I have a question for you. On your relationship priority list, who’s #2 after God? Your spouse or your kids?
For me, it’s my husband Ted.
Not too long ago I wrote about this in an article titled, “I’m 49% Mother and 51% Wife – And It Has to Be That Way.” Within hours of it publishing, it became clear to me that this idea of marriage before kids is a divisive one. In the comments I received (primarily on Facebook), there really was no middle ground. There were the “I completely agree with you” people and the “I can’t believe you’d put the needs of a grown man before a child” people.
But what caught my attention as I read people’s thoughts were the questions. The ones from wives who desperately wanted to make their relationship with their husband a priority, but weren’t sure how to do it on a day-to-day, practical basis. Specifically those with young children.
As someone who’s spent the majority of my twelve years of marriage with one or more kids in diapers, I get it. After all, how do you make your marriage a priority when you’re nursing babies, chasing toddlers, sleep deprived, and only showering twice a week?
For Ted and me, it was a process of learning as we went. What did we discover? Well, here are three practical ways we managed to keep our marriage in the #2 spot when we had small children.
1. Make Time Together Daily
It’s easy to default to a “Let’s try to find time for our marriage” mentality. Here’s the thing, though: There will always be something or someone clamoring for your attention. Whether it’s dishes, laundry, or a two-year-old. So stop waiting until you can find time. Instead, actively make time together, even if it’s as little as 10 minutes here and there.
What are some simple ways you can do this? Have coffee together in the morning while your toddler or preschooler watches Disney Jr. or PBS Sprout. Save chores like the dishes or folding laundry to do side-by-side. Put the kids in the stroller and take a walk together after dinner. Or, as Ted and I have done, make after their bedtime your time.
2. Be Strict with Bedtimes
If you and your spouse are both home in the evenings, being strict with bedtimes is a practical way to make time together. Once your kids graduate out of the newborn and early infant phases, set an early-in-the-evening bedtime for them and be consistent with it.
For us, getting our little ones in bed by 7 p.m. every night was instrumental in keeping us connected during the years we had an infant, toddler, and preschooler all at once. Even now that we have tweens who go to bed later, we still make sure bedtimes allow for “us” time afterward. (It’s a good thing Ted and I are night owls!)
3. Let Things Go … Other Than Marriage
Things and even relationships will get neglected. They just will. But you can be intentional to make sure your marriage isn’t one of those. One way to do this is by deciding in advance what things to neglect.
For me, housekeeping and cooking fell into these categories. While I valued a clean house, I didn’t put scrubbing the bathroom before time with my husband. We also ate a lot of quick, easy meals rather than more labor/time-intensive ones. What things can you move further down on your priority list in order to make more time for your marriage?
You don’t have to wait until your kids are potty trained, in big kids beds, or even off to school to make your marriage #2 on your relationship priority list. Like Ted and I found, you can do it in the trenches of parenting small children. It just takes a little bit of planning.