Motherhood

Marriage Tip: The 6 O’Clock Dinner

kiss-at-restaurant

This makes us sound 1,000 years old, but here goes…

A couple weekends ago, Alex and I wanted to go to a buzzy Mediterranean restaurant in Nolita. The catch? The only available reservation was 6:15 p.m. Although we usually head to dinner much later (usually around 8:30, and in my twenties, I’d often go after 10, crazily enough), we decided to go for it.

And that is how we discovered the genius of early dinner reservations.

Our typical date night:

6 p.m. Feed the boys dinner
6:30 Bath
7:00 Pajamas/teeth
7:15 Books
7:30 Song
7:32 Another song
7:34 Put Anton back into his crib
7:36 Another song
7:38 Put Anton back into his crib
7:40 Another song
7:42 Anton, get back in your crib for the love of all things holy!
8:00 Sitter arrives
8:15 Head to restaurant
8:30 Drink wine, eat food, have a chat
10:30 Cab home
11:00 Pass out, exhausted

Our new-and-improved date night:

6:00 Kiss the boys goodbye, as they eat dinner with a beloved babysitter; head to restaurant
6:15 Drink wine, eat food, enjoy sparkling conversation
8:15 Cab home
8:30 Home
8:31 SECOND DATE NIGHT BEGINS!!!
Make out?
Play games?
Watch a movie?
Night cap?
Dessert?
ALL THE ABOVE?!
10:30 Cuddle up and fall asleep

In sum, you get two date nights for the price of one.

Bonus: Early reservations make it much easier to book tables at cool restaurants that otherwise feel impossible to get into. Plus, I actually like the 6 p.m. vibe: You settle into the quiet room, have a serene conversation and soak up the amazing atmosphere. And, by the time 8 o’clock rolls around, the restaurant has woken up, with crowds filling the space. Basically, it’s the best of both worlds: first, you enjoy the restaurant as your own little hideaway; then you see the full performance of the restaurant, without having to elbow your way through the crowd.

joanna-goddard-

Thoughts? Is this a no-brainer thing you already do? We are converted! Or do you prefer your kids to be asleep before you head out?

P.S. Jerry Seinfeld on kids’ bedtime routines and a fun time to have sex.

  1. Jessica says...

    without a doubt this is a no brainer thing we already do. and i don’t even have little kids. nothing worse than pushing through people trying to get to the hostess or even worse, while you wait for your table, awkwardly standing around a crowded bar trying to get the bartender to see you.

  2. Yes! To all of this! Even though I’m not married nor have kids, it takes a while for the food to digest and if later, by the time you get home all I want to do is watch Netflix and sleep. So yes, to the early dinner (I remember watching something on Oprah saying that she doesn’t eat past 7 p.m.) Or is this just how it is in your 30s?

  3. I’m certainly reserving this tip for later ;)

  4. Amelia says...

    Not about date night but …. I had a great sense of synchronicity the other day… Your blog is the only blog I read and Gary janetti’s tweets are the only ones I read. Then I saw Gary mention how much he loved an article of Alex’s and Alex said how funny he thought Gary was!! Haha I loved it – all my favourites love each other (I’m the only odd one out 😜). But that’s ok I’m in Australia!
    Xxx
    Ps That is the most gorgeous photo of you two

  5. I love an early date! We don’t have kids either and I nearly always make our reservations for 7 or 7:30. If we can be home in the 10-10:30 window, it’s all good! Traffic is usually good for a 7PM Uber pick up…

  6. mcsdwm says...

    restaurants are at their Saturday night best at 6 pm; no wait, attentive service and best of all: no yelling across the table to hear your partner!

  7. Kimberly says...

    We have the sitter come early enough that we can get ready for our date together with a glass of wine and no toddler interruptions. It’s like a date before a date.

  8. Beth says...

    Hahaha, I hear ya! I’m a teacher, so I’m on a permanently early schedule. 6pm dinner is great.

  9. My fiancé and I are just now realizing how great it is to go to an early dinner. I love not being rushed through the meal and not feeling full right before we pass out. I also like going out on Monday nights! Most restaurants are super dead, so you get a peaceful meal and great service. :)

  10. We just adopted this strategy when we couldn’t find anything but (gasp!) a 5:45 reservation at our favorite restaurant.

    Albeit sans kids, we are still in love with the “two date nights for the price of one”, as you described it perfectly. The restaurant gets all electric towards the middle of dinner, so it’s a serenity sandwich: start dinner in peace, leave with the buzz of nightlife, and return to the tranquility of a glass of wine on the couch!

  11. Amy says...

    You clearly aren’t an introvert because I was this way when I was young, and now that I’ve reached 40 it’s just habit. Also as a nurse I don’t work a traditional 9-5 schedule – so I get the luxury of Wednesday afternoon movie matinees for grown-up films and Thursday night Happy Hours. And when I do have a late night out with friends it’s a nice change of routine. I don’t have kids, but when I was a teen babysitter I always had to feed the kids and put them to bed! Isn’t that the point of the parents getting away?

  12. Jessica says...

    We do this too! And we don’t even have kids yet. We live in NYC but love going places at 6ish for the uncrowded vibe. But then we get to see the restaurant liven up by the time we leave, so that’s fun too. And we aren’t tired when we get home. Win-win!

  13. deanna says...

    This has always been one of my favorite “tricks,” especially if i don’t have a reservation! It’s also a great way to get into great restaurants with my parents when they’re in town. (They’re super-early risers–5am!–and are perfectly happy to be home and relaxing by 8 or 9pm!) The food is just as good early on and sometimes not having the crowd is so nice. I don’t have kids, so the babysitting isn’t an issue for me, but I absolutely swear by this if I want to try a trendy/busy place on the quick. I’m not sure there are many cities where having dinner at 6pm is considered “super early” but I’ve definitely worked it to my benefit. Ah, New York!

  14. Erin Cochran says...

    This is 100% spot on!

  15. Jenny says...

    It’s funny, we absolutely loved the 6pm dinner. Until we moved to the suburbs. Out here in Gilbert, Arizona-everyone seems to be onto your genius idea. Everywhere is packed!! It’s nearly impossible to go out without a long wait, and almost no one takes reservations. Must be truly regional! If you would head to a restaurant at 8:30, you would be the last ones in there and closing down the place!

  16. Trista says...

    Haha my husband and I do this already and we don’t even have kids…

    • Jessica says...

      Ha ha! Us too!

    • Sara says...

      Same! I think outside NYC it’s not at all uncommon.

  17. Lauren says...

    Yes! One of the best things about a babysitter is getting to skip bedtime routine! We always do happy hour and apps or early dinner and I love coming home around 830 and having the kids already in bed and the chance to snuggle in for a movie night- the best!

  18. Ellen says...

    My husband and I often work late during the week and therefore often eat dinner later than we would like. When the weekend comes we LOVE the “early bird” dinner. We can enjoy dinner out and then have the entire evening ahead to go somewhere else for cocktails, visit friends, or snuggle in for a cocktail and a movie. We have gone out as early as 5 but usually it’s 6 and we don’t have kids! It make us feel like we are luxuriating in free time.

  19. Yes! My husband and I love the Happy Hour date. Head out at 4pm, enjoy drinks and food for Happy Hour prices, take a nice walk, pick-up ice cream, head home around 7:30 right after kids are asleep (ours go down early), and begin date #2! It’s the best. We also occasionally share babysitters with our friends on Friday nights and we all go to Happy Hour, let the kids stay up late “until 8ish) and then head home: Inexpensive dinner, no cooking, and shared sitter prices too (and the sitters love it b/c the kids entertain each other)!

  20. RC says...

    Joanna, please stop telling the world my secret! It’s the only way to get last minute tables here in la!

  21. No-brainer for me – who doesn’t like playing hooky and avoiding the kids’ bedtime sometimes? If you’re paying the babysitter, they can do it!

  22. Johanna, you have officially blurted out ‘the best kept secret’ going! I don’t know whether to cry over never getting another 6:15pm reservation at Dirty French or thank you for saving me on my eating out budget and two-date-nights-in-one stamina😉. Either way, happy to share in your centurion way of thinking!

  23. Claire S. says...

    My husband and I have been doing this for years too (both before having our son and now with a toddler)! Sometimes we even go to a movie beforehand and then chat about the flick at the early dinner. There is always time to hang out on the couch after you get home. I feel the babysitter must like it too–she can still head out with her friends once we come home!

  24. Love this post, Joanna! You keep it real for us.

  25. Nina says...

    I like to be at restaurants early, too. I don’t have kids but back in my babysitting days I preferred for the children to be awake when I arrived – I think it’s scary for them if they wake up and unexpectedly find someone else there instead of their parents, but if they’ve spent the early evening with you then it’s fine. And that’s even when they know you well – nobody wants to wake up from a bad dream and then find their parents have snuck off somewhere while they were sleeping!

  26. Amy P says...

    We do this! Took us a few years to figure it out too, but it’s amazing and so much more relaxing!

  27. maria says...

    we don’t have kids and yet my husband and i have done this FOREVER. even when we were in our 20s! haha. i just can’t see waiting until it’s so late, to go for dinner?! we both have careers that have us home by 4;15pm, so to wait any later than 6:30 for dinner i’d be famished in any case. 6 pm reservations are the BEST! and we’ll be well primed for the early bird crowd when we eventually retire. ;)

    ps – i went to estela’s when it first opened with a friend – great little spot!

  28. Katrina says...

    I was raised on 5 o’clock dinners growing up. My mother was a firm believer in very early dinners and I now have to accept that it’s a habit that made it’s way into my life. Even though my partner and I don’t have children, I can still relate to this post. We are early diners most of the time. When we do go out, which is not frequently, we usually make a reservation for 6 or 6.30pm. It allows us to have a quiet start to the dinner, not feel rushed and not feel like we have to talk too loudly to each other just to be heard. We also feel we get slightly better experience dining out by eating early. As we don’t currently live together, we also sometimes have our own homes to go back to at night, especially if we have work the next morning. So dining early means a relaxed dinner and then we can still enjoy some quality time together before the evening is over and the realities of the next day set in.

  29. that was precisely my experience this weekend at momofuku nishi! 5:30pm was the only reservation I could snag (and the people in line ahead of me were putting their names down for a THREE HOUR WAIT!! no thanks…) it was actually a fun night, because we were back in jersey city sipping cocktails by 8:30pm, even after hitting up doughnut plant on our way home!! perfect night.

  30. Yes! Totally agree–my husband and I love lunner (there’s actually a term for this, go figure), and we don’t even have kids, yet!

  31. Bri says...

    We are in our fifties, and THIS has been our ‘way’ to dine out for several years now…and some friends used to joke how this was like an old folks’ routine! You discovered our secret to getting more joy, fun and quality time together!! I have never liked crowded rooms, waiting in lines, and dinners that end up sitting in ( or on) my stomach, and with an early bird dinner out, we can enjoy all kinds of food , get above the noise, crowds and have more time on the other end for cheek to cheek dancing, snuggling in watching a movie, or just pillow talk !
    LOVE THIS!

  32. Celeste says...

    Ha! welcome to the secret world of introverts. My husband and I always book early reservations because we’re almost always guaranteed a spot, things are quiet, we get the whole evening, and we STILL get to go to bed on time. It’s the best. We’re not cool but we’re fine with it. ha.

  33. happycamper742 says...

    Genius. We have caught on to the same, except we are experts on the 5pm date. It absolutely makes us actually 1000 years old, but so what. Only problem is some awesome places don’t open until 5:30 and we have had to write those off as “too hip” for us.

  34. I’ve been meaning to try Estela for the longest time! My favorite brunch spot–Nolita House–used to be in the same space (they had an awesome boozy, bluegrass brunch with live music!), but once I got over that loss, Estela moved high on my list :)

  35. That’s pretty much how we do it! Dinner after 7-7:30ish seems too late. And you’re right – you get to skip the crowds!

  36. Megan says...

    we are early birds. Part of the fun for us is missing out on the bedtime routine which can be frusterating when you are trying to get out and having to give out the 100th last goodnight kiss. I think its good for the little ones to see mom and dad getting spruced up and going out together.

    • Exactly. Skipping bedtime is part of the joy of going out, for me!

  37. Meghan Ulloa says...

    We always do early dinner for date night. Pay the sitter to do the bedtime routine, instead of just sitting there :)

  38. Laura says...

    I’m not married & I don’t have kids, but I love going to dinner early! And what you wrote is exactly what I love about it: you can get into hard-to-get-into-places; you feel like you have the place to yourself, but you still get the buzzy vibe on your way out, and then THE NIGHT IS YOUNG!! Maybe that makes me old, but I just love it. :)

  39. Karen T. says...

    Our boys are older and we still do this. Sometimes it’s dinner and a hot night of shopping at Target but then we get home, boys are in bed and we are ready for date two!

  40. Maneesh says...

    I seem to be able to relax easier knowing my kids are asleep and have less mommy guilt knowing I’ve seen them after work (before date night). We often do 9 pm date nights for that reason! also easy to get 9 pm reservations. The times we have done the early date night (for obligations we had to get to early), and our trusted nanny helps, I will say it felt amazing!

    • Bianca says...

      I completely agree! Unless I leave my son with grandma, I prefer to put him down for bed before I leave. I am able to completely relax knowing he is safely tucked in, and yes, less guilt knowing I was there for that short window after work/before bed!

  41. Lilly says...

    um yeah, i’m 27, no kids, don’t even live in a big city, and I like to eat by 6-7. I like going at times when places are less crowded, and I’m hungry. Do people eat a mid-meal between lunch and 9:00 dinner, or am I just the old person out who can’t wait that long to eat? Ha

    • Brianna says...

      You’re not alone. I eat dinner between 5:30-6 most nights. I get up early, so I go to bed early. It’s all proportionate to my schedule.

  42. I was wondering how you managed to go out with your husband !! Thank you for that insider information.

    By the way, I praised your motherhood around the world series on my recent post in which I tell 6 unexpected things about motherhood in Argentina. I hope this is fine with you! I completely love those series so I was inspired by them. It’s up now if you’d like to read. Thank you Joanna!

    Alina
    http://www.eclecticalu.blogspot.com

  43. I’m single and live alone and I try to eat dinner by 6! Unfortunately, my dad had some health issues recently which put him in a temporary nursing rehabilitation center. After going over to eat dinner with him each week at 5pm, I realized the brilliance. It felt like I had a whole evening to get things done! Now I try to at least start cooking dinner at 5 so that I can eat by 6 (with a snack later if need be). #lifehack ;)

  44. Melissa says...

    EVEN BETTER if you’re not going to a fancy dinner is the 4 – 8 PM babysitter window. We have recently discovered this! Catch an afternoon movie, go for a hike or a park romp, THEN do the 6 PM dinner, the sitter actually manages afternoon crazytown, dinner + bedtime, then you still arrive home at 8 PM for perhaps THIRD date night? Highly recommended!

  45. Julia says...

    Our energizer: Last summer we discovered “Sunday date afternoons” – a whole weekend with our two kids can be quite frustrating for us as a couple. So we usually go for a hike for 2 hrs., since we live in a really beautiful region. We enjoy the landscape, the workout, and the silence (!), but also share our thoughts vividly. When back home, all of us had a good time so we’are able to finish the weekend happily together.

  46. Yael Steren says...

    My friends always joke around that I’m like a senior citizen bc I love to eat so early but I get hungry early and if I go out late to eat I always need to eat ahead of time as well so I think this is a super cute idea! Xx Yael

    http://www.yaelsteren.com/blog

  47. Emily says...

    The best part of date night for me is not having to put the kids to bed, so yes, we always do it this way! And every time we come home to a quiet, clean house I extra tip that babysitter and tell myself it is worth every single penny!

    • Abbie says...

      Yes! Not putting the kids to bed = the entire day feels like vacation!

  48. Liz says...

    6pm dinner rocks! Just in time for happy hour. Need I say more?

  49. helen h says...

    GENIUS.

  50. Yes! When our kids were really little sometimes we went out in the afternoon (so the babysitter didn’t have to do bedtimes)…and we got 2 date nights

  51. Alison says...

    this is exactly what my husband and I do too – its a win win!

  52. Deborah C. says...

    We love a 6:00pm dinner when the restaurant is fairly empty and parking is easier to find then leaving when the place is full. The kids love hanging out with the babysitter and she takes care of feeding dinner, baths and bedtime. We just have to make sure dinner is made for them beforehand, but the babysitter takes care of all the hard work while we relax. :)

  53. Yes, why pay the babysitter to hang out while you’re kids are asleep when you can pay them to handle bedtime for you? I love paying someone to let me skip out on bedtime!

  54. Claire says...

    I may not have kids, but the husband and I totally do this too! I’m mildly introverted, but I’d much rather enjoy a slightly earlier dinner (more reservations open, less crowds, easier to find parking, etc), and then come home around 8/9 for date night part 2 (movies and drinks, reading, etc). It’s divine!

  55. I’m a teacher with early days and often meet other teacher friends out for dinner at 5. We never have to wait for a table, it’s great fun and we are always home early!

  56. Lana says...

    This is so intriguing to me! We always do family dinner at 5:30 and it lasts til 6 or 615. Then one of us cleans up while the other does baths. Then it’s books and after that teeth brushing. My five year old is in bed by 8 but spies on us for a good hour. My eighteen month old has so many bad sleep habits and she’s often up with us until we go to bed around 10 or will fall asleep nursing and we lay her on the couch while we watch a show Bc the crib transfer always wakes her up. Glad to see somebody’s going on dates! Lol!

  57. Jasmine says...

    We do this as well… also, one of my pet peeves is when the sitter doesn’t get the kids to bed on time. I may need to be more explicit with them, but having someone else do bedtime is one of the major perks of a sitter. Nothing kills a nice wine buzz like “hi mommy!” when you come home.

    • GoldenMoon says...

      “Nothing kills a nice wine buzz like “hi mommy!” when you come home.”– Such truth!

  58. Teresa says...

    I line dinner at 5:30. Easier to lose weight and no hearburn and no crowds. I’m 47.

  59. While I’m not a parent yet, I do really love the idea of an early dinner. Once I’m home I hit relaxation mode, which sometimes makes it tough to venture out again later in the evening (especially in cold weather…wimp). An early dinner leaves the rest of the evening blissfully free for me and my guy to head home and be able to unwind before bed. In short, this is a great idea, and you are not 1,000 for thinking so!

    https://haveheartsite.wordpress.com/

  60. We’ve always done this! Our sitter arrives around 5:30 and we let her order pizza with the kids and she handles bedtime (yay). We have an early dinner and always have some time to fill after we eat (don’t want to get home before the kids are in bed!) so we do any number of things: go to another place for a drink or coffee, go for a long walk, go to a music recital (we live in a college town), go to the grocery store or target (so fun without the kids), even go to the library!

  61. We’ve been having our beloved babysitter come at 5pm when we got out on a weekend evening so that she can watch an episode of a TV show with our two year old before feeding him dinner then putting him to bed and it’s great! You get a break from the dinner fight, doing bedtime, AND you can still be home by 10pm even if you do dinner and a movie! It’s definitely the way to go.

  62. Jessica says...

    This is a sweet and quick read. My husband and I were raised on 6:00 dinners. We carried this into our adulthood and marriage. No children yet, but can certainly relate to the whole part 1 and part 2 thing. We own a home and have a dog…so, there’s always something “busy” about life it seems. The earlier dinner allows us to go more immediately from work/bustle to relaxation and quality time. The after-dinner time is what we and our families call “having an evening.”

    Earlier dinner is like a recharge before we go on to the evening’s activities – even if they include us being a bit more responsible and less “fun.” But, isn’t that a big part of married/life-long partner date nights? They help us re-calibrate our mindset about each other and life…and they make our life together (including the mundane things) much more bearable! So, thanks for the validating post :-)

  63. Emilie says...

    This is definitely becoming a habit too. But only because the age of our kids now allows for it. We have 2 boys, 20 months apart, littlest one is 19 mo. Before, mom (me) was the only one allowed to put him to sleep. So we had to go out after bed time. Now one single person can handle both, so we can go out earlier. It’s definitely better, and for the person who babysits too, we come back earlier. Win-win-win-win… :)

  64. Kat says...

    I don’t have kids, but I’ve always been an early dinner eater. I just get too hungry to wait until 10pm to eat dinner! 10pm is bedtime for me! I guess I’ve just been on an old lady schedule since I was a teenager ;)

  65. melissa says...

    ha! i seriously can’t wait until 7 or 8 or 9 or anything after 6 for dinner. we usually go at 5! for real. i am way too hungry. also we go to bed early and wake up early, so that may be part of it.

  66. I think this would be a great solution for us – my babe likes to check I’m there every 45 minutes still once he’s in bed! This way I could be home before he realises he’s asleep without me. maybe.

  67. Kelsey Leftwich says...

    My husband and I are in our twenties, no kids, regular 9-5 schedule, and we still try to get to the restaurant before 6PM. And we live in the suburbs so crowded restaurants aren’t really an issue but I hate waiting! Talk about sounding like an old person.

  68. Angel says...

    I really do think it’s an NYC thing to eat that late. I’d starve.
    So yep, our dates look pretty much like the after! Plus, getting high school sitters home on tome is a good thing.

  69. The kids better be awake if I’m paying for a babysitter.

  70. We ALWAYS do this! I used to be embarrassed, but there is so much more time! Grandmas puts the kids to bed instead and we have time for dinner, movie? Ice cream date? Waking around outside? It’s so wonderful to have that extra time after! And our kids like more time with grandma anyways!

    Xoxo http://www.touchofcurl.com

  71. Danielle says...

    We don’t have kids, but I wanted to chime in because of the whole NYC vs the Midwest and the rest of the country. We live in the suburbs of Detroit, MI and typically eat dinner at home around 7p and when we go out to a restaurant, closer to 7:30/8pm. My husband doesn’t get home from work most days til 5:30/5:45, then he walks the dog for 45 min while I’m home, cooking dinner. Even before we got our dog, we still rarely ate dinner before 7p.

    We have friends with kids that eat earlier – and friends with kids that eat later. There definitely seems to be a mix, no matter where you live in the US!

  72. Suzanne says...

    I prefer our sitter to arrive at 5:30 so I have a half hour to do hair & make up and feel more like a wife and less like a mommy. :-) then we leave the house at 6 but don’t come home until 10 or 11pm. We do drinks, dinner and dancing. Make a night of it!!

  73. Lizzy says...

    I love this. Never even occurred to me, even though our sitter is better at getting my kids to sleep than I am! And then I feel guilty for keeping her out late if we want to linger after dinner. Time to change our ways. Thanks!

  74. YES! Absolutely! We did this without planning to at Recette on West 12th. We had the tasting menu and it was wonderful. We had the whole place to ourselves, the wait staff was lovely and relaxed and I oooed and aahhhhed over every course like Bill Murray in What About Bob. A perfect date night

  75. Cynthia says...

    We’ve always gone out early. When our girls were little, my mom babysat and she fed the girls and got them ready for bed. Also, for places which don’t take reservations, if we arrive between six and six thirty, we beat the seven p.m. crowds. I don’t like eating late at home because then I don’t have a lot of time after dishes before I have to get ready for bed.

  76. Sara says...

    We do this too! If we do a Saturday date we’ll go to an afternoon movie, dinner, go home, circle the block if the kids’ bedroom lights are still on :), then invite friends over for games.

  77. Loribeth says...

    I don’t have kids but waiting until 8 PM for dinner seems really difficult to me. I’m an introvert and I really enjoy quiet atmospheres in public. I’ve always gone for the 6 or 6:30 dinners out because otherwise I’m pretty uncomfortable once a restaurant gets packed.
    I did babysit through the end of high school and college and had a lot of parents that liked me to get there early enough for them to get ready while I hung out and did dinner and a nighttime routine with their kids.

  78. jen says...

    Ha! We did this on a visit to NY and it worked just like this–we got a table, place got busy, we finished up and left and then walked to a play. perfect.

  79. i might be in the minority, but i am a fan of early dinners. i like to eat at the very very very latest at 7pm, but ideal is 6:30pm. i want to be able to digest my food, lounge and not go to bed stuffed/full. bed time is around 10pm. (i’m reading this again and i know i sound old…)

    i lived with a girl from spain who had late lunches, like at 3 or 4pm and wouldn’t have dinner until closer to 11pm, because that was how she was raised. i told her that if she wanted to eat what i made, she had to knock that habit and be ready for dinner by 6:30/7pm. it was never a problem for her as i always had a hot meal ready every single night.

  80. Laura C says...

    Spain is the only country in the world that lives in a wrong time zone. According to daylight, we should have one hour less.
    So, here, at 6.15 pm you usually get a snack. Dinners often begin from 9 to 10 pm.
    I find it VERY annoying. At 8 am it is dark. In summertime, at 10 pm there is light.
    It’s an old story from WWII… Spain changed time zone to be with Germany and after the war, they didn’t get us back to the true time zone.
    Anyway your double date sounds very nice.
    xoxo

  81. Amy L says...

    Maybe it depends where you live, but I could imagine that later dinner time is more common in New York. Where we live, a 6 or 7pm dinner is more normal especially if you have kids. I totally agree though, it’s so nice to be in the restaurant a bit before it starts to really pick up! And getting to bed at a decent hour is so nice because we all know kids don’t give a rip if you were up late because they will be up at the crack of dawn anyways!

  82. Emily says...

    We’ve been doing this when my parents are visiting – the only problem is when they don’t manage to get our daughter down before we come home!! 😬

  83. Maegan says...

    Yup, this is how we do date night. Babysitter shows up at 6, then we leave her to finish up their dinner and put them to bed. Sometimes we joke that we just get our babysitter so that we have one night where we don’t have to put them to bed (because, honestly, that’s the exhausting part!). When our younger child was a baby, we would put her down before we headed out (around 6:30), but now that she is 2, we have the sitter put her down. The girls love having the sitter over, its like a special treat for them too! We try to get our sitter at least once a month to keep them in a routine where they see her often. We usually get home around 9 or 10 depending on if we are just doing dinner, or if we are seeing a movie or going to the theatre/orchestra. Can’t live without date night!!

  84. Estela says...

    That’s what we do here with two little ones! By 8pm I’m so tired I can’t go out. And when friends invite us to dinner at 10pm I want to die. Haha yes we are 10000 years old.

  85. Mallika says...

    Wow. Where I am from in India, normally dinner is had around 10. Since I try to catch a full 8 hours of shut eye I get an early dinner around 9.30. Or is unheard of to have dinner any sooner in the evening. A 9.30 dinner of one of those stretchable dates that my boyfriend and I try to pull off. But it is really possible as we usually get done with work around 7-8. At 6 PM I am usually at work grabbing a tea time snack.

    • Madeline says...

      I’m always so interested in the differences of other cultures’ daily timelines. What time do you start your day? I’m usually up at 4:30 and there’s no way I could get 8 hours of sleep if I didn’t eat dinner until 10. Also I’d be super hungry.

  86. We do this and love it! Even though we don’t have kids, we’re both not too keen on crowds and places in Chicago tend to fill up the closer you get to 8:00. Plus, there is something very fun and sexy about meeting out after work without going home first. It’s like a secret rendezvous :)

  87. Alison says...

    Our kids are now older — 6 and 8 — so the bedtime routine isn’t bad. What we’ve been doing for the past month and loving is getting a babysitter to come from 3:30-7:30 on Sundays. We go to a yoga class together, shower there, then go out for an early dinner somewhere. When we get home we do have to put the kids to bed but we’ve found it’s a great way to reconnect after a weekend with the kids and makes Sundays feel a little less Sunday-ish.

  88. Kelsey says...

    Yessss!! Absolutely! this is one of our favorite ‘secrets’ about living in LA- we can get into basically ANY restaurant if we go before 7 and then the double date thing is a dream! In the summer we can go to dinner, have drinks, take a stroll, check out the neighborhood, or hit a second place for dessert or a nightcap, and when it’s cooler, we can go home and hang out on our patio. It’s so fun!

  89. Dottie Louise says...

    Good for you guys! I was scrolling down slowly and loved the ‘SECOND DATE NIGHT BEGINS!!!’ haha

  90. ck says...

    Truthfully, this sounds way to ambitious for us. But we do sometimes get away for a happy hour drink together. It works similarly. We get to have an intimate drink or two before the place gets hopping. Then the bar scene begins as we exit. And we’re home in time to put our kids to bed, something that no babysitter has yet accomplished.

  91. Elisabeth says...

    We do this – it’s GREAT. We also do the “date afternoon” – where we go to an afternoon movie/museum/bookstore stroll/whatever, grab an early dinner, and then get home in time to put our little guy to bed. Then the bonus after-kiddo-bedtime date! I also feel like it’s so much easier to book a great sitter for afternoon or early evening, because the young whippersnappers (I say with love) can still go to their cool nighttime plans after we get home. They’re often booked if we want to go out after 8-9pm. :)

  92. Linsey says...

    I spent the 2 years I was in grad school as a babysitter/nanny and still help out a family 2x a week. My “shifts” are exactly what you mention… I show up around 6pm and do the entire nighttime routine (finish up dinner, play, bath, PJ’s, books, bed) and I text the parents when they kids are asleep (around 8pm).

    They get a double dose of quality time and I get a little extra cash on the side. A genius move I plan on using when my fiancé and I are married and have our own kids.

  93. CJKEYS2 says...

    That’s a great idea. The only concern I have coming from a baby sitter point of view is not getting enough hours. BUT! It’s also a nice way to make a couple bucks and be done in time to go out and have a night for yourself too as the sitter. I baby sit almost every weekend and more often than not I’m in charge of the feeding and bedtime routine. That’s what I’m getting paid for. Sometimes I even start my night so the parents can get dressed and ready without kids bothering them if you wanted to give the sitter more hours.

  94. Is it sad that I’m single and I already LOVE early dinners?? I can always get a reservation. The restaurant isn’t super crowded yet, so I can actually hear the person I’m having dinner with. I can either go to another spot for a nightcap after dinner and not be rushed, or go home and get in bed at a decent hour and be fully rested the next day. It’s a win win I think!

  95. I’m from Holland and a dinner reservation at 6 isn’t unimagineable. I guess the only thing worth considering is if you can trust/burden your sitter with feeding and bathing ;)

  96. jen says...

    we always head out around 6:30 for our date night! usually so we can get a drink before dinner or if we have an early reservation we get a night cap before heading back home. honestly by 8 i have no momentum to go out.

  97. Caitlin says...

    My husband and I have always loved the 6:00 dinner because we hate waiting and are too disorganized to make reservations (but it doesn’t work in Santa Fe, that’s when everyone goes to dinner there) and since having a kid, having someone else put the munchkin to bed for us is worth every penny going to that baby sitter.

  98. My kids have such a hard time with a babysitter. They just scream and scream. We live apart from family, and though we get their most beloved teachers from daycare over and the kids are happy to see them, they just can’t separate from us. Needless to say, it’s trauma for everyone and never feels worth it to go out (though we would love to). Any tips would be great. My kids are almost 4, and 2.

  99. I get off work at 5 and am usually home by 5:30. Five minutes after I walk in the door, we have the “What do you want for dinner?” discussion. Whether we opt to eat in or out, we pretty much get immediately to it. We either start prepping dinner or grabbing coats so we can head across town (or even sometimes *gasp* out of town) to go out the eat. With any luck we’re done eating and home by 7:30 or 8. Until now, I had no idea this was considered “early.” Haha!

    Having/Making dinner is so nice to do early for me and my boyfriend. It’s a great time to get a little face-to-face interaction after a busy day away from one another. It also gives us a much needed reprieve from work or chores or other things that are seeking our attention after our 9-5 grind!

  100. Heather says...

    Yes, we totally do this. Otherwise, after getting the kids to sleep, I’m too tired to want to go out and be a good date!

  101. Summer says...

    Always done this…and I don’t even have kids! Ha! I’d get WAY too hangry between lunch and dinner, snack or not, and I just don’t like eating big meals very late.

  102. I wonder what time you get up, considering that you have dinner so early! In my country, we never have dinner before 9 pm.

    • jen says...

      Im thinking Americans get up way earlier then in Europe. We’re hungry early in Europe and are always eating in empty restaurants, which isnt that much fun

  103. mary says...

    While, I prefer an earlier dinner anyway, in reality, it’s easier for us to leave after our son is put to bed to make it easier on our parents, since he will go down easily for us and NOT anyone else. I ‘m a fan of happy hour deals!! So I love the idea of just getting home early enough to put our son to bed after happy hour/early dinner.

  104. Maybe this is a west coast thing (or a non-city thing), but my family and I eat dinner around 5 or 5:30 every night! I go to bed around 9pm so it just makes more sense. I love having time to eat, do the dishes, digest, have a little something sweet, drink a cup of tea, read, watch TV, get ready for bed—all without feeling rushed! Eating early is the best :)

    • Meredith says...

      I was just wondering if it was a midwest thing to eat dinner earlier! I follow your exact same routine and I love it. :)

    • Melissa says...

      I was thinking the same thing! I’m from WI and eating dinner after 7pm always meant we were eating late, ha! I can’t imagine eating after 8pm, unless I had a late lunch.

    • Audrey says...

      Same here. I live in the Bay Area and we always eat dinner as a family by 6 or 6:30 (would be earlier but I don’t get home from work until 5:30). We have a tenant from France and he is definitely on a different schedule, but he also prefers to eat lunch much later (like 2 or 3) and I have it at 12. Cracked me up that the normal around here is apparently so uncommon other places :)

  105. I agree that the late reservations keep you at home and it’s no fun to do the kid responsibilities when you are going out that evening. We usually make a reservation at around 7 or 7:30, but leave an hour beforehand so that we can get a drink somewhere, or at the restaurant’s bar first. That way we can still have a later dinner, but can leave the kid responsibilities to the sitter.

  106. miriam says...

    unrelated topic, but: are you all still doing the newsletter? i’m signed up but haven’t received one yet. nothing in my spam folders. was looking forward to it!

  107. Lore says...

    I’m from a different country where standard dinner time will be well after 9:00pm, though my boys (8months and 2.5 yo) have dinner at 6:30 and fall asleep around 7:30/8Pm ish. My husband gets home from work at 7:30pm must nights to help put the kids to sleep.
    I agree that if we are paying a babysitter, then she’ll have to take care of dinner time and bed time, so we have two or so hours before we are really hungry to have dinner, sometimes that means we can go to movies, take a walk around town, etc.
    Reality is, must times we are way too tired to any of this! But we try to schedule at least couple of date nights a month.

  108. In Argentina, they eat so late , that I would put myself down for a nap ! :)

    It is a brilliant idea and one I learned when my children fell in love with a certain babysitter who loved to tell them /read them bedtime stories. I started tell her to have dinner at my house with the kids. I would have something brought in that night and everyone was happy.

    Sort of makes me miss having a small child or two again.

  109. Zaree says...

    When I babysat I used to have to feed the kids and put them to bed…what else are you paying them for?! Sure, sometimes it was a pain, kids know they can get away with way more with a babysitter. But that’s for the babysitter to deal with, and it’s good experience! After that it is just TV time and eating the good kid snacks. I’m pregnant now but when I do end up paying for a babysitter I will totally leave early and have them put my kids to sleep!

  110. Sandra says...

    Same here! Perfect for us – and nicer for the kids, too. This way they actually have time with their babysitter to enjoy. My son usually has plans for their time together: what to play, what to read, sometimes they watch a movie he carefully chose days before. It is their date night, too. ;)

  111. Marlene says...

    When I used to babysit as a teenager, it was always from around 6/7 to 10/11 (or even later?!), and I pretty much always fed the kids and put them to bed. I always felt a little guilty about the part after the kids were in bed, when I was being paid just to sit in someone’s house and watch their TV while the kids slept. Unless your kids can’t handle the disruption to routine, don’t pay a babysitter and miss out on having them do the actual work of feeding the kids and putting them to bed!

  112. Doesn’t make you sound old, just wise :)

  113. Jessica Ferron says...

    As a friend who helps babysit occasionally, I’m constantly hearing that the kids go down much, much faster for me than with the parents, so I think it’s totally fine to let the babysit do the task! I follow the parents’ general routine, but I think having a slightly altered take on it, plus a new person who isn’t so easily swayed/tired from having the kids all day [ :) ] really makes a difference.

  114. jeannie says...

    this is a great idea!

  115. Lily says...

    I love the idea of an early date night too, mostly because then you and your partner don’t leave the house frazzled from having spent the past two hours getting a bunch of kiddos into bed! It also makes the date night special for everyone–while the parents go out, the kids get a break from their usual routine and get to hang out with the babysitter instead.

  116. Emily says...

    YES. Our babysitter works at the nursery where both of our girls are….we leave the keys with her in the morning when we drop off the kids. Then at 6pm she brings them home, and the husband and I meet up straight after work for early dinner, then back home at a decent (read 10pm) time. We too feel so old getting super excited about this stuff….but it somehow feels like we’re ‘beating the system’…..sticking it to the man.

  117. MJ says...

    My kids are now old enough to babysit your kids (okay, 14) but when they were little I considered it worth every single penny (and then some) to have the sitter put the kids to bed. I did the bath, story, songs, lie down with me, more water every other night–and often by myself as my husband wasn’t home. To me, part of the allure of going out was not having to do the bedtime routine.

    • Jamie says...

      Soooo agree with MJ! A big part of the allure of going out is that my husband and I don’t have to do the bedtime routine! We usually leave the house by 6, go to happy hour and have dinner at around 7:30. Usually at around 9 or 9:30 we text the sitter to make sure bedtime went ok (it always does) and then cab it home nice and early for the second part of our date night. We may be “old” but it works! :) Great post!

  118. Lauren E. says...

    I don’t have kids, but I do remember my parents leaving well before bed time whenever we had a babysitter. And I LOVED having a babysitter. So I’m sure (especially as your kids get older) they’ll appreciate you leaving before the sitter arrives, too :)

  119. Christine says...

    I feel like manhattan-ers eat so late! When we were there we met up with my cousin and he wanted to have dinner at 8-830…so we had to have a snack at like 5 or 530 otherwise we would be starving! We are in the sf bay area and we always like to be at dinner by 630 or 7 at the latest. We’ve done as early as 515 but then we can catch a movie afterwards or go run errands or shop at target together. Plus we live about half an hour from SF so we need time to drive there and home.

  120. My boyfriend and I like to have date nights once every week or once every two weeks. Granted, we don’t have kids yet (or are even married) but I think early dinner reservations are genius! We love to go to dinner early and beat the crowd and then check out a different place for dessert and drinks. We get to experience two different restaurants in one evening while still only dressing up once. It’s a win/win in my opinion.
    Also, I’m glad to know marriage and kids doesn’t mean the end of date nights.

    Sweet Horizon

  121. Dammit! Don’t give a way my secret. Well I’m not dating anyone atm but a friend and I do this all the time for girls’ night. We’re both from the Midwest so we love our 6pm (sometimes 5:30) suppers. I’ve never loved the late night dinner because it messes too much with my 10pm bedtime.

  122. Raina says...

    Yes! We do this when my mom or mother in law are in town-they’ve got bedtime down pat and it’s so nice to get out early. I don’t know if I’m ready to let a babysitter do all the bedtime stuff- and it’s not because I’m worried for the kids, I’d feel bad for the sitter! haha! But then I guess I could always pay more… ;)

  123. Gosh…I would love to just go out. period! But having said that, if we do actually venture out it is usually early. Our little town rolls up the sidewalks around 9:00 pm!
    Love the photo, very tranquil. Now I am off for my favorite part of the day…run the stairs XO

  124. amy says...

    We do this too! We leave at 6:30 and our kids go to bed at 7:30 so it’s a win for the babysitter as she only has an hour of the fussy kiddos!

  125. Jamie says...

    I think the trick is trusting the babysitter to do the nighttime routine – which thankfully we now do. We have taken it to new levels and leave around 4pm and enjoy a nice stroll and then dinner. It’s fabulous.

    Side note: I was talking to a neighbor who used to be a sitter and she said it best: “In my day, the expectation was that I had to wrangle multiple kids at dinner AND bath AND bedtime while the parents went for a date. And I managed just fine. These days, we think we need to leave the kids asleep in bed before we leave.. when the reality is they can handle it!”

  126. i babysit after work hours here in nyc. i might be the rare opinion here but i definitely don’t mind doing the bedtime routine with the kids. that’s the whole point of a babysitter!!! go have a night off and enjoy the freedom :)

    hammyta.wordpress.com

  127. Sara says...

    Yes! Lately we’ve been going even earlier, like 3pm on a Saturday! Since we live outside the city, we drop kids off at my Mom’s on our way into the city. Then, we have plenty of time to walk around or find something fun to do, or a movie, then dinner after at 5:30 or 6! We always have better dinner conversation after an activity or movie, and we usually get back to pick up kids right as they get sleepy, so we just brush teeth and read a story and still have the night to ourselves. The perfect date. Almost 3 in 1!

  128. Alissa Polansky says...

    This is GENIUS.

  129. Amanda says...

    This cracks me up! We have always, always, eaten this early, as do most of our friends. I feel like late dinners–8pm? What?–are such an East Coast thing (we are in Portland). Dodging the bedtime routine is the best part of date night. Glad you guys found something that works for you!

  130. Is it horribly embarrassing that I’m in my twenties and still love to eat out that early??? Love having places the place to ourselves and being able to truly soak up the atmosphere!!

    http://www.femininefeminists.me

  131. Tamara says...

    Since we live in a much much sleepier place than you, everything starts and ends much earlier, so the 6 o’clock dinner is standard, that’s almost the rush hour time. So we frequently leave the house at 5:30 and are back by 9, with a babysitter or grandparents handling the nighttime routine for our boys. Yeah… we’re all getting old!

  132. EZIAC says...

    Another benefit? It can be easier to find an available sitter because it means they don’t have to give up their entire night to babysitting – there is still time for them to meet up with friends after.

    • as a babysitter in nyc- i can definitely agree!!! i don’t mind babysitting for a late evening (i loveee kids), but if the schedule works out that i can also have a night out after, i definitely won’t complain!

      hammyta.wordpress.com

    • Jessica Ferron says...

      This is definitely true! I only babysit for a few friends, but it’s nice when they get their date night and I get mine, too :)

  133. Katharine says...

    My cousin clued me into this trick when my son Bjorn was one. She said, why would I waste paying someone to sit at my house while my boys are sleeping AND have to deal with the witching hour/bedtime demands? We have taken this to a new level and have started doing dates on Saturday mornings. We are fresh and enjoy it so much more!

  134. allie says...

    I just wanted to say this is SUCH a beautiful photo of the two of you. Looks like absolute bliss – lounging on a pontoon in the clouds with a glass of wine!

  135. I mostly do this because my boyfriend and I just get hungry!

  136. Molly says...

    Pay your sitter to work, not sit there. $20 an hour!

  137. We went to La Esquina at 6pm and stayed all the way out till 11pm. Wild and crazy times! We had a sitter who watched them through the dinner hour, and it was fantastic!

    Usually, I have my parents watch the kids, but we always put them to bed first so that my folks, who are older, don’t have to do too much work. We’re out by 9pm and usually stay till 11pm. It’s worth it even for the 2 hours, but I am definitely into earlier dinner times if it means a real date with my husband!

    Analog House
    http://theanaloghouse.blogspot.com/
    https://www.instagram.com/analoghouse/

  138. Awads says...

    If I’m not eating by 7, I’m going to punch somebody in the face. Really, I can’t wait to eat supper! We are the early-ish people. Leave the sitter to put the kiddo to bed, on those rare occasions we get to have one.

    • Raina says...

      Yes! I am ALWAYS HUNGRY and if I’ve not eaten dinner by 7, I’m the grumpiest person. I used to live in NYC and we would do really late dinners, but that usually meant me eating pre-dinner at home! haha!

  139. TOTALLY – we bounce at like 5:30pm, get cocktails, walk around – in public without chasing two kids – eat 3 courses….then there is still time for more drinks! A movie! It’s heaven.

  140. I love doing this because I am not a night owl by any stretch. The snag for me is getting over my anxiety about babysitters putting the kids to bed. It’s not like I think something bad is going to happen to the kids, I worry for the babysitter! My boys are 4 and 1 and their rooms are on different floors, then there’s our pain in the ass dog…it’s annoying. When it’s a grandparent, I don’t care as much (sorry Mom!). I love the idea above (Hillary’s) of having the babysitter do all the work of dinner and pajamas and then we get home to actually put them to bed.

    • Don’t worry about the babysitter! If they aren’t prepared to deal with kids, then why in the world are they volunteering to babysit for you?? :) (I speak as a babysitter who has had to deal with nightmarish kids, but I still like it – that’s why I do it!)

  141. Rebekah says...

    Yes, we’ve always done it like this! :) By the time 8 comes around I’m too tired to be heading out the door… I’d rather be coming back!

  142. I love it! Our kids are a little older now…but, even when they were young we headed out early. I much preferred to have a break from the bed time routine. That alone is worth the date night!!

  143. Ha! We always eat, what I guess is universally considered EARLY. Although one time we booked a FIVE o’clock dinner at a fancy restaurant because it got us 1000 Open Table points so we dined like the q-tips and it was great!

  144. Delphine says...

    Love it, except my husband’s rarely home before 7 or 8 !!

    • Molly says...

      Meet him out!

  145. Hillary says...

    We do this all the time, it is awesome.

    Also, don’t be afraid of this one: happy hour at 5 pm–apps and drinks at the bar like you are 25 again. Have the babysitter get them all ready for bed and then you come home and just put them to bed and then you get your 2nd date night.

    • Cynthia says...

      I am a grandmother/babysitter and my sons often do this with their wives…leave at 4 or 5 pm for cocktails/apps which segues into an early dinner. We feed the kids dinner, play, and give them their bath. When the parents get home the kids are in their jammies ready for the parents to put them to bed. This works really well for all parties…us, the kids, the parents.

  146. Amanda Koonce says...

    :)