When I started dating the guy who would become my husband, we were always up for an adventure. Whether it was trying out a new restaurant or a game of putt-putt golf, those early dating days were so fun.
Shortly after we got married, we had three kids back to back. My husband and I didn’t plan to have kids so close together, but before we knew it, we had three little ones under the age of three.
Recently, we realized we have left behind the baby years.
We now have a toddler and kids entering elementary school. I’m not pregnant and we don’t have a nursing newborn. This didn’t make things worse in our marriage, but it was new and strange.
“You are entering a new season, and there is always transition in a new season.” My counselor said. “You can either learn to grow together or you can drift apart.”
Acknowledging we were in a new season of life was difficult for me to hear; we had been so entrenched in the life of tiny babies, diapers, spit-up and breastfeeding. I couldn’t believe that wonderful season was over. It’s bittersweet.
Hearing my counselor say those words alarmed me. The last thing I wanted us to do was drift apart.
That afternoon, when I came back from my counseling session, my husband and I sat down and chatted. Drifting apart in this new season of “big kids” wasn’t an option for us, so instead, we developed a plan to drift back together.
Here are four things we do to stay connected in the middle of soccer practice, bedtime stories and dance recitals.
We found a good, reliable babysitter.
File this one under, “Things No One Tells You When You Become a Parents.” Finding a good, reliable babysitter has been such a difficult journey for us. It’s so hard to find someone we can count on consistently. Seriously, when we found our babysitter, Lydia, I kept telling her with wide eyes and mouth dropped open, “You are so…wonderful and normal.” Which probably made me sound insane.
Finding a good babysitter is vital! If grandparents and aunts and uncles aren’t a consistent option, find someone you trust. Finding someone I trust and someone who enjoys being with my kids has made all the difference. When the kids are safe and taken care of, you don’t worry as much (you still worry, but the worry isn’t on steroids).
Our dates became more routine.
Those dates were what we could do for what season we were in then—parents with a little newborn. I’m not sure how, but sometimes it felt more like checking off a checklist rather than reconnecting. But now things have changed. Our kids are older so instead of once every six months, our dates are a few times a month.
We are starting to do things like go to a baseball game, or go to the movies, or sit at a restaurant and chat for hours. This is a vast improvement from our days of rushing to the nearest restaurant only to rush back before the nursing baby needs Mama.
We talk more.
Of course, this is what we hoped for when we decided to make date nights a priority. We are reconnecting like we just started dating again. (However, the connection is deeper and richer.) We get to talk more about our personal dreams and goals. We get to brag on our kids.
For a few hours, it’s just me and my husband, together. Those few hours give us time to reconnect, rather than just determining when the repairman is coming and did the toddler get a nap, and bonus—it’s deeper. In many ways, we are dating again, but instead of those awkward early dating days of “I’m trying to impress you,” now we have nearly 10 years of marriage and three kids under our belt.
We play games.
This is as simple as asking each other questions or catching up. Sometimes, we people watch, or we share articles and new stories that caught our eye. We take forever to choose our dinner off the menu, because what’s the hurry?
The slow dinner route means we still get a hot meal, and we get to soak up the conversation. Plus, no one makes me laugh like my husband, so getting a chance to laugh with him (and at him!) uninterrupted is gold.
When we make an effort to do these things, we return from our date renewed.
Date night is a way to tell our kids, “We value the family we have, so we are going to spend time together so that we are a better couple for you.” We come back from date nights feeling connected and invigorated.
Most likely, we will have a kid crawl into our bed at 2 a.m., or a child (or two) will be up at 6 a.m. ready to start the day. After a date night, we feel like we can handle sleepless nights or early mornings because we feel more rested and better connected as a couple.
Investing in our marriage makes us better parents.
This new dating season is sweeter. It’s better than ever. Not only we are having fun like those early days, but we are taking this new season of no babies or pregnant bellies in stride. We are entering it knowing that whatever this season or the next brings, we can handle it, as long as we stay connected and do it together.