Marriage after kids looks nothing like it did before kids. If you’ve been a parent for more than a few weeks, this probably sounds familiar:
Marriage before kids…..
Spontaneous date nights
Weekly coffee dates
Travel anywhere anytime
Plenty of energy for a late movie
Big celebrations for bdays and anniversaries
Marriage after kids…
Coordinating who is doing day care drop off and pick up each day
Making deals about who will get up in the night or who will change the next poopy diaper
Going to the grocery store alone feels like a vacation
Falling into bed exhausted each night
Getting take out to eat a special meal together after the littles are asleep
Parenting littles is a thankless and exhausting job. You are mentally and physically drained. You used to be able to focus purely on each other. Now you’re just trying to find the balance of your new normal with kids.
Perhaps you had no idea how much this tiny human would change your life, not to mention your relationship with your spouse. Marriage after kids may look nothing like you’d imagined. But how you handle your marriage during this time will indicate how you will continue to handle it during each new stage of life.
It is so easy to put your marriage and your relationship with your spouse on the back burner during this time. Figure out now how to continue to nurture that relationship and make it more important than any other, yes, even more important than your kids!
Two things that will help nurture a healthy marriage after kids are connecting with your spouse every day and giving each other time and space to recharge.
Connecting with your spouse is the key to a healthy marriage after kids
As an adoptive parent, I’ve learned much about connection in parenting. But are we remembering to connect with our spouse? It’s so important!
Your relationship with your spouse will get stale if you don’t make time for it. Be sure to make a connection with your spouse every day, no matter how small. Even ten minutes will make a difference.
This could be anything from snuggling on the couch while you watch a TV show to looking each other in the eye as you share about your day. The key is to spend time together without distractions of phones, to-do lists, or especially, little ones.
I can already hear your objections. But that will never happen! I’m exhausted by the time my littles are asleep for the night! Try moving your little one’s bedtime. My husband and I always put the kids to bed early. We want to have at least an hour between when they go to bed and when we’re too spent to be of use for the rest of the night.
But your littles also need to see you making time for your spouse when they are awake. Sometimes we need to have an important conversation before our littles’ bedtime. It’s super difficult in our household to get two sentences in without being interrupted.
And at our house, with both littles and teens constantly vying for a piece of us, it can be triply difficult. See the date ideas below for our number one creative way to spend time together during the day with little ones.
Be attentive to each other’s needs
I promise that you aren’t the only parent in the marriage who is exhausted and overwhelmed. Your spouse is as well, even if they aren’t the main caregiver.
Recognize all that the other one does for the family and the kids. Encourage and show your gratitude. Men especially need to feel appreciated and respected.
Tag team parenting is the best! When you feel yourself beginning to lose control, get your spouse to take over for a while. Or if you see your spouse is beginning to lose control, send them to a “time out” in their room to cool down.
Give the other a chance to recharge whenever possible. That will look different for different people. For me, an introvert, it means 30 minutes of alone time or a nap on the weekends. For my husband, the extrovert, it is a quick trip to the gym or getting coffee with a friend.
Sometimes it may be only 20-30 minutes, but other times it may be a few hours. The key is to make it mutual. Rather than each of you focusing on your own needs, focus on the other person and ask what they need.
How to date your mate with littles
In addition to connecting for ten minutes per day, it’s important to make additional time for your marriage after kids. Try to make time for something more at least once per week.
I admit, some of these may not sound like a “date.” But remember the differences between marriage before kids and marriage after kids? Date nights may change drastically, but that’s okay!
1. Fast food playland or indoor playground.
We used to joke when we’d stop at the grocery store on the way home from church that we were having a speed date. We left the kids in the car and enjoyed even walking through the grocery store without kids in tow. (Of course, at that time they were old enough to be left alone for a few minutes.)
And here’s a Facebook post from years ago when we had a birthday party for one of our boys:
“You know you’re parents when date night consists of sitting in a trampoline park yelling to each other over the blaring music while watching ten boys play.”
Life gets crazy with littles. There will be times when you and your spouse haven’t been able to connect as much as you’d like but you also can’t get away alone for even an hour. That’s when we pack up the littles and head to an indoor play place. We get a coffee and sit and have a conversation while they play.
This one comes with the bonus of them burning off energy and hopefully sleeping better later too!
2. Stay home date
Pick up food from a restaurant after the littles are in bed and enjoy a candlelight dinner.
3. Get a babysitter and go out once a month
Put it on both your calendars so you know it’s a priority. Spend time doing things just as a couple. What did you do before you were married or had kids? What were some of your favorite dates? Keep doing those things together, whether it’s as big as a sporting event, play, or concert or as ordinary as a bike ride, walk at a nature center, or coffee shop. Spend time doing things the two of you enjoy together without the kids in tow.
Can’t find a babysitter? Find a local YMCA, church, or other place that has a parent’s night out. They will entertain, play with, maybe even feed your kids while you go out.
4. Movie night at home
Yes, that sounds simple and like duh! But the idea is to focus on one another and make time specifically for each other, with no other distractions. Put away the phone and laptop, don’t take calls and answer texts, but keep the time open for one another. Make each other a priority for that period of time.
5. Play a board game
When our oldest was 18 months old, he went to bed at 6:30 pm, and many nights we would play dice or cards together for a little while. It was a wonderful time to connect!
Start now to nurture your marriage after kids
Though those crazy spontaneous times and days of endless energy with your spouse may be gone for a time, there are plenty of things you can do to nurture your marriage after kids.
Your children will not always be this physically demanding, but time demands will continue. School schedules, sports, school activities, and church will take over. There will always be something to take time away from you and your spouse.
So start now to establish a pattern of connecting and giving each other the space they need so you don’t lose yourselves in the craziness of parenting and life.