It can be done!
What does your household look like after the kids go to bed each night? On a standard night if you peeked through our windows, you’d see me collapsed on the couch in my favourite (but ugly) pink dressing gown, ugg boots on, mobile in hand (likely mindlessly scrolling) with some form of trashy tv rolling in the background. My hubby is next to me, with a laptop on his lap and phone nearby. The conversation, if any, is slow and stilted and often involves discussions on things for the kids; dentist appointments, school photos, weekend birthday parties, drop off and pick up arrangements; the list goes on. Sometimes we break out a block of chocolate or an ice cream and after a few hours, totally exhausted, we head to bed for a few hours of sleep before night shift begins. This includes but is not limited to: putting wandering children back to bed, attending to coughs, sneezing, bad dreams, baby crying and any other number of night tasks that become the new norm as a parent!
I’m hardly selling the picture of a blazing romance and vibrant and successful relationship am I? But this is the whole point, it would be too easy to fall into the trap of the same routine as above, every night, day in, day out and suddenly the kids are teens and they don’t need you anymore. Then what? I have had friends with marriage breakdowns, and one of the key things they attribute it to, is not dedicating time into their relationship as a couple. It would be so easy to just focus on the child wrangling and neglect the relationship, assuming that once the intensive early years are over, that you can pick up where you left off. What I have seen is many couples emerging from this time and looking at a stranger across the table. Somewhere along the way, they have fallen out of love. They don’t know this person anymore, they have no common interests and no longer have a common dialogue as everything has centered around the children.
My husband and I are very aware of this and we make a deliberate choice to invest in our relationship. This is not easy and at times, we do fall back into the scenario above which is totally unsexy, but we also consciously set aside time to do things together, have conversations about the world, what we read today, something we watched from one our favourite actors – anything that is outside of the world of children. We love our children dearly and dedicate many hours to their lives and wellbeing, but we also understand that to be great parents, great partners and happy individuals, then we need to do things outside of their world.
I decided to share some of the things my hubby and I do to ensure we are maintaining a focus on the ‘us’ part of our family. LIke many parents, it is not easy to organise weekly date nights such as we did pre children, but we have found some simple ways to promote a healthy relationship. Some of these also fall into the strategies I talked about in my project management blog, but on a slightly different angle. Some of the things we do:
This one is pretty self explanatory – we sit together each Sunday night and review the week ahead. This includes some of the boring life admin but also helps us to identify opportunities for a movie night on the couch, or upcoming events that require a babysitter. By planning ahead, we have a better chance of securing someone to watch the children, which allows to attend these events without the kids and thus promotes some time together.
Monthly ‘home’ dates
I stole this idea from a girlfriend. Instead of the time, effort and cost of organising a child minder, you plan a date from home. With things like Uber Eats, Netflix and other entertainment channels at your fingertips, there is literally no reason for you to miss out on a date. On these nights, we make a specific effort to put our phones away, we order the food, pick a movie and enjoy each other’s company, all from the comfort of our own home.
Ad hoc events – minus the kids
These are less frequent and involve more forward planning, but we try to get away from the house at least bi-monthly to an event that does not include the kids. These dates are often tied into other milestones; wedding anniversary, birthday etc or might be events we are invited to by friends. This month we are going to see a Linkin Park tribute band with my sister in law and hubby, it will be a great night and I always feel so refreshed and ready to be an amazing mum after having these precious hours away.
Encourage individual activities
This might sound a bit odd, as I am talking about relationships. I firmly believe that by encouraging your partner to maintain their own interests outside of the family, that it helps to balance each person and gives them time away to refill their tank. Likewise, I try to ensure I have at least one activity per week that is separate from the hubby and kids. For me currently, this is a weekly pilates class with a girlfriend. Some nights after the class we stay on for dinner and a chat at a local cafe, it is so good for me and totally recharges my battery.
Support each others healthy life habits
My hubby and I both like to journal and meditate daily. Some weeks, I fall off the wagon and go a few days without these routines. My hubby is really good about reminding me and encouraging me to follow through. These healthy habits help both of us to balance and maintain our focus on the important things. As part of my journaling, I do a small gratitude section, simply identifying three things I am grateful for each day. Doing this every day, helps me to appreciate more things in my life, and there is definitely a positive flow on effect to our relationship. LIkewise, I know my hubby needs to exercise each day for his stress relief and balance. I try to encourage and support this habit, as it benefits our relationship when he is in a great space.
Perhaps this needs to be higher up on the list as I’m sure you would all agree that it’s a fundamental ingredient for success in any relationship, not just marriage. In terms of this blog, I am referring to speaking openly about what you need from your partner. I have definitely taken it for granted that my hubby should know what I need. Anyone who has read about the love languages will understand that depending on your love language, you may show your love in a different way to the way your partner shows it, which in turn means you feel as though you are not being shown love, or that they are not receiving your acts of love. Even if you have been together for a long time, I would be cautious about assuming the other person instantly knows what you’re thinking and need. Plus, both of your needs will change depending on where you’re currently at – so talking openly is always key!
Learning and growing together
My hubby and I spend some dedicated time together in the pursuit of ‘growing’. This can be as simple as listening to an inspiring podcast together, doing a meditation alongside each other or on the grander scale – attending some personal development together. Some of our best moments as a couple have been achieved when we are working together on something that lifts our vibration.
By no means is our relationship perfect, and we have spent many hours being sloths together on the couch, but we also try to include the strategies above to balance out our time together. If these resonate with you, I’d love to hear from you. Likewise, if you have ideas on promoting your relationship outside of the kids, I’d love to hear about them.
As always, be kind to yourself and give yourself a break – you are doing the hardest job out there and you’re smashing it!
Live, Love and Laugh