MARRIAGING WHILE PARENTING
One of the more tumultuous times for a marriage can often be once kids show up in the picture, specifically, when the kiddos are very young. While there’s a sweetness and beauty to seeing your life partner as a parent and working together in raising little ones, there’s a practical reality to the amount of time and energy that babies and small children demand from their parents, and it certainly can take its toll on the marital relationship. Date nights are no longer spontaneous, or often, or even do-able at points (unless you have one heck of a child-care system in place), uninterrupted conversation is rare, and having sex is very inconveniently affected by exhaustion, a crying baby, an upset toddler, etc.
Any healthy relationship needs quality time and good communication to continue to thrive. A tree left unwatered will wither, and a marriage deprived of time together and real conversation will weaken.
Here are some practical strategies for spending time with your spouse in the midst of parenting little ones.
Prioritize using time after the kids are in bed.
The only part of the day with no distraction from the kids is when they’re sleeping. While the timing may be unpredictable for a while, there will usually be at least some spurt of time when all is quiet, and you and your spouse can be with each other. This time is golden! Even if you both are tired, try to prioritize having some real conversation and interaction with each other, and actually talk about anything but the daily bills, after-school activities, pickups and drop off. While it’s nice to just veg in front of a movie sometimes, it’s important not to make a habit of doing that too often. Maybe play a card game, work on a project together, or just turn some music on in the background and talk. Not sure what to talk about besides your children? Here are a few question ideas for conversation starters:
*What is something you’re learning this week?
*What’s something you really enjoy about our life right now? What’s something you’re looking
*Finish this sentence: “I feel really loved when you _____________”
*What are some of your dreams for the future?
It can also be great to remember back to before you had children. Chat about your dating days, early married days, etc. Remember (out loud) things you really appreciate about the other person then and now.
Bring your kids to places that allow for “together time” while they play.
A mom I know shared with me recently that she and her husband are trying to get better about going together to specific places that allow them to hang out while the kids play on their own. She said that they sometimes get so focused on trying to give each other a break from the kids that they end up spending very little time together. Places like libraries, neighborhood playgrounds, and indoor playgrounds at fast food restaurants can be perfect for giving the kids something special to do while you and your spouse can hang out with each other and keep an eye on the little ones at the same time.
Go on walks together.
A wonderful aspect of going for a walk is that very small children can be contained in a stroller, backpack or front carrier, and older children can ride a bike or run back and forth in front of you. Kids generally enjoy being outside, which gives a great opportunity for you and your spouse to walk next to each other and talk. This is one of mine and my husband’s favorite traditions on summer evenings. As soon as dinner is over, we load everyone up and head out for a walk around the neighborhood. The kids enjoy it, we all get outside for some exercise (bonus!), and we have some great time to chat and enjoy the fresh air. It’s a win-win!
While every relationship will vary on what makes the best connection time with each other, the important thing is to make sure that connection time is happening. What are some strategies you use for quality time in the midst of parenting little ones?
Naomi is a Colorado born and raised, outdoor enthusiast, artist, musician, and mom of three. She founded The Moms’ Happiness Project in 2017 to provide authentic, supportive community and practical strategies and tools for women in the thick of early motherhood. Naomi is the author of The Mom’s Handbook to Happiness and coauthor in You’ve Got This, Mama with many more publications on the horizon.