Finding time to spend together is hard for any couple, but more as parents. Learn how parents can make time for each other (even with kids!).
Parenthood changes relationships, doesn’t it?
Before kids, even if you and your partner worked long hours, you still had the evening to yourselves. You likely spent weekends together, whether on a romantic wine-tasting tour or buying new curtains at the home decor store. From the mundane to the exciting, you managed to make time for each other.
Now with kids, it’s a bit different.
Whatever time together you now have outside of work is taken up with parenting duties. Dinners are no longer insightful or entertaining, but a scramble to get the kids fed as you hope they don’t whine and fight with one another.
By the time they’re in bed, you’re too exhausted to talk, preferring instead to hop on the computer, tune out with the television, or even go straight to sleep.
How parents can make time for each other
My husband and I will reminisce about all the things we used to do before kids. We laugh about how “busy” or “tired” we thought we were. We talk about old memories, like shopping for groceries together on the weekends or taking a gardening class.
With so many commitments and fatigue taking over, what can parents do to rekindle their relationships?
The days of doing whatever you want, whenever and wherever are on hold for a few more years. But that doesn’t mean you can’t make time for each other. In fact, it’s important that you do—your kids need you to take care of yourself, including your relationships.
If you want to make time with your partner but have no idea where to start, you’re not alone. Check out my tips below for how you can carve out time, even if you have kids:
1. Limit screen time at home
Peek into any home after the kids are in bed (including mine), and you’ll likely see couples in front of a screen. Whether it’s television, a video game, computer, tablet or phone, we turn to our gadgets to decompress after a long day.
For the most part, I’m okay with this. In fact, many couples even bond over favorite TV shows, or work side-by-side on their computers as you would in an office space. This is, in its own way, one method to spend time with each other.
But once in a while, close the laptop and leave the phone in another room.
It might be on Mondays when one of you comes home late, and you can spend time talking in the dining room. Or make it a daily habit. You don’t have to commit your whole evening—just the first 30 minutes to share with each other what happened in your day.
Limiting screen time ensures that the time you do spend together isn’t completely lost in a passive activity.
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2. Take the same day off work
Weekends are hectic enough as it is, with errands and activities. Rather than finding a babysitter during an already stressful time, schedule a day where you can both take the day off. The kids will be in school or with child care, leaving you with a whole morning and early afternoon to spend time together.
One of my and my husband’s anniversaries fell on a weekday, which seemed like a perfect opportunity for both of us to take a day off work. We visited a winery and had lunch by the beach.
We wouldn’t have been able to do either one with kids around, and we got to enjoy these places without the hassles of a weekend crowd.
These days, “school” can look different, and finding a sitter can be a bit of a challenge. But even spending family time together on a day when you’re both off work can be a fun way to spend a weekday.
3. Relish the simple moments
Date nights, weekends without the kids, romantic outings… when we think of spending time with our partners, it’s easy to assume that must mean a once-in-a-lifetime event. After all, it’s rare you get to unload the kids on someone else and enjoy time together.
Problem is, we don’t always have the time to clear our calendars for these events. For others, a lack of reliable and trustworthy caregivers makes time for your partner even more challenging. And these days, social distancing means a smaller pool of people to babysit.
That’s why it’s okay to relish in the simple moments. You don’t need a whole weekend or hours alone to make time for your partner. Find them in pockets throughout the day.
Each family is different, but take a look at your day and see what you can eliminate. Where can you carve space to reconnect and make time for your partner?
This might mean waking up earlier to prepare breakfast together. You might replace your daily jog with working out together at home. And again, it could mean turning off devices for 30 minutes after the kids are in bed to talk about your days.
Don’t feel discouraged by grand date nights you’re supposed to have. The little moments, because they’re more doable, count just as much.
4. Make spending time with your partner consistent
We feel robbed of time with our partners because we don’t have a system in place to make them regular activities. We celebrate Valentine’s or anniversaries, but don’t think of other ways to spend time together.
Instead, think of time with your partner as a regular, consistent activity. Use these moments to create traditions and memories, not an event you do once, only to feel starved for time again.
You can make a monthly tradition of dropping the kids off at grandma’s for the day (even if you know they’ll eat too much!). You might commit to waking up earlier every day before the kids start theirs. Maybe it’s scheduling time off—and actually marking it on your calendars—so you can be together on those days.
Our calendars are filled with so many commitments, from work to school responsibilities to errands. It may be time to replace a few of those with spending time with your partner as well.
Date night ideas
If you are planning an outing together, check out a few of my favorite date night ideas. Keep in mind that some of these will look different, given the times. But I list them anyway, hoping for the day we can do them once more (or so you can adjust accordingly):
- Go to a “fancy” restaurant. I make it a rule that if my husband and I eat at a restaurant alone, we’re going to the kind that would be impossible to take kids. Take advantage of your solo time and eat somewhere you don’t always get to.
- Watch a movie. While movies don’t lend themselves to conversation (you’re not talking for at least two hours), you do get to discuss it after the fact. A movie is best with a meal or snack after to talk about what you watched. Movie theaters are closed? Rent one at home (and pop some popcorn, too!).
- Recreate your earlier dates. Remember the first restaurant you ate, or the activity you did? Whether you had sushi on a first date or would go hiking every week, recreate your earlier dates to remember how you first began to get to know each other.
- Coffee shop. A coffee shop is perfect for a quick snack and get-together.
- Go hiking. Spend time together hiking challenging climbs and getting exercise as well.
- Play a sport. My husband and I used to kick a soccer ball at the park before we had kids. Find a sporty activity to do together, like tennis, swimming or playing basketball.
- Have wine and cheese at home. Remember the few minutes after the kids are in bed I mentioned earlier? Make it even more special with wine, cheese, and crackers.
- Have tea at home. Like wine and cheese, having tea is a fun mini-celebration at home. Steep your favorite teas, make tea sandwiches, slice fruits and bake delicious scones.
- Get lost in a bookstore. One of my favorite past times with my husband was thumbing through books at a bookstore. Hit up your local bookstore and see what interesting selection draw you in. You can even combine your coffee shop outing if the store has a cafe.
- Play a board game. From Scrabble to Sorry, playing a board game is a fun way to spend an evening together.
- Go to a garden. Many cities have beautiful botanical gardens you can visit. A few of my local favorites are the UCLA Botanical Garden, South Coast Botanic Garden and Huntington Garden.
- Look through old pictures. Flick through old photos of yourselves or even the kids on the laptop. Play adorable videos of them as babies, or revisit your wedding and honeymoon pictures.
- Take a cooking class. Many cooking schools offer one-time classes, often in the evenings or weekends.
- Watch a play or musical. I grew up loving musicals, so it’s no wonder my husband and I have watched a few already. For now, musicals are on hold, but I can’t wait until we can go again.
- Go to a museum. Does your local museum have a special exhibit? Make it an outing by buying tickets for you and your partner to check out. I still remember when we checked out exhibits for Renoir, Dali and Tim Burton! Local art shows are also a fantastic option.
- Go to a concert. If you or your partner have a favorite band, see if they’ll be playing near your city.
- Have a couples massage. Whether in the same room or taking the time to go to a spa together, a couples massage is a fantastic gift for the both of you.
Parenthood has made spending time with your partner challenging, but you can still find ways to reconnect, even while raising kids.
Taking a day off gives you a chance to spend a whole day together without worrying about childcare. Limit screen time when you’re together, even if it’s for a few minutes, to encourage discussion. Relish in the simple moments, which are more frequent and just as precious.
And be consistent. Strengthening your relationship is a priority, just like raising your kids and going to work. Whether wine-tasting or buying curtains, making time for your partner isn’t only doable, but important as well.
Get more tips:
- The “How Do You Do It” Working Moms Guide
- How to Make Time for Yourself (Even If You Have Kids!)
- On Rediscovering Yourself After Motherhood
- How to Spend Time with Your Family (Even as a Busy Mom)
- Time Management for Moms: Tips You Can Actually Apply
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