It can be difficult for parents in any season of life— with a newborn, with two or three little ones, with the time commitments of little league, with teens, or (as in our case) with a large family that bridges many of these “seasons”– to prioritize marriage amidst all the “busyness.”
Here are 10 ways Doug and I purposefully work to make time for each other, in the midst of raising a large family:
- Kids have a bedtime. Yes, even the 12-year-old. Except for church functions, our littles (8 & under) are in bed by 8:30 every night. Our 10- and 12- year old sometimes go to bed with the littles, and occasionally stay up until 9 or 10 (total: 2-3 times/week). Data bears out that very few kids get adequate sleep, and we believe bedtimes (even for older kids) are a good thing. This gives us time to zone out quietly, side-by-side… talk together… watch a movie or TV show occasionally… and make love regularly. We’ve often shared that, even though we lived overseas for 5+ years without regular baby-sitters or relatives at the ready to relieve us, we kind of have a built-in “mini-date-night” every night in the quiet hours that happen after 8/9pm.
- *Our* conversation is the main event at dinner. Kids can talk, visit, interact with us, giggle together, etc., but Doug & I’s conversation is the main thing during dinner. So if two of kids are talking quietly to one another, that’s fine. But if they get loud, interrupt, or make it so that he & I can’t visit, they have to sit silently. This can be difficult, and obviously, sometimes training the toddler not to throw food from the highchair takes the stage for a week or so. And sometimes the kids’ funny stories, a Bible passage, “what we did today,” or “what I learned recently” is what we all are talking about together. But over the long haul, he and I are the hub of the wheel that keeps this family spinning… so our conversations take priority.
- He gets the best. The best cut of meat. The best portion of dinner. The best smiles. The best of my attention (above Facebook, above our children, above my friends). The best of me. Obviously, this is difficult in certain seasons (postpartum life, anyone?), but I still strive to give him the best.
- We talk. LOTS. While I stir the pasta and chop onions before dinner. While we get dressed before he heads out the door. As we go to bed. When we wake up together. Over meals. In between meetings.
- We text. I send encouraging texts, sex-implying texts, thankful texts, just-filling-in-about-my-day texts. This is a simple way we can stay connected through the day.
- We make sex a major priority. A long time ago, I made the commitment to “just say yes,” anytime he asks or implies, even when I’m tired. I am my beloved’s and my beloved is mine. And I pursue him sometimes too. I only get one crack at this life, and I don’t want to look back with regret that we didn’t mutually enjoy this amazing part of married life God has given us.
- We aren’t the only ones doing chores. Our kids pitch in and do their part… dishes, laundry, cleaning tasks. These don’t only fall on Doug & I’s shoulders. About keeping the house clean as the mom of a large family, I heard it put this way: “I couldn’t do it without them, but without them, I wouldn’t need to.” In our family, we all work together and get things done, and then we all get to enjoy the good things too. But because our kids aren’t sitting around while we’re bogged down by non-stop cooking, cleaning, and chores, we have more time for one another.
- We sit close, and touch each other, whenever we can. If we pass each other in the kitchen, we’ll reach out and touch hands. If we’re sitting quietly in the evenings, we’ll scoot to where our legs can touch. God has given us a one-flesh relationship, and though not commanded or “necessary,” we’ve found that doing these little things keeps the physical connection solid between us. We don’t want disconnectedness to feel normal.
- More often than not, we purposefully stop what we’re doing to say an affectionate goodbye/hello. Yes, this happens at least twice a day, and we don’t do it religiously, but generally, we kiss, smile, and look each other in the eyes before we leave and when we arrive home.
- Whenever possible, we do things together. Gotta make a Costco run on his day off? We do it together. Not because either of us particularly enjoy Costco runs, but because we enjoy being together. If he needs to make a hospital visit to someone in the church, we drive the 45-minute drive to Portland and back together. Most of the time, children can’t go into hospital rooms in serious situations that call for a visit, so I find ways to “kill time” with them. This isn’t because Portland parks are so endearing (although we’ve found some we enjoy), but because Doug is the love of my life, and we want to spend time together whenever we can. The drive down and back gives us a chance to talk, laugh, and catch up about life together.
This list isn’t exhaustive, but meant to give you a flavor of the sort of marriage we work to develop and maintain.
Life is busy.
But marriage a gift.
And we want to make the most of it. So we continually work at it, together.
IN THE COMMENTS, SHARE:
- What do you do to stay connected with your husband or wife?