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Why Time Apart Might Be the Perfect Marriage Elixir

I was pregnant with our first child when my husband and I attended a friend’s 40th birthday party. Over thumping music and margaritas (a Shirley Temple for me), we wished the guest of honor another happy journey around the sun.


“How does 40 feel?” My husband asked.

“It’s good,” he said. “But I’m tired.” He and his wife had two young kids at the time. “I don’t remember the last time I slept through the night.”

Our friend turned his gaze to his wife. Beaming in her direction, he told us how excited he was to spend the night at the swanky hotel down the street that night.

“So fun!” I exclaimed. “The kids are with their grandparents overnight?”

Our friend and his wife laughed, shaking their heads. “No,” she explained. “I’m staying with the kids so my husband can have the entire night to himself and wake up whenever he wants, in silence, totally alone.”

“Too bad you couldn’t find a sitter so you could stay at the hotel together,” I replied.

“No, this is actually the perfect birthday treat,” our friend insisted.

I sipped my Shirley Temple and tried to make my face look as if I understood.

Six years, two kids of my own, and countless sleepless nights later, I understand. As I’ve come to learn, taking time for yourself once you become a parent is not a luxury but a necessity. Though it seems counter-intuitive, one of the best things you can do for your marriage is to step away from it, regularly and intentionally.

I talked to experts to find out why couples – particularly those with kids – are so much better together when they spend time apart.

Because…kids

Our kids absorb an incredible amount of our time and energy. Ironically, this is exactly why parents need to take time for themselves.

Alex Hedger, therapist and clinical director of Dynamic You Therapy Clinics, encourages parents to take breaks from the demands of both their children and their partner in order to “prevent cracks appearing in either partner’s well-being – or the relationship.”

Tiya Cunningham-Sumter, a certified life and relationship coach, describes those potential cracks as “regret and resentment toward your partner…. You’ll find yourself giving your partner the angry side-eye, and it’s all because you didn’t make time for you.”

While experts agree that down time is crucial for both parents, David Ezell, therapist and clinical director of Darien Wellness, argues it’s particularly important for women. He describes a client who mistakenly believes she should never be apart from her kids, a mindset that tends to be unique to mothers:

“Not only is it horrible for the children – they need to learn mom can leave and come back – but it’s also likely to turn this highly educated, accomplished woman’s brain into mush. Children are wonderful, but we all need a break from being asked why the sky is blue (for the 400th time).”

You’re still fascinating, even if you answer to “Mom” or “Dad”

Before you were someone’s mom, dad, husband, wife, or partner, you were just you. Peel off all the labels and you’re still there, even if you’re buried under laundry and dinner prep and birthday party invitations. And you still matter.

Vikki Ziegler, the author and divorce attorney best known for her starring role in Bravo TV’s “Untying the Knot”, calls prioritizing your own interests a chance to “nourish your soul.” Dating coach Corrine Dobbas calls it a time to “rejuvenate and foster [your] sense of self.”

Whatever you call it, it is vital to stay in touch with what makes you uniquely you – the person your partner fell in love with in the first place.

Alex Hedger uses the analogy of a sports team to illustrate the importance of each half of a couple bringing their best self to the relationship. Just as a team functions optimally when each player brings his or her unique strengths to the game, “having time apart allows you to be true to yourself in a way that allows you to uniquely contribute when being part of the Relationship Team.”

Dobbas agrees. Only when you stay in touch with yourself “can [you] show up in the relationship more present, confident, and less stressed.” Not only do you bring greater energy to the relationship when you’ve had time to recharge, you also become a more interesting person to your partner.

Marriage counselor and author Patricia Bubash says when each partner carves out time for their own interests, not only does it give them something to talk about, but it also gives partners a chance to see each other “as interesting individuals, not just a wife [or] husband.”

Absence makes the heart grow fonder

Whether you take an hour for a kickboxing class, an evening with friends, or a weekend to go on a yoga retreat, taking time apart give you and your partner a chance to miss one another. Amy Bailey, a Colorado mom of three who has been married 16 years, says that, while date nights are key, so is time apart.

“There’s nothing that makes me miss home and my husband like not having him around,” says Baily, “and we take that time to send each other texts we wouldn’t want our kids to read, and by the time we see each other again – well…we’re ready to see each other again.”

While it’s not always possible to get away for long stretches of time, Jenni Skyler, certified sex therapist and director of The Intimacy Institute, encourages couples to get creative with the limited time they have. She says it is especially important for new moms to have what she calls “restorative, regenerative time” in order to show up to the relationship sexually.

“For a lot of women, the ability to be aroused comes from having space for arousal to emerge.” She says because most women can’t just switch from Mom to lover in the blink of an eye, having time alone is essential, even if it’s just 20 minutes to soak in the tub.

Cunningham-Sumter says that even carving out a few minutes for chores, like folding laundry or doing dishes by yourself, “can be your time to turn on your music and just be with yourself.”

While any time away from your partner can be helpful, research suggests time spent in solitude may be especially valuable. Relationship expert David Bennett points to a recent study in which alone time was found to promote relaxation and reduce stress.

My husband gives me time to work out because he knows the more I sweat, the more pleasant I am to be around. Though he doesn’t necessarily care to hear about the way my leggings chafed or how my GPS lost its signal during my run, he does care that I’m still the athlete I was when we met.

Likewise, I rarely deny his occasional request to take himself and his fantasy novel out for a beer and a burger. He always returns in a better mood than when he left. Because sometimes time alone is exactly what we need to come together.

Who said motherhood doesn't come with a manual?

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Breakfast is often said to be the most important meal of the day, but in many households, it's also the most hectic. Many parents rely on pre-prepared items to cut down on breakfast prep time, and if Jimmy Dean Heat 'n Serve Original Sausage Links are a breakfast hack in your home, you should check your bag.

More than 14 tons of the frozen sausage links are being recalled after consumers found bits of metal in their meat.

The United States Department of Agriculture's Food Safety and Inspection Service announced the recall of 23.4-oz. pouches of Jimmy Dean HEAT 'n SERVE Original SAUSAGE LINKS Made with Pork & Turkey with a 'Use By' date of January 31, 2019.

"The product bears case code A6382168, with a time stamp range of 11:58 through 01:49," the FSIS notes.

In a statement posted on its website, Jimmy Dean says "a few consumers contacted the company to say they had found small, string-like fragments of metal in the product. Though the fragments have been found in a very limited number of packages, out of an abundance of caution, CTI is recalling 29,028 pounds of product. Jimmy Dean is closely monitoring this recall and working with CTI to assure proper coordination with the USDA. No injuries have been reported with this recall."

Consumers should check their packages for "the establishment code M19085 or P19085, a 'use by' date of January 31, 2019 and a UPC number of '0-77900-36519-5'," the company says.

According to the FSIS, there have been five consumer complaints of metal pieces in the sausage links, and recalled packages should be thrown away.

If you purchased the recalled sausages and have questions you can call the Jimmy Dean customer service line at (855) 382-3101.

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Flying with a 2-year-old and a 5-year-old isn't easy under optimal conditions, and when the kids are tired and cranky, things become even harder.

Many parents are anxious when flying with kids for exactly this reason: If the kids get upset, we worry our fellow passengers will become upset with us, but mom of two Becca Kinsey has a story that proves there are more compassionate people out there than we might think.

In a Facebook post that has now gone viral, Kinsey explains how she was waiting for her flight back from Disney World with her two boys, Wyatt, 2, and James, 5, when things started to go wrong, and the first of three kind women committed an act of kindness that meant so much.

After having to run all over the airport because she'd lost her ID, Kinsey and her boys were in line for security and she was "on the verge of tears because Wyatt was screaming and James was exhausted. Out of the blue, one mom stops the line for security and says 'here, jump in front of me! I know how it is!'" Kinsey wrote in her Facebook post.

Within minutes, 2-year-old Wyatt was asleep on the airport floor. Kinsey was wondering how she would carry him and all the carry-ons when "another mom jumps out of her place in line and says 'hand me everything, I've got it.'"

When Kinsey thanked the second woman and the first who had given up her place in line they told her not to worry, that they were going to make sure she got on her flight.

"The second woman takes evvvverything and helps me get it through security and, on top of all that, she grabs all of it and walks us to the gate to make sure we get on the flight," Kinsey wrote.

Kinsey and her boys boarded, but the journey was hardly over. Wyatt wolk up and started "to scream" at take off, before finally falling back asleep. Kinsey was stressed out and needed a moment to breathe, but she couldn't put Wyatt down.

"After about 45 min, this angel comes to the back and says 'you look like you need a break' and holds Wyatt for the rest of the flight AND walks him all the way to baggage claim, hands him to [Kinsey's husband], hugs me and says "Merry Christmas!!" Kinsey wrote.

👏👏👏

It's a beautiful story about women helping women, and it gets even better because when Kinsey's Facebook post started to go viral she updated it in the hopes of helping other parents take their kids to Disney and experience another form of stress-relief.

"What if everyone that shared the story went to Kidd's Kids and made a $5 donation?! Kidd's Kids take children with life-threatening and life-altering conditions on a 5 day trip to Disney World so they can have a chance to forget at least some of the day to day stressors and get to experience a little magic!!"

As of this writing, Kinsey has raised more than $2,000 for Kidd's Kids and has probably inspired a few people to be kind the next time they see a parent struggling in public.

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Ah, the holidays—full of festive cheer, parties, mistletoe... and complete and utter confusion about how much to tip whom.

Remember: Tipping and giving gifts to the people that help you throughout the year is a great way to show your appreciation, but it's never required. Ultimately, listen to your heart (and your budget) and decide what's right for your family.

Here is our etiquette guide to tipping and gifting everyone on your list.

Teachers

You can decide if you'd like to do a class gift.

  • Ask people to contribute what they can, if they'd like to
  • Sign the gift from the entire class—don't single out the people that weren't able to contribute
  • Idea: a small gift and then a gift card bought with the rest of the money, and a card signed by all the children

...or a personal gift.

  • Amount/value is very up to you—you may factor in how many days/week your child is in school and how much you pay for tuition.
  • Anywhere from $5-$150 has been done.
  • Idea: a personalized tote bag and gift card, with a picture drawn by your child

Babysitters, nannies + au pairs

  • Up to one night's pay for a babysitter
  • Up to one week's pay for a nanny or au pair.
  • Homemade gift from the child

Daycare teachers

  • $25-70/teacher and a card from your child

School bus driver

  • A non-monetary gift of $10-$20 (i.e. a gift card)

Ballet teacher/soccer coach

  • Consider a group gift or personal gift (see teacher gift above)
  • Up to $20 value if doing a personal gift

Mail carrier

  • A gift up to a $20 value, but they are not allowed to receive cash or a gift card that can be exchanged for cash.

UPS/Fed Ex

  • A gift up to a $20 value, depending on the number of packages you get. Avoid cash if possible.

Sanitation workers

  • $10-30 each
  • Make sure you find out if the same people pick up the recycling and the trash—there may be two different teams to think about.

Cleaning person

  • Up to one week's pay

Hair stylist

  • Up to the cost of one haircut/style

Dog walker

  • Up to one week's pay

Doorman

  • $15-80 each depending on number of doormen

Boss/Co-workers

  • You are not required to give your boss a gift. In some instances, it may be inappropriate to do so—so you'll have to think about what seems right for you
  • Never give cash
  • Consider giving an office gift—bring coffee or donuts to the office for everyone, buy an assortment of teas for the staff lounge, replace the microwave that everyone hates, etc
  • Organize an office Secret Santa—it's a great way to boost morale and have fun, without needing to decide who to buy for. (Hint: We love Elftser for easy Secret Santa organizing!)

Neighbors

Hey mama,

It's the time of year again.

You know what I'm talking about. From Halloween to New Years Eve, where all the sweets and treats come out in full force, and it seems like the universe is plotting to take you down.

You may feel overwhelmed by the weight of it all. After all, history has taught you that you can't make it through the holiday season successfully.

Maybe you can't get by without eating all the holiday treats and feeling like a failure. Maybe you end the holidays vowing to be a better person and start the New Year on the latest detox diet. You are all too familiar with the guilt and shame that comes with holiday eating cycle and how this robs you of joy of the season.

You may have managed to contain some element of self-control over the year. Maybe you carefully avoid those treats that you know you can't simply eat one of, or maybe you've skipped dessert and stayed clear from all the sweets. Maybe you've felt like you're doing well on your latest diet and are worried about how this incoming holiday treat wave will sabotage your success.

Whatever you're worried about, the fear is real and paralyzing, taking up that precious mental space as your thoughts are consumed about food and your body.

It may be hard to think about anything else when you mind is controlled by the rules that dictate what you should and shouldn't be eating. Maybe seeing your spouse or kids eat those holiday treats creates more anxiety for you and sends you on the brink of losing your mind as these food issues become all consuming.

But have you ever stopped to ask yourself, where is this fear coming from and why is it controlling your life?

Do you ever feel like a failure at eating because you inhaled that bag of fun-sized candy bars or scarfed through a dessert faster than anyone could say, "Trick or Treat?"

Are you embarrassed that something as normal as food feels like such a struggle?

Does overeating or an emotional eating episode send you on a downward tailspin in self-loathing?

How many times have you stepped on the scale, only to feel miserable about yourself for the rest of the day?

I want to let you in on a secret.

You are not failing, mama.

That desire to eat all the holiday foods or binge on sweets doesn't mean that you've screwed up or that you have no self-control.

You're not a failure for wanting to eat all the things you don't normally let yourself eat or for breaking all the food rules you've set in place to give you more "control."

You don't need more willpower, another diet or more ways to become disciplined.

What you need, sweet mama, is permission.

Permission to eat those foods that you crave every year, like a slice of your Grandmother's special holiday dish or the piece of pumpkin cheesecake everyone's eating at your office party.

Permission to decorate holiday cookies with your kids and actually enjoy eating one too, not pretend like you don't want one, only to eat a plateful once they've gone to bed.

Permission to actually keep food in its proper place, so it's not stealing your joy, energy and mental space.

And you know what?

When you've given yourself permission to eat, including all those sweets and treats that are normally off-limits, they suddenly lose their power over you. And when food doesn't have power over you, you will have freedom to live a life that isn't bound by what you can and cannot eat.

Let me tell you something else: feeling like a failure around food is NOT your fault. It doesn't mean you don't have enough self-control or will power. There is nothing wrong with you.

What's to blame are the abundance of food rules: unrealistic food rules that make you feel unnecessarily guilty for eating or shameful in your body. (i.e: "Don't eat sugar", "Don't eat carbohydrates", "That's not allowed on the diet", "Don't eat anything too high in fat", "Don't eat after 6pm", "Don't eat all day if you're having a big meal at night").

You are not the problem.

Food rules, diets, etc. THAT is what is wrong.

You weren't made to live or thrive under a list of rules of what you should or shouldn't eat. It's not an issue of self-control.

The truth is that trying to follow a diet or a rigid set of food rules is like trying to negotiate with your toddler—you just can't win. And it's not for lack of trying, it's that the rules of the game are created for you to fail. So why try to play a game where the odds are against you?

You can opt-out of diet culture NOW to enjoy a truly peaceful holiday season that doesn't end with self-loathing or a New Year's resolution to diet and start the cycle all over again. Because the truth is, there are no good and bad foods or rules you are have to follow. When you can let go of all those judgments and emotional hang-ups that you've attached to eating, you learn to trust yourself to make your own choices and view food for what is really is - just food.

So choose being present over being perfect with the way you eat (because no such thing exists anyway). Calm the food chaos by giving yourself permission to eat, taste, and celebrate.

Enjoy the treats, if that is what your body is craving. Take back for yourself what all the obscure food rules and dieting have taken away from you all these years. Take in the memories, the flavors of the season - because you deserve it.

This holiday season, commit to putting yourself on a new path, one that doesn't end in self-destruction.

Give yourself permission, not only to eat, but to embrace a new way of living that isn't defined by your body size or what you can or cannot eat.

You can choose food freedom over food rules, and by doing so, you are choosing to live. You are choosing to be present for your children and experience the moments and memories that might otherwise be missed when your mind is imprisoned by food rules.

It's never too late, mama. The time to start is now.

Remember—you are not failing. Start by giving yourself permission today.

Originally posted on Crystal Karges.

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