Making your significant other a priority everyday can definitely be a challenge when you have little ones vying for your attention every second. Someone is screaming for more milk and you have to drop another one off at a practice of some sort, only to turn around and pick them up a short time later. Cleaning houses that look like disaster zones after only a few hours and kissing all of the boo-boo’s that happen over the course of a day are never-ending. There are sleepless nights as kids get scared of the “monster” and demand to sleep between you and your significant other for 3 months straight and of course…that thing you both have to go to everyday…your JOB! It’s no wonder that so many parents struggle to prioritize that one person who they went down the rabbit hole with so long ago. The love of their life and the reason for everything. So when it comes to marriage and parenting, how do you keep the love alive while raising a family?!
My husband and I have been married since 2002 at the ripe old age of 24 (GOSH that sounds young now!), and we waited 8 years before welcoming our first child. We were blessed to be able to do a lot of travel in those 8 years, everywhere from Honduras to Ireland and many wonderful places in between. We had an absolute blast and by the time we welcomed our son, we were definitely ready to dive into parenthood headfirst!
Just because we became parents, though, didn’t mean we didn’t want to maintain the sense of “coupledom” between the two of us and try to schedule as much “date” time as we can with each other. Having “our” time is a great way to catch up on our lives without kids constantly trying to intervene (now we have two lovely little ones!), and it’s nice to just have a little adult time in an otherwise crazy household! Here is a look at some of our favorite ways to stay connected…
1. PrePlanned Dates For A Year
About 3 weeks before our daughter was born, we celebrated our 10 year anniversary. We had initially always planned on taking a great vacation, just the two of us, but obviously plans changed when we realized how close our daughter’s due date was to the anniversary. And of course, I couldn’t bear to go anywhere after she was born!
Instead, I surprised my husband with a gift that lasted us all year and that he STILL says was the best present he ever got! I got the idea from Shannon Brown’s blog and totally ran with it! The concept is to prepare 12 Date Nights and present them all at once. You are GUARANTEED a date night a month over the upcoming year. It was a lot easier than I thought it would be and some of the dates were a bit larger and more expensive (zip lining one month and a fun spa day another month), while some of them were frugal and barely any money at all (hiking at our favorite State Park for a day with a great picnic lunch afterwards one month, while going to the Farmer’s Market and cooking a fresh dinner another month).
I got manila envelopes, just like in the picture above, and labeled every month, and put everything inside the envelopes that my husband would need to know in order to set out on our adventure. Whether it be $50 in cash for our daily stipend, tickets for an event we were going to, a map of trails we would hike, or just brochures giving more information on the event I had planned, he had it in the envelope.
The catch? He couldn’t open the new months envelope until the 1st of the month. He LOVED it. For an entire year he was dying to see what was going to be in that envelope on the 1st! I had everything lined up in advance, from babysitters to the money it would cost, and it truly was so relaxing to have it all ready and set up for us. It was a great year of dates and we still talk about it all the time!
2. Late Night Movie Date Nights At Home
There have been PLENTY of times when the kids have been sick, my husband has worked long hours at work over the week, there is no babysitter in sight, but we just NEED to get some time alone!
Hence, the late night date nights at home! I know what you’re thinking, “That doesn’t sound like much of a date night to me.” True, it’s definitely only as wonderful as you make it and we work hard to make it fun. One thing we love to do? Once a year, in the winter when it’s cold outside, the wind is howling, and the snow is up to our knees, we will discuss a new series that we want to catch up on together that we weren’t able to watch when it actually started and we will start from the beginning. We have done this with Entourage, Breaking Bad, Parenthood, and numerous other TV Series that were on our “list” but we never had time for. The great thing about this is that it may take a few weeks to finally catch up, but it gives us time together once everyone is asleep to cuddle up, grab a bottle of wine, and relax without the fuss of searching for a babysitter.
We also do this with movies that have been on our “we have wanted to see that forever” list and grab some snacks or even make a fun picnic for the living room and happily unplug for the night together.
3. Communication and Scheduling
Ohhhh, this is a big one! There may be times where I’m feeling like we haven’t done anything together alone in FOREVER, yet my husband totally thinks all is fine and doesn’t think twice about it. This is where communication comes in. We totally can’t assume our significant other can read our mind (as much as we just wish they finally would figure out how to do that!) so when there are times when you need a little one-on-one time, talk about it! Figure out a schedule together that will work and set it up in the calendar just like any other important meeting that takes place in your life! There are times when one of us is particularly busy with work, or we know the kids have a lot of things coming up, which means we have to be patient and take the initiative to talk about it and make sure a compromise is made that is good for both of us. I’m telling you…Anytime I have mentioned to my husband that it sure would be nice to get out and do something together, he has taken it and ran and before too long. Balance is restored and life is less crazy again.
4. Gross Out the Kids
So our kids are still a little young to really be grossed out by any PDA by Mom and Dad, but I have noticed that they tend to emulate it. Daddy gives me a kiss? My daughter will come over and give me a kiss, as well. Monkey see, monkey do! I want my children to see the security in our marriage and have a good example of thing they can strive for, as well. They see us going out alone together for a “date night” fairly regularly and my son now knows that it’s “Mommy and Daddy Time” and is totally fine with it! I did not grow up with this kind of stability on display for me and it’s always been an important part of my parenting goals to make sure my kids see that Daddy and I love each other and that if there is a fight, it’s not the end of the world. In the process, by spoiling my hubby, we are strengthening our marriage, as well. It’s a win, win! And seriously…it’s kind of fun to gross out the kids every once in awhile. I can’t wait until they’re older and really tell us to give it a rest! 😉
5. Summer Fun Nights
Just like our movie nights in the winter, we have traditions that we love to do together in the summer, too. We are blessed enough to live in the country without neighbors encroaching on our space and we definitely take advantage of this. Once the kids are in bed, we will build a fire (or go back out to it if we were having a family campfire night), turn on our favorite music, and chat the night away. Sometimes we enjoy a special dessert or a campfire recipe with an adult beverage and it’s so fun to just be able to hang out at home doing these things with my spouse! It’s great to be able to do some star-gazing and know the kiddos are tucked away safe and sound right inside the house.
Don’t have the luxury of being able to have a campfire in your backyard? String some lights up where you can outside, throw a couple comfy chairs out there, and still get the relaxing alone time with your spouse that you’re looking for!
Everything takes a conscious effort and continuing to work on your marriage even during the height of the parenting years is just as much a priority as everything else. It can be a difficult thing to balance with the million other things going on in Mom’s life. But it’s definitely worth it and will make everyone in the family happier when Mom and Dad are happy!
How do you and your significant other continue to make time for each other despite all of the obligations we have for the children? Comment below and share your ideas! 🙂