8 Ways Parents Can Actually Go Out And Enjoy Valentine’s Day

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There once was a time when Valentine’s Day with your partner meant going out for ambling prix-fix dinners followed by some jazz or maybe a play. Worried that these occasions have gone the way of sleeping in on weekends or using the bathroom without your little one opening the door? Fear not, fellow parents. Here are eight ways to make this Valentine’s a memorable—and relaxing—night out.

Check yourself
Before you leave for your dinner, make sure to inspect yourself for any splatters of vomit, poo, or homemade cumin-spiced-Kombucha-squash puree. There are few things more depressing on Valentine’s Day than having your significant other beckon you close to whisper, “I think the baby shat on your sweater.”

Speaking of clothing…
Put some thought into what you wear. The Carhartt pants with all the extra pockets that are perfect for holding parenting gadgets? Definitely not. Use this opportunity to gussy yourself up. You know, like you did before you had a kid.

Set ground rules with the babysitter
Whether you’re leaving your child in the care of a beloved grandparent or a trustworthy high schooler from your neighborhood, make sure he or she understands when to contact you. If there’s something wrong with your child or the house is burning down, by all means, give a call. Short of that or an actual zombie apocalypse, he or she should leave you alone.

Make reservations—far in advance
You don’t want to find yourself at the McDonald’s drive-through after you’ve been turned down for a table at your favorite restaurant because you forgot to make a reservation in January. Though you would undoubtedly have a story that would amuse your children for all eternity, you would also have an angry spouse who might use this opportunity to show off the moves she’s been honing in kickboxing class.

Presents never go out of style
I don’t care if you buy them at the grocery store, but flowers are always a good idea (and the selection at Trader Joe’s is stellar). Like other stuff you should probably remember but just can’t seem to—your anniversary, your spouse’s favorite color, and the names of her colleagues you only see once a year at the holiday party—keep your spouse’s favorite flower in a note in your phone. If flowers won’t cut it, good chocolate, top shelf booze, or cheeky gift cards for bedroom favors are good alternatives.

Put your phone away
You don’t need to check your email, find out the latest Trump news, or upload a pic to Instagram humblebragging about where you’re enjoying Valentine’s with the person you love so much. Just put your phone away and keep it there.

Pretend you aren’t parents
Forget you ever procreated. Imagine you’re still dating and don’t have a care in the world. In other words: don’t spend the whole time talking about your offspring. Focus on each other. There will be plenty of time to discuss your children—like when you get home and discover they’ve transformed the living room into a fort using every piece of bedding in the house.

Enjoy dessert
Treat yourselves to something sweet, and maybe a couple digestifs. You two deserve it. Parenting can be hard as hell. The least you can do on your night out is indulge in a ridiculously over-the-top chocolaty confection.

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Parenting writer

Nevin Martell is a parenting, food, and travel writer whose work has appeared in the Washington Post, New York Times, Saveur, Men’s Journal, Fortune, Travel + Leisure, Runner’s World, and many other publications. He is author of seven books, including It’s So Good: 100 Real Food Recipes for Kids, the travelogue-memoir Freak Show Without a Tent: Swimming with Piranhas, Getting Stoned in Fiji and Other Family Vacations, and the small-press smash Looking for Calvin and Hobbes: The Unconventional Story of Bill Watterson and His Revolutionary Comic Strip. When he isn’t working, he loves spending time with his wife and their four-year-old son, who already runs faster than he does.