Sometimes the hardest part of being parents is not the sleepless nights, or the constant feeling of not knowing what you’re doing or how (because when you finally think you know what you’re doing, the kid starts a new stage of development).
Sometimes the hardest part of being parents is not forgetting the couple at the center of the family.
In a world that expects Mom’s life to revolve around her kids and where the term “helicopter parent” is a badge of honor, keeping your marriage at the center of the family unit can be hard. Sometimes there is so little time in a given day or week that it might seem like you don’t even talk to your partner—at least not about anything more complex than what time the baby woke up or who changed the last poopy diaper.
My husband was deployed with the Navy when my first son was born and our oldest son was only 21 months old when our second son was born, so I know how hard it is to keep a focus on the marriage. We mainly did it by having regular (weekly or bi-monthly) date nights and texting and emailing a lot the rest of the week. But we recently moved and don't have a babysitter yet and it's been a while since we had a date night, so I asked some parents to share their tips and experiences on re-centering their marriage after the kids came along.
“After six months of falling asleep as soon as we got in bed, we started going to bed 30 minutes earlier. Basically, we set our own bedtime and made sure that the last 30 minutes of the day are ours to talk and reconnect.” — Sara
“No calling each other ‘Mommy’ and ‘Daddy.’ It creeps me out when friends do it and I told my husband before the baby was born that if he ever wanted to have sex again he’d better not call me ‘Mommy.’” — Theresa
“We don’t let being tired become an excuse for not having sex.” — Brenda
“We keep our marriage at the center of the family by remembering all of the special events, not just our wedding anniversary, but the anniversary of when we first met and our first date, our engagement, all of those important days that were just the two of us. And we talk about them with our kids, who have a hard time believing Mom and Dad had a life before they came along. We laugh about it, but I think it helps us remember who we were before they came along, too.” — Mickey
“We take turns surprising each other with concert or theater tickets every few months. It’s about the only time we get to go out alone and it’s nice to have something to look forward to.” — Laurel
“We read the same books. It gives us something to talk about besides the kids.” — Adam
“Every other Friday night or so, we stay up really late—2 or 3 a.m.—like we used to when we were dating. We watch old movies, eat junk food, fool around, talk about the child-free days. It seems like it would be awful the next day, but we just have a low-key Saturday and maybe one of us will sleep in and the other will take a nap in the afternoon. It’s worth it for that alone time and putting ourselves first for a few hours.” — Tanya
“We go to the Y, put the baby in their childcare center and work out together. It helps burn off the stress of the week and keeps us in shape, but the best part is we’re doing something together. — Martin
“Texts. Lots and lots of texts. We text all the time. Sometimes, it’s the only conversations we have until late at night, but we both know what’s going on with each other.” — Dina
“Once or twice a week in the late afternoon, when the baby and toddler are cranky, we throw them in the car and go for a long drive. They’ll both fall asleep within a few minutes and that gives me and my wife a little mini-date. It’s not much, maybe an hour or two hours, if we’re lucky, but we’ll play the music we like, stop at a drive-thru and get coffee or a milkshake and just laugh and talk like we used to before the kids came along.” — Tim