What Dating Really Looks Like When You Have Young Kids
March 12, 2018
Connecting with your spouse after you have children can be really difficult. Before you have children, chances are there isn’t something competing for your time like a newborn or toddler might. It’s easy to be an attentive partner when you aren’t tired and needed around the clock by a tiny human. After adding a member or two to the family, time becomes a precious commodity and your spouse probably gets bumped to the end of the list.
My husband and I know this story all too well. Prior to having kids, we spent the majority of our time together. It was quite a shock that we had to work at our relationship, when it had always come so easily to us.
With two under two, a daughter diagnosed with autism shortly after our second was born and shift work, dating started to look quite a bit different. It was no longer a night on the town, but just a thought or gesture to show that we were thinking of one another, even if we didn’t have the time or energy to put in tons of effort. We really had to learn to slow down and make a conscious effort to find ways to show we were thinking of each other. With such young children and such pressing needs, there is literally always something that needs our attention ASAP, and, spoiler, it’s rarely each other.
Here are six simple ways we’ve found to date each other, without spending a lot of time or money.
- Go for a walk. Our kids are outside kids. It is their calm place. When the weather allows, we buckle everyone into the stroller with a snack and take a lap through the neighborhood or walk to the park. For the first few months of our two under two life, this was almost exclusively our only chance to talk. No one was running away, everyone was content (and if they weren’t there wasn’t much more we could do than speed walk home). In the 15-20 minutes of semi- calm we could catch up on everything that had been going on. If weather is an obstacle, try substituting for a drive.
- Use the gym day care. The gym daycare is my ultimate mom hack. It is the cheapest babysitting I’ve been able to find, and while it’s not the greatest ever, it doesn’t require finding a sitter and coordinating schedules. They are there waiting to take your children. Our gym has a great spa and my husband and I have dropped the kids off and gone for a soak more than a time or two. It’s a great way to relax and have some uninterrupted time to talk. Other times, we’ve worked out together or walked or run next to each other on treadmills.
- Leave a note. It doesn’t have to be extravagant, just a sticky note on the bathroom mirror will do. Tell them why you love them, a memory, something encouraging- anything! With my husband’s unpredictable schedule this has been a great way for us to keep in touch. Yes, we live in the same house, but when he is working a graveyard shift and I only see him for an hour or two before he’s off to work again, it’s a great way to remind each other that we’re not just roommates.
- Know their love language. If you know your spouse’s love language, you really don’t have to work that hard for them to know they are loved. Knowing each other’s love language has seriously eased so much tension in our marriage. Now my husband knows that acts of service are really the way for me to feel most loved, so he goes out of his way to try and do things to make my life easier. It’s really made a big difference in our marriage to focus our time on exactly how to make each other happy instead of guessing and wondering why the other wasn’t thrilled.
- Communicate. This is nothing you haven’t already heard, but it’s so true. Over communicating is no longer a thing when you have young children. I can’t tell you how many times a day either my husband or myself start a sentence with, “Did I already tell you….” The days run together and memories don’t work like they used to, so we’ve found that we’d prefer to hear the same piece of information several times rather than assume we can hear each other over the noise or remember every last detail the other says.
- Be proactive. If you start to feel yourselves getting off track, surprise the other with a babysitter and a planned date night. If that’s not an option, make an effort to have an at home date night once the kids (finally) go to bed. The few times my husband has done this have been so meaningful. To know that he too felt the disconnect but took the steps to correct it rather than to let it feed resentment for one another showed that he was still willing to put in the extra effort for our marriage.
We are still a work in progress and as our children get older, we are able to find more ways to date each other and connect. Life will always be messy, but as long as you continue to make a conscious effort to think of one another and stay on the same page, you’re on the right track.
Heather McTaggart lives in Northern California with her husband AJ and is an elementary teacher turned stay at home mom to her two children, Isla (3) and Nolan (1.5). When she's not being used as a human jungle gym she enjoys running, baking and watching Real Housewives.
Head shot: Dave Shilling Photography