Keeping the romance alive when you have young kids can be challenging, to say the least. You're constantly exhausted, time alone is rare, and the effort of getting someone to watch your tiny humans so you can go out for dinner doesn't always seem worth the reward.
In the newest episode of our parenting video series, "Life After Birth," we dissect how sex can change after you have a baby. But romance isn't just about sex — it's about connecting.
Pull on your fanciest sweatpants, parents, because we're talking about date nights.
Watch: Sex after a baby can be painfully awkward. Story continues below video.
Relationship experts agree that date nights are critical.
When you become parents, your focal point becomes the kids, and you forget to take care of yourself and your relationship. That's a mistake, Dr. Laurie Betito, a clinical psychologist and sex and relationship expert in Montreal, told HuffPost Canada in a phone interview. And not just because you want to model a healthy relationship for your children.
"When the focus is on the kids, you wind up disconnecting from each other," Betito said.
"If too long goes by that you do nothing as a couple, you lose sight of what attracted you to each other, why you're together, and all the fun stuff you used to do."
Date nights don't have to be fancy
You don't have to go all out. Anything that encourages playfulness and connecting with each other can be considered a date, Betito said, whether that's going out for a meal, going for a hike, or staying in and playing board games.
"Think about what you did before kids, what you enjoyed, and see if you can get back to some of those activities," Betito said.
That said, we crowd-sourced some new parents on how they keep the love alive-ish, and their ideas may sound simple, but they are also genius. They work if the kids are asleep and you're stuck at home, if you've managed to get child care, or even when you only have an hour to yourselves.
And because we're being real, some of these don't even involve changing out of your sweatpants. What are we, 21 again?
1. Cook a meal together and eat it at the (gasp) table
When's the last time you cooked a meal together, for each other, instead of one parent hurriedly boiling spaghetti while the other tries to keep the toddler from eating cat food?
Put on some music, pour yourself a drink, and make a proper meal for adults. Take your time, chat, maybe even try a new recipe. Sit at the table instead of the couch, which will help you stay awake and encourage you to have an actual conversation.
Don't look at your phones. Nothing kills the vibe like a text from playgroup Nancy about her kid's rash.
2. Have a SNAP
Is it sex? Is it a nap? It's both, and it's frigging genius.
A SNAP is a sex nap, and it's how to get some action (and some shut-eye), during your kid's nap. While the kids nap, the parents SNAP. Reconnect physically, then cuddle and doze until your kid inevitably wakes up hangry and with a poop.
Who says romance is dead?
We usually use our kid's naps to clean the house or meal prep, and frankly, we now see that we've been wasting our lives.
3. Skip work together
If you're able, book a day off from work — together. Not because your kid has a doctor's appointment, not because you need the full day to drive for that weekend trip to Grandma's, not because you have pink eye. But just because. The scandal!
If you have a kid in daycare or at school, this means you can spend a full day alone with your loved one. Go to the spa, go out for brunch and read the newspaper together, take a short road trip for lunch, or just stay at home and lounge around in your PJs and drink coffee that is actually hot.
The day is yours!
4. Touch each other
Getting physical doesn't have to be sexual, but intimacy is important in a relationship. When's the last time you really touched each other? Give each other massages or take a bath together. Cuddle, and not just the ol' "feet in your lap while we watch Netflix" move.
"Anything where you're focusing on each other and just enjoying each other, but also the physical pleasure of it," Betito suggests. You may find it increases your desire for each other.
5. Play board games
Listen, we know this sounds simple, but anything that shakes up your usual routine is a good thing. Make nachos, let your hair down, and bust out the ol' Trivial Pursuit, Cribbage board, or Scrabble set.
There's a reason you pack these items on camping trips and break them out at holidays — they're fun activities. It will force you to put down your phone and focus on the game ... and each other. Pretend you're at a cottage and have a drink (or two). It's date night, after all.
6. Just do something (anything) without the kids
"Any time away from the kids together, even going grocery shopping, can be a reconnecting experience. You hold hands — it's just the two of you," Betito said.
That does sound kind of nice, doesn't it?
See if someone can watch the monitor, and slip out for a coffee date during your kid's nap. Send junior on a playdate and use that time to meal plan and shop together. Take your kid to Ikea, and leave them in the ballroom so you can drool over new kitchens and storage solutions in peace.
7. Turn your house into a restaurant or movie theatre
Whether you order in, cook a big meal, or set out snacks and drinks, take the time to set the mood. And yes, that means cleaning up all your kid's junk beforehand so you're not spending date night staring down a mountain of stuffed animals and a disassembled train set.
In nice weather, sit outside and play some light music. Set up lanterns so you feel like you're on a patio. If the weather is crap, light some candles and put out a table cloth on your dining room table. Make something different, like fondue. Or put some fresh blankets and pillows out on the couch, order in something spicy, and rent a movie.
What's important is that, whatever you're doing, it feels different than the everyday.
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8. Eff it. Go out.
"The difficulty is when you're at home, the chance of you falling asleep on the couch is great. So it might be better to get out of the house and just have a change of scenery," Betito said.
"We just get very complacent, and I get it, it's hard when you've had a long day and it's exhausting. But it's also re-energizing. Once you're out, it's fun. You're going to have to push yourself."
Sometimes, you just need to get a sitter, get dressed, and go out on an old-fashioned date. Just DO IT. You're parents. You deserve it.
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