Date night when you're a parent: keeping the spark alive

Romance coupled with baby sick. Feeling in the mood on two hours sleep. Whispering sweet nothings over the constant noise of the washing machine. As new parents, it can be challenging to find time for each other. We look at ways to make sure you don’t neglect the two of you when there’s a little person in your relationship too.

When you become a parent, one thing that might go out the window is ‘date night’ – whatever that means to you. But it doesn’t have to be that way…

Do date night your way

The idea of ‘date night’ might seem like it’s straight out of the movies and many couples will find it an alien concept, but it can just be a general term for finding time together.

Mel Ralph, mum to Phoebe and volunteer with Redhill, Reigate and Horley NCT branch, says: ‘We have a set date night every week. We don’t go out most of the time, but we do spend that time together. We might have a takeaway, play a board game or rent a movie. Often it’s just a nice dinner and a glass of wine.’

If baby naps during the day make use of the time with each other – read the papers, start watching a boxset or have a daytime snooze together.

You could even set a challenge so you don’t chat about baby for an hour and instead talk about how you’re both doing and what’s been happening at work, at home or in the world.

Thinking about your life before baby can help too, so try to remember the things you did together as a couple, rather than just being tired co-parents trudging through the ups and downs of life with a little one.

Getting out and about

When you’ve come through that first exhausting and overwhelming period with a newborn, and you both feel ready, it’s great to get out of the house for an evening or afternoon together.

Many parents rely on family members, neighbours or friends to look after baby, or use a professional babysitting service.

You could also swap babysitting favours with fellow parents in your area, so why not ask your NCT group?

The break and time together as a couple will benefit you all as happy parents mean happy children

Bear in mind, the first time you go out, you might be feeling anxious about whether your baby is happy and settled.

It can be helpful to stay close to home. Try to reassure yourself that you can get back to baby quickly if you need to.

You could go to your favourite restaurant, take a trip to the cinema, do an activity together or meet up with friends – laughing and catching up on other people’s lives outside of your baby bubble can make you feel more like your old selves again.

It's the little gestures

There are lots of little ways to show you appreciate each other and help your relationship stay strong.

It could be anything from giving your partner unexpected presents like their favourite cake, chocolates or flowers, to bringing them a cup of tea in bed.

Or you could send a text or card to let them know you’re thinking about them or run them a bath.

Thoughtfulness goes a long way when you’re tired from the demands of a young family

Try to think about what would make the most difference to your partner – some might like a little gift while others would much rather you took care of some household chores so they can rest.

Similarly, gestures like holding hands, having a hug, giving a kiss or a massage can help you stay on track. Compliments are also important – however small.

And compliment each other on your parenting too – encouragement is so important – and knowing you have a new-found respect for each other can be a real boost.

Keep working together

Having a baby can turn your lives upside down. With sleep deprivation, coming to terms with your new roles as parents, recovering from the birth and getting to grips with feeding, financial worries and the other obstacles thrown your way, it’s inevitable your relationship will change.

Remember you’re not the only couple to have challenges and acknowledging you’re struggling can help – rather than trying to pretend everything’s fine.

If you find that you’re not getting on, keep communicating. Find a time to talk when you’re not too exhausted or distracted by the children. Try not to blame each other and talk about what the other person is or isn’t doing.

Jill Charno, mum to Henry and Ted and volunteer with York NCT branch, says: ‘We keep reminding ourselves that one day we might have an evening to ourselves, or even a full day.’

She adds: ‘Always checking in with each other and supporting each other through tough times is really important. We’d love more quality time with each other, but it’s temporary and like everything is a phase.’

Recognise you’re in this together and try to make a plan for things you can do to help each other, whether that’s you and your partner taking turns to have a lie-in at the weekend or sharing the cooking.

There is also help if you need it and counselling can really help when things seem tough.

Relationships take work and it’s worth investing time to keep them strong.

Kindness goes a long way

It’s easier said than done, but try to go easy on yourselves and each other. Recognise there’s going to be a period of upheaval and that you’ll both have to adjust to your new, different life together.

It’s important to be sensitive to each other’s needs – physical and emotional. If you have cross words in the middle of the night, try to let it go and not carry the argument into the next day.

Laughing can do you the power of good as well – so when you both end up covered in poo try to see the funny side and laugh rather than cry!

You’re both tired and this phase will pass, hard as it may be to believe.

Family dynamics are different for everybody – you might be in a same sex relationship or a single parent embarking on dating someone new.

Whatever your situation, try to have confidence that you can make it work and still enjoy a happy relationship despite the challenges of life with a little one.

Feeling close

Every couple is different and it may take some a lot longer to get back to any kind of physical relationship than others.

This can all depend on the sort of birth mum had, how baby sleeps, any anxiety or depression either one of you is suffering, body image worries and how you’re getting on as a couple.

Stress and exhaustion can have a big impact on both of your libidos. Try to keep talking so neither one of you ends up feeling rejected or pressured.

There’s no rule for when or how often you should be having sex and try not to compare yourselves to friends or, worse still, unrealistic storylines in films where couples seem to be having sex all the time.

Finally, remember there’s no such thing as the perfect relationship. Every couple has ups and downs and, when you add a baby into the mix, it can take time to adjust.

Things will be different now you have a family – but not necessarily for the worse – and there are definitely ways to make time for each other as a couple and build on your relationship.

Further information

You might find attending one of our Early Days groups helpful as they give you the opportunity to explore different approaches to important parenting issues with a qualified group leader and other new parents in your area.

Changes in relationships after having a baby: find out how your connection with your partner could be different when you become a family.

Talking is easy, right? Not always. Read our tips on how to talk and listen to your partner.

Check out all our content on your relationship as a couple.

Our support line offers practical and emotional support with feeding your baby and general enquiries for parents, members and volunteers: 0300 330 0700.

Find relationship support and counselling from Relate.