There comes a day in every marriage when you find yourself inflating a cheap, mail-order inflatable foot bath, hoping to reignite some of the magic. There are sachets of cucumber lotion, face masks, and complicated leaflets detailing the reflexology of the foot, and all you can think is, I don't think I'm qualified for this, but at least we aren't talking about poop. This was my experience trialling a subscription date-night box — a sort of Blue Apron for couples who don't have the bandwidth to plan something elaborate, and are open to trying a marriage-by-numbers instructional.
My husband and I love each other's company. Before we had a baby, we had multiple date nights a week that we looked forward to. When I became pregnant, I knew those days were coming to an end. But I only thought it would be put on hold for a few months — I never expected to go more than a year without a date night. At first, we were just too busy caring for our daughter to even think of going out together, then after a few months we were just too tired. And now, 15 months later, we're still exhausted and busy, and truthfully just not ready to leave her — nor do we have many options even if we were ready.
Our night-time routine after our daughter goes down for bed had gotten stale. We would endlessly search for a movie or show to watch while simultaneously scrolling through our phones; the mating dance of prestige-TV watchers. Our nights consisted of conversations about poop and sleep training and I knew we were in need of some quality time. Then I saw an advertisement for a date-night subscription box.
Yes, this is a thing. There are a bunch of monthly boxes that promise to deliver everything a couple would need for a "date" at home. It's basically packaged as a date night you can enjoy without involving table reservations or worrying about whether strobing or contouring are still things we humans are doing. It sounded perfect for us.
After some research, I decided to try Date Box Club. A subscription is $35 plus $1.99 for shipping per month, and gets you a completely new box each time — part of the fun is the surprise factor. I had seen paint-night boxes and even a Hawaiian-themed box, so we couldn't wait to see what we were going to get in ours. I eagerly waited for my husband to come home so we could look inside. But when we finally opened it, we were kind of disappointed. The haul was two games, a list of questions to ask each other, and a small bag of cranberry pistachios: hold my robe, we have ~cranberry pistachios~. The games were nothing special, in fact I'd seen similar products at Toys "R" Us. It's not that we're not into games, but there was nothing remotely "date night" about Yamslam Roll To Win.
We left the box there for days, kind of annoyed. But I was determined to make this work. After some more research, I found out that the same company offered some of their most popular boxes on Amazon. There they were cheaper and you also got to choose a theme. For round two, I chose the spa-night date-night box.
This box contained everything we needed for a quiet date night while our daughter slept. It came with two inflatable foot baths, two face masks, bubble pods, two reflexology cards (instructions on the perfect foot massage), two towels, lotion sticks (which smell amazing, by the way), question cards, and a ready-to-go streaming playlist, because we've all been listening to too much Ed Sheeran and dateboxclub is here to help.
Honestly, it may seem weird, but a date night at home was exactly what we needed. It was relaxing, kind of silly, but fun. After our daughter went down for the night, we filled up our inflatable foot baths (#sexy), which were helpfully branded with "dateboxclub" — I guess so we didn't forget and use them as Jello molds or something — and dropped in the bubble pods. My husband and I felt kind of strange, like,were we crazy to attempt to have a date night at home, surrounded by the accoutrements of a baby?
After soaking our feet for 20 minutes, we started talking about something other than poop and sleep training. It's like we needed to break our exhausted-parent routine to break into an old pattern of pre-kid talk. We took turns giving each other foot massages (I give my husband 3 out of 5 Yamslams for his foot-rub technique). The box also came with questions to ask each other, which is the truest part of any "date"; asking weird questions of each other until you feel, OK, I know this person and I'd like to share inflatable foot baths for eternity with them.
Overall, a date night at home can never replace a real date night but it was a nice break from our routine. My only quibble with the date-night box subscriptions is that they're not personalized at all. And date nights are not a one-size-fits-all situation. I wish these services had options based on age, hobbies, and interests of couples (e.g., "Shared interests: obsessive curation of Netflix queue"). Since none seem to do so, I'm weary of signing on for monthly deliveries. I think overall, I'd rather order a box where I know the contents before ordering.
What did we get for $36.99? Some scented lotion, some ice breakers, a shared activity, and the pretense of us-time. Whether or not the contents were a hit, it felt like the box at least honored the idea that we both cared about our marriage enough to order a product expressly called "dateboxclub" and to set aside time to investigate it. Full disclosure: my daughter ended up playing in the foot tub, and if that isn't a perfect metaphor for parenthood, I don't know what is.
I know we really need to find a way to have an actual date night, but since that might not happen for a while, it's good that we've learned that there's more to life than "Netflix and chill" when you're married with children. My husband and I have decided that we should take turns planning one "date night in" a month. Though the date night box was fun, planning our own surprise date nights for each other seems way more exciting for us.
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