When children join a couple, the big question becomes: Just how do we find time together – just the two of us? How do we not neglect, but nourish the marriage, in light of the family’s needs?
With 30-something years of marriage under our belts, and eight children nearly grown – we’ve learned a thing or two about making time for each other. Let me share a few.
Many, many moons ago, when there were just the two of us, we were a very active couple. We each worked, then came home to ride bikes, play racquetball, swim in the ocean, walk around the block, or attend a meeting at our church. We were involved in life and enjoyed our activities.
As the babies joined our lives, we found fewer times to get out. A bicycle-mounted child seat and baby carrier kept our bike riding alive. Then the small bikes with training wheels came, and we slowed way down. Though we were together, it just wasn’t the same as being together, alone. And therein became the challenge.
When our oldest children became old enough to walk and talk and be a bit responsible, we had date nights, just the two of us. Before Spouse came home, I’d feed and bathe the children, then they’d rummage through our video collection to find some favorite they hadn’t seen in a while, and we’d have it queued up and ready. When Spouse came home, they’d have a few minutes with him, while I finished preparations, then off we went – to the back porch. The older girls – they were all of nine or ten at the time – would bring our meals to us, one course at a time, while the younger ones enjoyed their flick. It might not be how the books say we should “date as a couple,” but with our meager bank account and growing family, it’s what we could afford and justify. By all means, if you have the means, going out to a restaurant is wonderful. But, for us, back then, we did what we could. And everyone enjoyed what they did to make it happen.
Travel has always been part of Spouse’s work: Domestic, international, he’s been here and there, for the job. About once a year, in the autumn, I would accompany him on a trip and we’d make a long weekend of it. The south Florida autumns just didn’t satisfy my need for season changes with the magnificent display of fall foliage: reds, orange, coral, rust. With no nearby relatives to step in, we had one friend who counted it a privilege to watch our growing number of offspring for the whole weekend so we could relax and enjoy. God bless her!
Between these annual trips, we found ways to talk around the children. Walking along the dirt road in front of our country house, we’d stroll as a family. Little ones were scooted along in strollers or carried on shoulders. Carrots in tow, we’d feed the neighbor’s horses, then continue our journey down to the main road. Conversations with the children were short, “Yes, I see the cows.” “And the peacocks, too.” Between these, Spouse and I would connect: talking about his day and mine, the children, his travels, and how we were doing – it was our lifeline. And we made it enough.
We also made a commitment not to use our precious little time together arguing or on negatives. We wanted our energy spent on positives, moving forward, making the most of opportunities and building toward the future.
Sometimes, we would both stay up a bit later, just to have a few minutes alone. Or we’d wake up early and sit out on the porch or linger longer over a simple breakfast. Whatever worked at the time, we found ways to be together, and as I look back, we had some guidelines we seemed to follow. May I share?
We set boundaries – with the children and with others.
- When the door is closed, knock.
- On Friday evenings we have family fun night, but on Thursday nights, it’s Mommy-Daddy time.
- Outside activities were weighed in light of the whole family, and not many made the cut.
We guarded our planned times with a vengeance. We put them on the calendar, and varied them only for rare emergencies.
Calling each other during the day was another way we stayed connected. With his first cell phone came a set call time. As he drove off to work, his fingers hit speed-dial, and we used his commute time to talk about the day and pray for God to be involved in each of our lives – all while I oversaw the children as they brushed their teeth and readied for the school day. Coming home from work, we also reconnected about that evening’s expectations and commitments, supper preparations, and who needed his attention when he arrived – for discipline or encouragement.
Viewing our lives through the lens of a long history together, I realize we made little moments count for a lot. What we didn’t have in money, we made up for in creativity. We found that being married – with children – was wonderful. Especially if we remembered that we were a couple – first, last and always.
After 30 years of marriage, Mark & Kym Wright have eight children. Between gardening, baking bread, sewing, quilting and writing, Kym enjoys her life to the fullest and demonstrates her passion in all she does. Visit her website: www.KymWright.com Her online publication is The Mother’s Heart magazine, for wives and mothers with hearts in their homes.