One day in early February, an email from an RN&R editor landed in my inbox: “Hey, Jessica! I wanted to get in touch because I’m looking for story ideas for the upcoming Nightlife Guide.”

I literally laughed out loud. I’m a self-employed writer who works at home and spends most of my time alone anyway. Between my own and my husband’s work schedules and the needs of our 9-year-old daughter, we had gone … let’s see … four weeks (!!) without a single night of adult socialization. I’m in my pajamas by 9 p.m. Me, a Nightlife Guide writer. Hilarious.

But the sheer absurdity of my situation raised a larger issue worth exploring. Census data says that roughly 38 percent of households in Reno contain married couples, and the average family size is 3.19 people. Roughly one-third of homes in Reno look a lot like mine — that is, a married couple with a child in tow. What constitutes “nightlife” in our minds looks more like game nights and shopping excursions than it does dance clubs and bars. That’s what I wanted to write about. Plus, selfishly, I was looking for ideas.

I hit up colleagues, fellow Reno Moms Blog contributors, friends who are parents and parents of my daughter’s friends. The responses I received reassured me, spurred me to make more plans with friends (a nudge I needed) and provided a zillion new ideas for the next time we get out of the house.

Seeking a sitter

When I posed the question to the Reno Moms Blog (RMB) contributors about what they did for a night out, Jessica Locke, a local mom who home schools her four children, said, “We love our nights out, but we’re almost always home by 9:30. We usually end every date with a trip to Target or Whole Foods because #parentlife. Our babysitters laugh at us all the time.”

Rachel Kingham, a local PR specialist and friend, and her husband, professional photographer Jamie Kingham, established a standing once-a-week agreement with a sitter. Sometimes this meant the couple had nice dinners out, saw shows and stayed out late—and sometimes it meant that they ran errands and came home early, to the sitter’s amusement. But the arrangement forced them to get out alone and enjoy each other’s company, sans children, on a regular basis. “We did do date nights every Friday,” she said, “and then reviewed our budget and decided to do once a month instead.”

The sitter dilemma is no joke. Babysitter rates vary wildly, but usually range anywhere from $7 to $15 an hour per kid. Sitters are reserved for special nights out that are worth the added expense, when you’ve exhausted the good will of friends and family members.

“We try to keep good relationships with teens that we know, and are constantly expanding our sitter base because eventually they get boyfriends and ditch the babysitting scene,” said Locke. “Adding new sitters all the time saves us. We have some family in the area and will do sleepovers every now and then so we have a full night.”

“I have friends who trade date nights and watch each other’s kids,” responded RMBer Danielle Sanford. “I also have used kids in our neighborhood. Nextdoor app constantly has parents mentioning their teenagers looking for sitter jobs. I also suggest tapping into the male babysitter market. I have a couple of super nice boys on my list who my kids love and are usually fairly available … I also say all this knowing babysitters are expensive and a luxury.”

Nextdoor is a mobile platform where neighbors can inform each other about the comings and goings in the neighborhood.

“When my kids were younger, I used caregivers from the daycare that both of my boys attended,” said Jennifer Duval Beller, a former RMBer. “I paid them whatever their wage was at work, usually $10/hour. We all knew and trusted each other, so it was an easy solution for everyone.”

Many parents suggested looking into parents’ night out events at local rec centers, churches or their kids’ extracurricular activity locations. Martial arts, gymnastics and dance studios and other such locations around Reno-Sparks frequently offer monthly opportunities for parents to drop kids off on weekend nights for a few hours, so the kids get social time and planned activities, all at a reasonable fixed rate that costs the same or less than a babysitter would. Recently, Alf Sorensen Community Center began offering monthly Parents’ Night Off nights at a very low rate; its February movie-and-swimming event cost only $12, or $10 for Sparks residents. (This list is not all-inclusive, I apologize in advance for not mentioning your parents’ night out offering.)

Plus, there’s the good old-fashioned kid swap: You watch my kids, then I’ll watch yours.

But the dynamic in which most parents find ourselves is one where, out of necessity and convenience, we end up socializing more often with parents of our kids’ friends. To parents, a night out might look more like a house party where kids play in one part of the house while the grownups socialize in another. Or, like Sparks mom Jennie Upham suggests, “My friends and I do family bowling night. Kids get a lane and we get a lane.”

Afternoon delight

For a lot of parents, nightlife doesn’t necessarily mean nighttime.

RMBer Jamie Schnell said, “We also do a lot of lunch-type stuff. Afternoon stuff vs. night. We aren’t bar people … We like to go to shows and plays and coffee.”

My friend, Sparks mom Tara Madden, responded similarly. Dropping her daughter off on Saturday afternoons for a three-hour theater class gives Madden and her husband built-in afternoon dates each week, which has allowed them to explore the hot new restaurants in midtown or take shopping trips together.

So let’s say you actually manage to get out of the house for some honest-to-God adult time. Now what? As my friend Jessica Rosas, a mom of three, perfectly put it, “I’m a huge advocate of self-care and, up until recently, that included going out … but I recently discovered I can’t hang anymore.”

For those of you who wouldn’t be caught dead going out on Saturday until at least 11 p.m., just know that we used to be you. Now, the more mature adults among us simply can’t hang anymore. What nightclubs are hot? We literally have no idea. Do people go to nightclubs anymore? We hear about great bars but have no idea what they’re like and most likely won’t go find out. And I’m sorry if I’m yawning in your face at 9 p.m. Parents’ nights out involve different kinds of entertainment—like the spa day I recently took with some girlfriends. Or one of these ideas:

“I have two dates booked in February,” responded RMB site manager Lynnette Bellin. “Vino and Vinyasa and Couples Yin Yoga—both at Yoga Pod.”

“For dates, we end up on a fair number of group outings,” said Sanford. “We go to the Glass Die a lot, which is a board game bar. We have also done a lot of puzzle rooms … And I haven’t been yet, but I want to go to Press Start [Bar & Arcade].”

“I like that they have the adult nights at the Discovery Museum,” Upham said, adding, “Couples’ paint nights are always fun.”

“I like the happy hour at Atlantis. I’m also a huge fan of casino bars,” said my friend Mandy Folchi-Oddeio, a Sparks mom and second-grade teacher. Then she added, “When do they want this article written by? Maybe you have to have a girls’ night out in the name of research.”

Any excuse, right?

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