6 Date Night Ideas for Exhausted Parents

I sat across from Grandma and Grandpa in our red vinyl booth. Milkshakes with red and white striped straws on the table, jukebox attached the wall, black and white checkered floors for days, the smell of burgers on the open grill. Their eyes glimmered as they looked around the purposefully nostalgic atmosphere. Grandma reached over and squeezed Grandpa’s arm. “Reminds me of our first date,” she grinned. I was about fourteen years old and just starting to notice boys, the idea of romance at my age was only found in the dreams us girls had for the latest Tiger Beat crush of the week. I knew what my grandparents had was
real romance though, not just the kind that teenagers dreamt up about being whisked away to Hollywood with an unattainable dreamboat who hardly had facial hair. Somehow Grandma’s smile made her look as young as her memory, and I knew what they had was more than just a crush, but a deeply connected bond that had taken decades to build upon.  

What followed that arm squeeze and wild schoolgirl smile was the unfolding of their first date. It began over a bet that eggnog milkshakes were or weren’t real. They were. It ended with the two of them driving one town over to a small milkshake shop where my grandpa proceeded to prove his knowledge of the drink industry and the rest, as they say, is history. It started over a milkshake flavour, a strategic bet, and I, the one privileged to hear the story, was a product of that very small, yet significant, date. 

Fast forward many, MANY years later and I now have three kids of my own. (*insert young Simba being held in the air and the Elton John singing about the Circle of Life*) The problem is, while the romance and twinkly eyes looked great on my grandparents, I wasn’t feeling overly “sparkly” myself. We were exhausted. Like, eye-burning, cheekbone throbbing, delusional exhausted. How were we to keep our marriage going in a way that we could a) still see each other with at least a little passion, and b) not drift away to the point of not knowing each other anymore? 

I’m pleased to report that as of today, we are officially sixteen years into our marriage and we are still together. Looking back, I can now see why my grandma could smile so sweetly as she reflected…she had had sleep the night before! As a parent, I get it, your days are long, your nights longer, the gruelling speed of parenthood, especially in the early years, can wear you down. However, I also must (*strongly*) suggest, that you carve out some time to remember how your family got started with just the two of you, wild crazy love, and a few dreams (remember dreams?). Marriage takes work, and hands down those first few years with babes in tow make it all the more of a struggle, as do sick days, bad dreams, potty training...life. Life can make marriage hard. As our oldest is currently preparing for her learners license, I am reminded that I was just seven years older than her when I got married (I’m not crying, you’re crying!). One day they will leave our home and once again it will just be the two of us. I kinda want to still like this man when we have no one but each other under the same roof!

For those of you in this season of life, embrace the tired, but embrace each other often. Here are 6 date night ideas just for you exhausted parents who are trying hard to make time for each other. Grab a babysitter, send the kids to a friend’s house, trade with friends for date nights, but put in the effort however you get there, you won’t be disappointed.


I can’t tell you how many times we took the kids to the grandparents or dropped them off with a friend and went back home. There are two rules you must abide by if you want to have a date at home. The first is: no phones allowed! You cannot check your email, or Facebook, or snap a selfie for Instagram. The phone can stay out in case of emergencies, but leave it on the shelf. The second rule is: no chores. Yes, the laundry is piled high, yes, there are dishes. It will all wait for you for tomorrow. Repeat after me, "house cleaning is not romantic." 

1. Dinner in - After you drop off the kids, pick up some take out food. At some restaurants you can call ahead and have your meal ready for pick up at a time that works after you deliver your children into the hands of your evening sitters. Grab your takeout (or order in if that’s your preference) and head home. Light a candle at the kitchen table and enjoy eating right out of your paper cartons! Keep it as simple as possible. 

2. Movie and popcorn at home - With so many ways to stream movies, this was our favourite “stay in” date night. When the kids were little I could never manage to watch an entire movie before I fell asleep or had to step away to feed/ change/ tend to a younger child. Now that they are older, movie watching is still interrupted by the need for snacks, and fidgety hands. Pro parenting tip: if you do this date at night your chances of falling asleep are exponentially greater, aim for an afternoon “matinee” instead.

3. Have a nap - There. I said it. You know what makes a happy marriage? Well rested parents. We almost always had a child crammed between the two of us in our bed. Super unromantic!! Also…super exhausting! When you are both completely drained, a good sleep can do just as much good to take the strain off marriage, as a romantic date for two. Take the time, while your kids are out, to fall asleep together. There is something about reminding yourself how comfy the arms of your spouse is that rekindle a gentle awareness of the strength you find each other (even when you’re too weak to move another inch).


1. Visit your local farmer’s market - We love walking up and down the aisles of the markets and seeing what people have crafted or grown. Even with the current restrictions, many markets have reopened with a few new, but simple enough, rules to abide by. The bonus of farmer’s markets is that they usually happen earlier in the day when even fussy kids are still smiling. I don’t know what it is about mornings, but my kids were always at their best for whomever was watching them, leaving me to relax a little more readily. 

2. Game night with friends - this one can be fun with a little careful planning. You can send all the kids to one house and grab a babysitter (or two), then have the parents at another home playing games. The rules are simple: everyone brings a game and an easy snack to share, none of the homes get cleaned ahead of time (no judgement is allowed!), and everyone must bring a hefty sum of humility and grace as you acknowledge the season you are in. 

3. Cloud gazing - weather permitting, grab yourself a drink of your choice, and find a quiet park to sit and visit, or walk around at, or people watch and mouth drool if you’re too tired (just don’t be creepy about it.). Park dates are great for catching up on where you are at in your lives. Be sure to check in and ask each other how well or not well you are coping in this season of your life. You might be surprised by each others answers. Sometimes just saying out loud that you are not ok, is enough to help you through it. 

Whatever you do, remember, you are team. Dates are reminders that you are there to hold each other up in all seasons of life. Growing together takes effort, but as my grandparents showed me, the payout is worth it, even for those simple dates!

What are other date ideas you’ve done? Share in the comments.

All my love,

Like Grandma Did

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[name=Sarah Slanzi] [description=Old-fashioned homemaking steeped in God's grace] (facebook=https://www.facebook.com/hiddenmotherhood) (instagram=https://www.instagram.com/sarah.slanzi) (pinterest=https://www.pinterest.ca/hiddenmotherhood/)