Parents of Small Children Can’t Find Time for Themselves

How can my spouse and I get a break from the kids once in a while? During the early days of our marriage my spouse and I used to enjoy long, quiet evenings together at home — candlelight dinners, movie nights, etc. Since our children were born we can't even find two minutes to sit down and have an intelligible conversation. What would you suggest?

Many couples realize that making time for each other and getting away from the kids is important, but for one reason or another they never seem to get around to it. This is a more serious problem than you may realize: as the second and third children come along, it’s easy to let your couple relationship slide if you don’t take the time to keep it vibrant and healthy. That requires intentionality and creativity.

It’s easy, for instance, to conclude that since you can’t go out often, you may as well not go out at all. But this is far from true. Once a month is better than never. Perhaps you can’t afford a babysitter or dinner at a restaurant once a week. If that’s the case, you should start looking for innovative ways to get around your tight budget. You might choose one night a week to get the kids in bed early, put a pizza in the oven, and enjoy an after-dinner bath together. Another option is to pick up some fast food and head for the park. Time together doesn’t have to be expensive.

We realize, of course, that finding and compensating good babysitters can be a challenge for the average young couple. Gone are the days when most of us could rely on extended family for free child care – many new moms and dads don’t live near their relatives. If this is your situation, you might ask trusted friends at work or church to babysit your kids once in a while or trade child-care services with other parents. You could also ask the church youth director to organize a free babysitting service project for students. If faraway relations ask what you’d like for your birthday, Christmas, or anniversary, request babysitting money. Save money by canceling cable TV or taking your lunch to work or by selling unused items on eBay.

If you’re afraid to leave your baby with anyone else – a common concern for many first-time parents – you might try to head off unnecessary worries by inviting a potential sitter to come over and watch your child in another room while the two of you make dinner and watch a DVD. It also helps to take a cell phone with you while you go out to dinner – this can go a long way in providing assurance for new parents. You may also feel more comfortable asking an older, experienced mother to watch your baby than you would a teenager.

If you’re wondering whether it’s worth the hassle, think back to the time you had with your spouse before your first baby arrived. How many hours per week did you spend alone together? Did you enjoy those experiences? Did they help you grow closer? Wouldn’t you like to recapture that closeness and see it increase in the future? If you responded “yes” to any of these questions (and we’re assuming you did), we’d suggest that you need to do everything in your power to achieve a similar amount of “together time” in your new schedule. If you can’t get anywhere close to that goal, take what you can get. The main thing is to keep a conscious, regular lookout for any and all opportunities to be a couple again.

If you need help putting these ideas into action, we’d like to invite you to contact Focus on the Family’s Counseling department and speak with a member of our staff. They’d be pleased to assist you in any way they can.


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