My husband and I are in a great parenting stage for our marriage. We have one teen and one preteen. We can leave them at home without having to find a sitter and spend time together. Walking the dog and running errands have become favorites because the kids don’t want to go. My husband and I get to chat about life and enjoy our time together. Life is pretty comfortable right now, but that was not always the case. In fact, for a long time, it felt impossible to have alone time together. It got me thinking about how to prioritize your marriage with young kids.
I’m sure if you read the post I wrote about blessing my spouse and saw pictures of me running around “kid-free” doing “all the things” for my husband, you were probably thinking… “Sure, Carrie, good for you. But what about when I have a bunch of little kids that need me every second of my life… and I’m exhausted. What then? It’s much easier said than done.”
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Prioritizing Your Marriage Doesn’t Have to Mean Date Nights and Doing Extravagant Things
Friend, I hear you…because I was you! Reading stories like the ones I wrote about blessing my spouse made me want to cry because it felt unattainable. I cried at the sight of a picture of coffee and a bible. I whined when my friends and family members would take their kids to the grandparents for the night to have quality time and adequate rest.
“IT MUST BE NICE!” I would yell… I was so stinking jealous of it all! I knew that my husband and I needed these things in our marriage, but I couldn’t figure out how to do it. I didn’t have what they had.
What We Did to Prioritize Each Other With Young Kids
We did some things in that stage of life that helped us stay healthy as a couple, despite not having family nearby to help. We didn’t always win in this area, but we learned a lot. Prioritizing each other doesn’t have to be grand gestures and elaborate date nights. I want to share what we did well to encourage you that it is possible to keep your marriage strong in this tough phase.
Prioritize Your Marriage by Communicating
When you have a child, your life changes considerably. It probably changes differently for you than it does for your spouse. It’s important to understand each other in this.
When I had a toddler on my leg and a nursing baby, I just wanted my space. To my husband, that just seemed like I wasn’t attracted to him. You guys… my husband is hot! I am ridiculously attracted to him, but I have had enough physical touch from my kids to last a week by the end of the day. It had nothing to do with him, but if I don’t communicate this fact, he will feel like something is wrong with him.
The baby and toddler stage of parenting was the most difficult stage for me. In contrast, some women thrive in that phase. I wish I could say that about myself, but I can’t. I sucked at it! I feel like I was a good mom to my kids, but that stage tested my marriage and sanity. Guilt overwhelmed me that I didn’t love every second of having toddlers. To add to that, I felt guilty about the fact that I fantasized about a night alone in a hotel room watching TV and eating ice cream instead of a date night with my husband. Luckily it was only for a time, but that time felt neverending.
Communication is key
I loved my babies and feel blessed to have the opportunity to stay home with them, but it was so much harder than I had envisioned. Communication with my husband about these things helped us make it through together.
Communicate the difficulties you are facing. Your spouse is not a mind reader.
Be honest about your frustrations… Sometimes this takes some soul searching. I didn’t realize how much I was feeling like a failure from the get-go.
Parenting is freaking hard! Period!
Look For the Positive and the Funny Stuff and Share That Too
Share your wins… Like that ONE TIME, I got housework done while keeping the children from climbing onto the fridge or destroying the house. Focus on the successes.
Tell the funny stories that happen every day. Like the time I woke up to the toddlers playing “rain” in the living room with the Kix and Cheerios. Yep… it is exactly like it sounds. The room was covered in breakfast cereal and they were laughing harder than they have ever laughed before. It may have been the most fun they had had up until that point in their life.
Write these memories down because these are the stories you will want to remember ten years, twenty years, thirty years from now. They are the stories to tell at your kids’ graduation parties, weddings, and Christmases to come. We kept a journal of some of these stories, and we love to go back and read them.
Include your husband in your life during this time. If you have a spouse, you are not alone in this, even if it sometimes feels like it. I found the baby and toddler stage to be incredibly lonely. I longed for adult conversation, but I was also exhausted… Not a great combo!
How to Prioritize Your Marriage With Date Nights… Once in a While
Go on dates! This one seems obvious. People are always saying that good marriages have weekly date nights. BUT… we encountered several problems with this.
Date nights are great, but weekly date nights do not equal a guaranteed happy marriage. In some cases they equal stress and frustration.
We don’t have family nearby, so we need to find a babysitter. Consequently, finding a babysitter was incredibly stressful and expensive. I hated asking people, and we were on a pretty tight budget. Luckily, we are blessed with friends who were willing to watch our kids, but it was still difficult for me. If my husband planned the date but didn’t book a sitter, I was a mess. The thought of doing this every week was overwhelming. Once every couple of months was a more realistic goal for us.
Need help figuring out what to do on a date night? The Adventure Challenge Couples Edition is a great tool to get you to do things together. Many of the activities can be done with kids around; if not, the book will let you know in the clue of the adventure. It is a book of scratch-off adventures. Once you scratch it off, there are no take-backs. You must complete the challenge. Then you take a picture and document it in your book. So Much Fun!
Prioritize Your Marriage With a Date Night at Home
Our kids had a 7:00 bedtime. I know that sounds crazy early, but that was the only way for us to have any time as a couple. Often, we would feed the kids at 5:00 and then make our dinner after they went to bed. We could sit and enjoy our food while having adult conversation. Those were lovely times.
Thanks to 2020, I have now discovered Door Dash. If we had this when my kids were smaller, it would have been a regular occurrence.
When the weather was nice, we would make drinks and sit on the porch together. We went through phases of coffee, milkshakes, protein shakes (once we realized how many calories were in a milkshake), hot chocolate, frappuccinos, and iced tea. In the summer, it doesn’t get dark until close to 10 pm. Our kids would often ask us why they have to go to bed and we still get to play outside. I loved that time!
Prioritize Your Marriage by Showing that You Appreciate Your Spouse
Going on dates isn’t the only way to prioritize your spouse when you have small kids. Simply doing things to let your significant other know you are thinking of them, even though our kids consume so much of us, is a great way to handle this life phase. Here are some ideas:
Kiss them hello and goodbye.
Leave sweet post-it notes around the house (I have found notes in the dishwasher, microwave, cabinets, closet, etc.)
Write notes on the bathroom mirror with a dry erase marker
Mail a card to their workplace- my husband still sends me cards and postcards from his work. I love it.
Stuff notes into jacket pockets or leave them in their car
Send texts throughout the day… and I don’t mean “Can you grab milk on your way home?” I mean… “You are a Hotty McHottersen and I’m lucky to be married to you” type texts.
Read childhood books to each other- I learned so much about my husband doing this.
Plan the dinner menu around what your spouse likes (probably not broccoli in my house)
Brag about your spouse to others instead of complain
Use only kind words even when you are grumpy (This one takes serious self-control)
Make them a cup of coffee
Keep a love journal and pass it back and forth
Different seasons call for different ways of doing things. Focus on simple ways of making your marriage a priority when your kids are young. Share your best ideas in the comments below!