After I met my husband in 2015, we dated for four years before we got married, but our dating life didn’t stop there. We continued to make date night a priority in our relationship up until we had our first child in July of 2022. Prior to having our daughter, date night was our one night a week without cell phones, work, or distractions to help keep our playful romance alive.
We never missed an opportunity to go on a date even after a long stressful day of work. Whether we were going out for a fancy dinner downtown, a stroll in the park or a movie, we looked forward to date night every week. Our dates were spontaneous, seemed to last hours, and were an absolute priority until our daughter was born.
Our first night home with our daughter was filled with so much love and joy. I remember saying to my husband as we held her in our arms and saying “I am so thankful we are doing this together.” But as the days and weeks passed, my husband and I grew apart. The newborn stage is blissful yet challenging, immersed in feedings, diaper changes, sleepless nights, and my body healing from delivery. My emotions were all over the place from crying tears of joy to tears of frustration.
At the end of the day when my husband came home from work, I would hand her off just so I could sit in silence, untouched until the next feeding. We loved being new parents watching our baby grow, smile for the first time, and roll over, but our relationship was put on the back burner. We eventually found ourselves arguing often, sleeping in separate rooms, and just getting by with a hug, kiss, or high five in passing.
In those early days, it felt extremely challenging and unrealistic to squeeze in time for each other. About four months after she was born, we were sitting at our Thanksgiving dinner sharing what we are thankful for. I looked over at my husband and said, “I am thankful for you. I couldn’t do this with anyone else.” Feeling sad that we had grown apart, we realized that our daughter needs us both to be happy, healthy, and work as a team.
From then on we started to build our relationship and connection again. Our romantic relationship and a new form of dating is fun, playful, and brings back memories of when we first met. Sometimes that’s easier said than done, but we take it one interaction at a time. What has helped us the most is flexibility, openness, spontaneity, and communication. Here’s my best advice on how to reconnect and rebuild your relationship as new parents:
Let go of what dating used to look like.
The scale and timing of our dates look much different than before we were parents. While dates before having our baby would last for hours, we keep them short and sweet for now. We spend time appreciating the smaller interactions we have as a couple. Our dates now include hiking, shopping, spending time as a family, and weekend getaways.
Just like I track feedings, diaper changes, and baby sleep, setting a weekly/monthly date schedule helps prioritize our relationship. Keeping the schedule firm yet flexible helps to take the pressure off but still have something to look forward to every week.
Try date night in.
In those early weeks, I was nervous to leave my baby, to miss a nursing session, and find reliable childcare. So instead of canceling date night altogether, we got creative. We kept the dates in-house by ordering food from a local restaurant, board game night, attending a virtual cooking class, movie night on the couch, and having an indoor picnic next to our fireplace. Pick a time that fits best with your baby’s schedule; if evenings are challenging with your baby’s bedtime routine, try for a morning or afternoon date.
Ask for help from others.
Here is your reminder that it’s ok to ask for help. Most times friends and close family are willing to help out, but you just need to ask. This will open the door for you to go out of the house for a date or stay in the house but have uninterrupted alone time with your partner.
And keep the first few dates away from the house short and close by. That will help ease your nerves.
Try a child care swap.
Once I found out I was not alone in these feelings, my friend and I teamed up for a monthly child care swap. One night a month my husband and I will watch her kids so they can have a romantic date night, and the following month they will watch our kids. Our kids love it because they get to play with their friends, and we love it because we trust our friends.
A night of uninterrupted sleep did wonders for our mental and physical health. Have your parents, siblings or close friends come over to stay that night at your house to watch your baby while you and your partner book a hotel room close by. Head out in the early afternoon or after your baby goes to bed so you can enjoy a nice dinner, a long night of sleep in a comfortable hotel room, rekindling your intimate relationship, and sleep in.