carriage, are the foundation blocks of a healthy partnership.

Put simply, Date nights are like flossing. You know you should be doing more of the long-term benefits, but you struggle to get it into the regular routine.

So what are some ways to take the pressure off of dating?

1. Stop Making it a Big Deal

Things that are a “big deal” tend to require a lot of planning and management. Parents have busy lives. Having to plan an extravagant, “special” date nights, on a regular basis, is not something we have room for. That’s why date nights get cut. Start by reconfiguring your expectations.

2. Make it Cheap

The most crucial component to date night is creating space for you and your partner to connect. Expensive tickets to 3-D, IMAX movies don’t necessarily fall into that equation. Dating your spouse gives you the time to sync on what’s currently happening in your lives, how you feel about it, and what you’re looking forward to. Removing the price barrier, or adding in cheap date night ideas, is a big step toward keeping a regular date on the books. That can be as easy as going for a stroll in the park or making a commitment to turn off screens after kiddo bedtime to do something unique together.

3. Schedule Something Weekly

Make it a part of your routine. Sure, every week won’t be something out of the house, but that shouldn’t stop you from setting time aside specifically for each other. Friday night dinner dates can be accomplished in and out of the house as needed.

4. Have a Network of People

The “it takes a village” saying really comes into play here. While you can still accomplish date nights at home when the kids are asleep, it’s still important to change the setting on a regular basis. It’ll help keep the energy fresh. Build a network of people you can call that allows you to confidently take time away on a regular basis. (Tip: Try to have up to 3 potential sitters in your rotation at any given time.)

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As a parent, dating should be considered part of your self-care routine. It’s not an escapist, selfish act. It’s an important ritual that ensures that you and your partner are on the same page. Kids are intuitive. They can feel any and all tension between you and your spouse. When you both are in a good space, your entire family benefits.

So scrap your preconceived notions of what makes a parent date night, bust out your schedule, and start setting time to start dating your spouse again.

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