If prioritizing your marriage doesn't look like dates out on the town, you're okay. Your marriage isn't doomed.
I need a break with date night lectures. We get it, it's easy to lose yourself in your marriage and parenthood.
Would I love a standing date night, alone, once a month with my husband? For sure. Is it possible? Yes. Will it cause me more mental strain than pleasure at this time in our lives? Also yes.
Of course, we all need reminders to check in on our marriage. For my husband and me, it usually comes in the form of a disagreement that almost feels like it has no resolution because that's how different our wavelengths are at that moment in time. Would I like to be more preemptive in resolving marital conflict? Absolutely. Would a few hours alone, away from our home each month solve that? Absolutely not.
Everyone has their reasons. For us, my partner doesn't work a standard nine-to-five. He's gone for 24+ hour periods two to three times a week. I have meetings for work at night and when the stars align and those meetings fall when he works, it's a mad dash to get one of three trusted sitters or family friends to step in to help with our kiddo.
We don't have family nearby to fill those gaps. I overpay sitters in hopes of attracting the best young adults in town. Those costs add up, especially when you factor in daycare (which is about to be the cost of our mortgage when number two joins us this summer).
We are tired. We already feel like we don't have enough time as a family. So what do we do? How do we prioritize our marriage?
Early, consistent bedtimes for our kids are key for us. We try to be done at 7:30-7:45 p.m. each night. That leaves us with over three hours to chat, catch up on shows, watch new movies and connect without the constant interruption of a toddler asking for another fruit snack or showing us her princess dress for the 87th time.
When we are visiting family, I'm not shy about asking them to give us a few day dates during the trip. We've even taken a parent-only weekend trip with the help of my mother-in-law so we could get a few nights to sleep in.
We LOVE our alone time, but the extravagant times come at a cost.
It's worrying about putting family or friends in a position where they feel like they can't say no. It's texting your shortlist of sitters and getting a string of "sorry I can'ts" in return. It's worrying you're using a favor for fun when you may really need it for work purposes around the corner.
I know these are all MY problems and worries. Some couples sort it out, make it work and don't stress about the logistics of leaving their kids and I couldn't support you more. I am of a 'you do you' mentality. Because we are all unique in our needs and that doesn't make anyone more or less right.
I just know these years are short and time is fleeting. If we do this right, we only have a handful of years of being "needed" the way we are now. Before we know it, these babies who need one more feed, one more kiss and one more sip of water will be off at camps and sleepovers and we will be sitting on the couch, wondering how the house got so quiet so quickly.
It won't be like this forever. It's hard to remember that in the midst of the sleep-deprived fog of newborns, toddlers, and some combination of all of the above.
Prioritizing your marriage isn't about standing reservations at the newest restaurants or lining up sitters, it's about recognizing what each other needs, verbally or non-verbally and responding with empathy compassion, and communication. It's apologizing for short tempers and cold shoulders. It's talking through resentment you're feeling and offering solutions to overcome it. It's asking for help in a way that your partner understands you aren't saying they don't do anything to help, but there is just SO much that needs to be done and you can't continue carrying the heaviness of your load.
So if you're where we are and prioritizing your marriage doesn't look like leaving the house without your kids, you're okay. Your marriage isn't doomed and you don't have to feel guilty.
One day in the distant future, you will have ample alone time to connect and you will long for the weight of a baby rocking in your arms and a sweaty toddler wrapped around your neck, under the covers. For us, we chose this family—this home full of chaos, busy schedules and ample needs, and it stems directly from our love for one another. As long as we have sight of that, we have it all.
And to be honest, we're doing just fine watching Netflix, trying new recipes, and ordering our favorite takeout. Our family has never made me love my husband more.