Everyone knows that relationships are harder to maintain when kids come along. It’s easy to get lost in the chaos of raising kids; coordinating schedules with school and work and gymnastics lessons and family events while trying to raise decent little human beings is exhausting. And don’t even get me started on the baby years when a few hours is considered a good night’s sleep and life is overrun with diapers, bottles, and crying. The very essence of parenthood is putting your child ahead of everything else – so maintaining a healthy and strong relationship with your partner can seem like just another chore at the end of a long day.
I was a single mom when I met my now-husband, so from the get-go, we had to get creative about building our relationship around a kid-friendly schedule. It was rough at first, but fast-forward 4 years, and we’re still here. We’ve learned a lot about being good partners while also being good parents. Here are five ways we do it:
Our days are busy, and during the week, my husband and I don’t see each other from 7 A.M. to 7 P.M…or sometimes even later. Every once in a while, we’ll text each other in the middle of the day just to say “I love you” or send a funny GIF. My go-to gif is the Mother of Dragons from Game of Thrones when she’s a mess and a baby dragon is peeking over her shoulder (You know the one). Even if the other person can’t immediately reply, or doesn’t see it until later, a text lets your partner know that in the midst of everyday chaos you’re still thinking of them and taking the time, even just a second, to connect.
Every Night Is Date Night
Getting our daughter to bed at a decent time is not only important for our daughter’s well-being but ours as well. We need that time after she’s asleep for ourselves – watching a T.V. show while snuggling on the couch, or chatting about our day and plans for the rest of the week. I work at night a lot, but I try to make sure that most nights we have an hour or so with no kids, no phones, and no work – just the two of us. And Netflix.
Something my partner and I do as often as we can is give each other alone time. It may sound like the opposite of connection, but alone time is necessary for any healthy relationship. We make it work by one of us taking over with our daughter while the other is free to do whatever they want. I’m very introverted, and my partner is an extrovert, so we use this time in different ways, but it recharges us just the same. I like to go to a movie by myself, or lounge around the house while it’s quiet, and my husband likes to go to football games or happy hour with coworkers. Time alone gives us each a chance to miss being with the other and return home ready to focus on each other.
Bringing Sexy Back
All relationships go through phases where sex just isn’t a priority, especially when kids are in the picture. Life gets busy, stress can take its toll, even things like medication side effects can impact your sex life. Sometimes the best thing to do is be compassionate with yourself and your partner. Focus on the aspects of intimacy that you’re both feeling, like cuddling on the couch, or holding hands while you walk. Maintaining consistent intimacy in whatever way works for you as a couple can do wonders for bringing back that spark.
No Kids Allowed Travel
Take a parenting break! Every parent knows that traveling with kids isn’t really a vacation. It can actually be more stressful than just being home as a family. But my favorite way to reconnect with my partner is traveling to a new place together without our children. About once a year, we try to take a trip, just the two of us, leaving our daughter in the trusty hands of her grandparents and spending a few days being two individual people instead of a couple of parents. One of the best times I can remember as a couple was the day we spent in New York on our way home from Iceland. We wandered the city hand in hand and had zero plans, just taking pictures and enjoying uninterrupted time together before our flight back to reality that night. You don’t have to go international – just a weekend away in a hotel room somewhere so you can remember what it’s like to be a couple and not just parents.