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Date nights & Tate nights

Last night was our Date Night, which we enjoy every other Monday evening. We usually don’t do anything special—dinner out, then maybe walking around a bit, or playing cards at a coffee shop, or occasionally a movie if there’s one out we’re dying to see.

(We’ve even been known to run errands on our dates. Not romantic, but grocery shopping is light years easier as adults only, and you’d be surprised at the conversation quality we can hold in the produce section between the apples and sweet potatoes.)

These date nights are our sanity. Honestly, I don’t know how we’d thrive without them. We’ve made them a priority for years, and without them, I’m genuinely not sure how we’d find room in our schedule for quality conversation. When we wait until the kids are in bed, we’re usually too tired to discuss anything monumental. When they’re awake, we’re—well, interrupted every ten seconds.

Up until a few months ago, we’ve had these dates weekly (yep, even when the kids were babies—I’d pump a bottle or three for the evening). But we’ve now switched to every other week in order to save money for our Big Trip, and all because of one special magic trick we keep in our back pockets:

Tate Nights.

Our oldest, Tatum (oft nicknamed “Tate”) has been begging to babysit since she was about six. Believe me, we can’t wait when you can, we’d tell her, but no such luck right now, Miss Only-Five-Years-Older-Than-One. But a few months after she turned eight, we tried a little something, and it worked so beautifully, we’ve done this regularly and never looked back.


On the opposite Mondays of our Date Nights, we let Tate be in charge. We fix the three kids a simple dinner, and they eat it together while Kyle and I retreat upstairs to our bedroom for our own little dinner and dessert.

They clean up after dinner, get ready for bed, and then watch a movie together with a bowl of popcorn sprinkled with Unbelievable Kid Bliss. After the movie, they brush their teeth, Tate reads a bedtime story, leads them in prayer, then tucks her brothers into bed. She then knocks on our bedroom door, and we finish off the bedtime routine with kisses for all, tucking in Tate last with an extra-special thanks.

Three hours where Tate gets to practice babysitting; three hours where we get a practically-free date in our pajamas (she charges two dollars an hour). She can knock on our door anytime she needs help, but that’s only happened once or twice—it pains her to need our help.

Everyone in the family is in love with Tate Nights.

our upstairs grownup contraband
Our upstairs, grownup contraband from a Tate night a few months ago.

So, if you feel encumbered by finances, lack of local help, or sheer exhaustion at the mere thought of a date night, perhaps consider an alternative like this? If your kids are even younger, simply designating one evening a week as the night you put your kids to bed a bit earlier could suffice fairly well for a date.

Friends, it really is so very important to continue dating your spouse, however that looks best in your relationship. You don’t need to hit the town if you’re homebodies. We’ve grown to love our monthly set-up: a nice blend of getting out on the house and staying in, both full of conversation and a bit of freedom. Works for us.

How do you make dating work for you?

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  1. Taynia | The Fiscal Flamingo

    I have a Tatum too.

    This is SUCH A GOOD idea! I wonder if I could do it with my three and one year old. (Just kidding.). I’m going to put this in my back pocket and pull it out down the road. I love it.

  2. Jessica

    This is a great idea for the future, as more children come along and date nights have to adapt. For now, we have a weekly date night in, whilst our baby girl sleeps and get a sitter one morning a month so that we can go for a really long walk – we find this is when we have our best conversations. This works really well for us at the moment as it’s cheaper and to be honest at this baby stage, I find by the evenings I just want to chill at home! We still make an effort and have fun at home though, this week we’re making desserts!

  3. Anne @ Modern Mrs Darcy

    I fell in love with this idea when you mentioned it before (on facebook, perhaps?) Our family has a Tate–an 8 year old (sweet, blonde) girl who has wanted to babysit since she was 6! Recently we’ve let her try “babysitting” for half an hour while my husband and I go talk on the patio or something similarly simple. We’re breaking her in. 🙂

    Our biggest challenge here is older brother–our ten-year-old son does NOT want to babysit, but he also thinks as the eldest he should be entitled to that duty! (Any ideas, Tsh or her smart readers?)

    • Tsh

      Wait, wait—you have an 8-year-old girl named Tate? How have we not talked about this?

    • Alissa

      My parents used to pay both me AND my brother to “work together to take care of ourselves.” If I recall, it was about 50 cents/hour for each of us. I was probably 10 or 11 and he was 8ish. They would go out for 2-3 hours. I loved being the babysitter, he loved getting the money. Perhaps something like that would work for you guys. That way, nobody is the designated “babysitter” but everyone gets the responsibility.

    • ChicMomRT

      I would like to share my thoughts on this as I have been and still am in similar situation as Anne’s. Our son, is now 14 and his younger sib is 6. Besides the usual mandated responsibilities our young man has at home, one important detail is that we delegated him to babysit her since two years ago. We started with my grocery trips minus her, then eventually during the summer months, they would be at home twice a week while we are both working. Or our bi-weekly movie/dinner date. Our son has a stipend that started with $5/mo.when he was 10 to now $5/week. He has grown so much matured and drew his sister very close to him. We made it a point that baby-sitting is non-negotiable and the family has to work together as a unit. Has worked eversince!

  4. Victoria

    When our kids were all about 4 and up we use to get them a movie and a special snack and then they would get their pj’s on and we would help them get settled upstairs in their room with the small TV/DVD combo that we would drag in special for the occasion. We would put the movie on and then leave a line of 4 quarters each on the stairs and remind them that if they came downstairs and interrupted us for no good reason (we set guidelines of what was a good reason) they lost a quarter. Downstairs my husband and I would enjoy desert and conversation uninterrupted by children. We would often dim the lights just to add to the date mood. It was wonderful and cost just $3 for the 3 lines of 4 quarters.

    • Tsh

      Fun idea!

    • Alissa

      Oh my gosh! I am clicking an imaginary “like” button over and over and over. This would totally work with my two kids!

  5. Robin from Frugal Family Times

    What a wonderful idea, Tsh! We too are committed to dating each other, and we’ve budgeted for the costs, but we’ve often thought how much we’d rather just be at home in our jammies, chatting, instead of out (Introverts unite!). We’ve had dates where we wondered if we could sneak back home and creep upstairs without anyone knowing. We’d do it – if it wasn’t the stuff of babysitters’ nightmares. 🙂

    Putting together a pitch for our daughter tonight!

  6. Noreen

    It has always been a priority for us to keep our dates nights alive. We joke that we have probably sent our babysitter to college with the money we have spent on doing so!
    Hallelujah! Our son is now old enough to watch the younger two…however we do pay
    him if he does a good job and the younger two testify to that. The “Tate Date” is a great idea…I think we will try that even with an older son around…privacy and connection cannot be substituted, it’s a boost to the marriage relationship!

  7. Jenn @ A Simple Haven

    This gives me hope that I don’t have to wait quite as long as I’d imagined for my oldest to start looking after the younger ones. 🙂 It sounds totally reasonable, do-able, and so helpful.

    And, as at age 3 she already enjoys “keeping brother safe,” I have a feeling she’ll be up for the task :).

  8. Alicia

    I love the idea of a date at home like this. My husband and I commit to a Friday lunch date every week. This started when I was in grad school and had zero free time. I did, however, have a lunch break at work every day. We committed to keeping the Friday lunch just for the two of us. Some weeks, it seems like the only time we have to get a full conversation in.

    • Stephanie

      That’s a great idea. For a while my husband and I did something similar. Every 3-4 months we would both take a day off of work and have a “date day” to go to museums, go for a hike, have a nice lunch (usually cheaper than dinner out!) and generally do grown-up things. Sadly, I switched jobs and won’t have enough vacation time saved up to do that for a while.

  9. Lessons From Yesterday

    What a great idea! Can I ask how old your two younger ones are? My yongest is 3–not sure he’s quite self sufficient for this yet, but he should be soon!

    • Tsh

      They’re 3 and 5. It works well for us. 🙂

  10. Betsy

    This is a great idea! We do at home date-nights every Saturday night, staying up late (well, for us!). Even when we were really dating, back in the day, most of our dates were going out to eat, then renting a movie, so putting everyone to bed early, getting take-out, nad renting a movie is right up our alley still. My oldest is 7, though, so I don’t know how much longer we can get away with putting them to bed early. We’ll do it as long as possible. 🙂

    • Linnea

      You could always put the older one “to bed” early with a book or a movie all her own.

  11. jennifer

    Brilliant idea Tate and Tsh! I am going to pin this for the future in case our oldest (all nine months old that he is) ever wants to be the mature big sibling!

  12. Kate

    Yeah. Date nights and paying a babysitter are not really in the budget at this point. When one of our mothers comes to town….which is once every 3 or 4 months or so…..we get out then 🙂 Oh, sweet freedom!

    In between though – we have ‘home dates’. We put the kids down a smidge early, have a special dinner or dessert just the two of us, and watch a movie, or listen to an online sermon, or talk. It keeps me sane – and I look forward to it all week.

    Kind Blessings,
    Kate 🙂
    Kate 🙂

  13. Breanne

    I loved this idea when I saw you post it on instagram. My oldest is 3 and her little sister is 2 so we’re a few years away from them being independent enough but we have worked a date night at home after they are in bed twice a month or so. It’s super important to us and even if it means sharing a glass of wine and some intentional conversation in our jammies, it’s good.

  14. Lauren H.

    Oh, my goodness! I love your Tate night idea…and that it rhymes with Date 😉 Though, I only have one (it may remain that way) and he’s two so it doesn’t apply to me, but I’ll be sharing your idea with friends!

    Need to work in some stay at home date nights, though!

  15. Exhausted Em

    Do you think this is possible if your oldest child’s name does not rhyme with date? Somehow it doesn’t sound nearly as cool. I’ll have to look into how much it would cost to legally change her name, and if that would make economic sense. 😉

    • Tsh


  16. Hannah

    Can I just say that I am way impressed with Tate’s level of responsibility?? Unfortunately, given the birth order and personalities of my crew, I don’t think this would work for us. Now if Caroline were the oldest, I could see it happening! 😉

    • Tsh

      I see what you mean… Though you have great kids. 😉

  17. Lindsay@littlehousebigworld

    This is parenting at its finest! I love it. What great lessons in responsibility for Tate, showing them your trust them, and a great perk for you and your husband.

  18. Annie Barnett

    My sister is a huge fan of the at home date night. One of them puts the kids to bed while the other gets take-out. We just finally found a babysitter can that can work on a consistent basis for date night (cue the hallelujah chorus!) and I am so grateful. I used to think the idea of scheduled date night was lame, and the lack of spontaneity would drive me nuts. Now I think it’s genius. Funny how perspective can change!

    • Tsh

      That’s awesome, Annie!

  19. Megan at SortaCrunchy

    We’ve practiced put-the-kids-to-bed early date nights at home forEVER (I kind of thought everyone did?), but I am so thankful we are now entering the season of the older girls being able to look after themselves (and eventually, their little brothers). It’s funny because our 8 year old would SO not be into babysitting (she’d rather lay on her bed and daydream) but our 6 year old is chomping at the bit. By the time she is 8, the twins will be 2 and I bet she’ll be fantastic at ordering them around. 😀

    This is such a fun, creative solution! I so hope I get to meet Tate in the flesh someday. She sounds like such a delight!

  20. Katelyn

    I always cringe while reading “date night” posts. We don’t do a regularly scheduled date night. I don’t think we’ve had what you would call a date since my son (3) was born. Truthfully, my son has never been watched by someone other than us – the product of family 2000+ miles away and a very stranger adverse child. Sometimes we’ll watch a TV show together after our son is asleep for the night, but there’s not much in the way of conversation going on while watching TV. We do regularly take walks (with our son) where we get a chance for whole conversations while my son is riding his bike ahead of us (or occasionally lagging behind us) on the walking paths near our house. It works for us at this time in our lives and our relationship is in a good place.

  21. Georgia

    This is a great idea Tsh, it can be hard to spend time together with children in the house. My husband works from home 1 day a week when I am also at home so we usually go out for lunch together whilst our children are at school. I have also started a babysitting club at our church. At the moment there 3 families involved so one couple will look after the children in the rooms used for our church kids program whilst the other couples go out. This is great because the rooms are set up with lots of fun things for the kids and you dont have to tidy up at home.

  22. Pussywillow

    Alright, you’ve got my curiosity up–what’s “Unbelievable Kid Bliss” 🙂 ? We can’t have children, so we couldn’t apply it directly, but popcorn is one of the few snacks my prince isn’t allergic to & I was wondering if it’d be “unbelievable bliss” for him too!

    • Tsh

      Oh, so sorry to be misleading… I simply meant the “topping” on the popcorn was the awesomeness of watching a movie with popcorn sans grownups. It’s boring old popcorn. 😉

      • pussywillow

        Gotcha :). Very poetic!

  23. Cordula

    When our kids started kindergarten together last year my husband and I started to meet for lunch a few times (when he is in town). Even though this has not become a regular, as we have planned it to be, it boosts our relationship everytime … We never had couple time ever since the first one was born so this is a great experience. I find, that I can talk about things that are very important to me when we meet outside of the home without kids … So, good luck to all the couples trying to make time for dates!

  24. Karen

    Very interesting post ! I can very much relate. I have a pair of my own, Kyle is 14 and Caroline is 6 and their 8 years gap has been nothing but a blessing. Big brother has been babysitting for two years. Started with my grocery trips that have progressed to our date nights. We stipend him with his weekly allowance but that also covers a list of household chores and straight A’s. Thanks Tsh for sharing this !

  25. jan

    I am a much older mother…70 years young…and we didn’t have date nights back in the 70s. How ever with 6 kids we did need some alone time and every so often we threw a roll of nickels or a package of M&M’ out of our second floor bedroom window and let the kids keep busy searching for them. They still talk about looking for the money and the candy. We treasured those alone times .

    • M

      Hahaha! Love this!

  26. Kerry

    That is awesome! What a great idea and makes your daughter feel special and grown up for a night. Sweet 🙂

  27. M

    A Tate night, how cute! 😀 And it’s such a great idea aswell. Private time for wife and husband, baby sitting practice for Tate. And peace of mind for everyone involved, since you would be available for more serious issues. Good stuff! And the other suggestions here are also great. There’s so much wonderful inspiration on this forum, that seems both doable and enjoyable. Thank you!

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