As our family has grown and changed, so have the ways in which Mark and I spend time together. It used to be nearly impossible for us to leave the house without all of our children and now it happens nearly every week. We used to be able to have a ‘private’ conversation over dinner even with 3 small ones hanging around, now with older children, that is impossible. God works things out like that.
I don’t think that we’ve ever left our children with a baby sitter. We have occasionally left them with my parents or sister, but for the most part we’ve chosen to take care of them ourselves and we’ve waited until they were old enough to take care of each other.
I’m going to do a bit of a time line of how we’ve found ways to spend time together starting with ideas that work with even the smallest children and working my way up to where we are now with a 14 year old.
Put the kids to bed early
One of the easiest ways that Mark and I have found to spend time together is to regularly put our children to bed early. Our children’s bedtime is 7:00pm and after that Mark and I are able to play games, tackle projects (rarely happens because I’m not an evening person), read or talk. Early bedtimes have provided a reliable and regular opportunity for Mark and I to spend time together.
Plan a date night in
These are some of our favorite times. We feed the children a simple meal and then put them to bed with a story on CD.
Sometimes I prepare a nice meal for the two of us, but often Mark picks up something ‘to-go’ while I get the kids down. Then we take our food into the family room (I don’t know why, but it feels more like a ‘date’ if we’re not sitting at the table where we eat every day), eat and talk, watch a movie or play games.
Check out this fun option for a date night in. This is our new favorite.
Wake up early
For a time Mark and I would get up before the children and Mark would lead in a time of Bible reading and prayer. Those were times when we were really able to focus on the needs, weaknesses and strengths of each of our children and spend time praying for them and for each other. Now we have children who get up quite early so this is not something that we do regularly anymore.
As our oldest got to be about 9 or 10 years old Mark and I began making use of her budding abilities and would give the children a specific task or activity (i.e. clean the kitchen, play a game, etc.) and then go out onto the front porch to spend some time together.
As our kids have gotten older (and more numerous) with some waking early and some staying up later, we’ve found that it is more necessary to leave the house to spend time together. Sometimes we go for a walk around the neighborhood or to a nearby park. Sometimes we will go grocery shopping or run a few errands, but the best time to sit and talk is during lunch.
Since the end of my pregnancy with Isabella we’ve tried to get together for lunch about once a week. With a 14 year old it’s simple to leave the children at home.
I think something that’s important to mention is that while going out regularly with your spouse is nice, it’s not necessary. Mark and I spent the first 13 years of parenting, taking care of our own children all the time. Spending time with your spouse does not require leaving your children or your home, it simply requires making good use of the time that you have.
How have you carved out time to spend with your husband? How do you spend time together without spending money?