When someone wants to show how much they love their significant other, it’s done through a date night in most movies or TV shows. It’s set a precedent that dates should be a fairly routine part of any couple’s life. You should be having fun, exploring new places, trying different foods and taking some time for yourselves away from your responsibilities. That’s great when you’ve got just the two of you to think about, but it gets a little more complicated once you have kids.

Kids are one of the greatest joys most people can have in life, but they can make romance a bit more complicated, even when they’re just babies. Their level of care still needs to be met whether you would prefer to go out for a romantic dinner or not. As they get older, they need to be entertained and loved on, not to mention picked up from school, driven to after-school activities and chauffeured around so that they can have fun with their friends.

If you’re struggling to plan a date night around your kids, read on for some easy tips you can try to make your next date a reality. It’s not impossible to have a night to yourselves when you have kids! You just have to rethink how dates can happen. This time will change as your kids grow up, so every parent has to find a date night that works for where they are in life.

The needs of your kids are always changing. One minute, they have soccer practice followed by a night of flute lessons and homework, and the next they’re asking to sleep over at a friend’s house or needing to stay home sick. When you find some free time that may pop up in the schedule here and there, take it. Your free time may look like five minutes on the front porch together while your kids get ready for dinner, or even an hour alone in the mornings before they wake up.

Be flexible with how you look at your dates. Not every date you’ve ever had has looked like the traditional dinner out on the town, and they won’t all be the same length of time. Try shifting your perspective to call a date for what it is, whether it’s waiting in the school pickup line together or doing dishes after a meal.

It’s easy to get stuck in the mindset that if you’re going on a date, you have to go all out. There has to be a dinner with the best wine and food — or anything else that’s expensive.

Kids mean that you’re probably living life on a budget, which makes expensive dates nearly impossible. For your next date, just grab a cup of coffee. They’re much more budget-friendly, and you can make the date last as long as you want. Spend a few minutes chatting, or take some time to enjoy whatever food your local coffee shop has to offer.

Whether you and your partner both work full-time or one of you stays home with the kids, try to meet for lunch once you get a break in your day. You can meet somewhere in the middle of your commute or outside of your workspace. Enjoy some homemade sandwiches at a picnic table, or pack a blanket in your trunk before you leave for work so that you can eat on a grassy hillside. You don’t have to spend money on lunch at a restaurant to enjoy a meal together.

The only people who know the struggles of finding time for a date as parents are other parents. Ask your friends and family if they’ll have your kids over for a playdate so that you and your partner can do something fun. You’ll end up watching their kids in the future at some point, so you know you’ll be able to pay them back with a date of their own.

You can even send your kids with their favorite food for dinner or a movie to watch to make the playdate easier on whoever will be watching them.

You may have gone on a honeymoon after you got married, and it can feel like that trip belonged to a different lifetime after kids arrive. It might not be possible to go on a romantic trip alone until after your kids are out of the house, but that doesn’t mean you can’t relive your honeymoon through a date.

Think about where you went and what there was to do. Try to find something similar to do in your hometown. Find a place that serves the same cocktails or has the same scenery. If you aren’t married, you can re-create your first date to enjoy the same nostalgia for a night.

Believe it or not, having a date can also be an opportunity to multitask. There’s always something going on where you live, but you’re not always sure that what’s happening is family-friendly. Would your kids enjoy an activity if you piled them in the car and made the effort to go?

On a date night, you get a chance to try something and see if everyone would like it. Schedule some painting at a local pottery store, or check out a monthly fair at the park to see what’s happening. You’ll both be able to have some fun and potentially go back home with something fun for the family to do on the weekend.

Planning a date when you have kids gets tricky, but it’s not impossible. You’ll have to both learn to think outside the box when it comes to spending time together. Wake up early to watch the sunrise, or take a lunch break to enjoy a picnic.

Don’t be afraid to ask the people who love you if they can watch your kids, or swap kid nights with your friends so that everyone can have a date night soon. Think about what you’d like to do together, and get creative to make it happen. Your next date night could be right around the corner with a bit of planning — or even just some spontaneity!

Jennifer Landis is a wife, mama, writer and healthy living blogger. She drinks tea in excess, has a collection of peanut butter, and is a super nerd at heart. Find more from Jennifer on her blog, Mindfulness Mama, or follow her on Twitter @JenniferELandis

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