Ah date nights. I remember what those were like prior to my son’s birth eight and a half years ago. My husband and I would plan out our evening alone or with friends and go! We sometimes even went out several times a month. Then my son Michael was born. The first two years we were sleep deprived and getting used to being parents. Then we realized my son had autism.
After he was diagnosed at three and a half years old, date nights completely vanished from both of our minds! It was all we could do as individuals and parents to stay afloat with therapy appointments, specialized extra-curricular activities, not to mention stimulating him at home.
It didn’t leave much time for us as a couple to spend time with one another. I recall most nights not even having time to spend by myself reading a book or watching television. I was exhausted from my full time caregiver role and my husband was exhausted from work and then on the weekends from our intense schedule of working with our son. Both of us cherished sleep in those days more than anything else.
But now five years later, we are ready to move into the next stage and reclaim date nights as a priority. OK, we have had a few date nights in the last few years, but they are just that. Few and far between. Though we both want to connect, it’s hard as special needs parents have the extra stress of having a child with additional issues. Our energy levels have been going up as we have started taking better care of ourselves, exercising, doing yoga and meditation, and thanks to generous government respite money, we have money to hire sitters now. We have also been fortunate to find the “right” kind of sitters who can handle our amazing and very energetic son with autism. He keeps you on the go, so we have made sure that the few sitters we have are a good fit. Even with all this though, we have fallen into the parental rut of exhaustion, work and house hold chores. And date nights? Well, they just haven’t happened. We have made excuses, and now my husband and I are looking to turn the page and be more than strangers passing each other in the hallway.
This got me thinking about tips for special needs parents to have regular successful date nights. I jotted a few of them down, and here they are for those who need inspiration like me:
5 Tips for Special Needs Parents To Have Successful Date Nights:
1) Schedule one each month around the same time: I know, I know. This is not spontaneous and some may feel it is forcing the issue, but I have seen through friends who have had successful date nights, that the only way to have them regularly is by scheduling them at roughly the same time each month, either beginning or end seems to work best. You decide together and then pencil it in like any other important appointment!
2) Know your budget and stick to it: You know how much money you can spend, so pick date nights that are reasonable in your budget. If dinner is too pricey each month, choose a lunch date, a coffee, a walk, go over to a friend’s house. You get the picture. You’ll be happier and enjoy it if you can afford it.
3) If once a month is hard, start with a few mini dates a week: This is excellent if you are really newbies at this. Again, block off time on your calendar for half hour slots together with your spouse during the week. Try meeting for a quick lunch if you can, a breakfast out if possible, or plan on watching a half hour tv show together one or two times a week to start or having a glass of wine and talking.
4) Have a few sitters that you can call: This is mandatory as grandparents sometime are not available or live too far, and if you only have one sitter they may not be free. Having three or four sitters will most likely guarantee one or two can come and babysit on the night you need.
5) Take care of yourself by eating, sleeping, and exercising well: Make sure that you are taking care of yourself and spending some alone time connecting with who you are. As the saying goes. “No one can love you until you love yourself.” When you are rested and revitalized, you will have energy and be positive and want to spend time with your partner again.
I hope these tips get you and your partner back in the swing of things. Happy date nights to all!