Three Tips for Prioritizing Quality Time with Your Spouse When You Have Little Ones
If you’re one of those couples who tend to check out in front of the TV as soon as the kids go down for bed, this one’s for you. Not because I want to try to shame you or convince you of how important it is to break this routine, but because I want you to know that my husband and I are STILL total couch potatoes and yet we’ve discovered so many great ways to prioritize quality time together outside of how we spend our evenings — and I want you to discover these things, too. I want to help you see and make the most of the opportunities that are most likely already in front of you.
You will not find shame here! Only lots and lots of GRACE.
For a long time, I felt guilty and embarrassed about how much Netflix I watch with my husband Grant on a weekly basis. I knew there were probably better, more “productive” things we could be doing to serve our marriage. But in the past year or so, since the birth of our second baby, he and I have both had to come to the conclusion that in this season of busyness and caring for two little ones, it’s not only normal for us to want to check out at the end of the day; it’s also OKAY. And just because we like to sit on our butts and enjoy binge watching shows as a way of decompressing at the end of a long day doesn’t mean that we can’t still have good, intentional quality time together, too.
So before I dive into what this looks like, I want you to first break out of any shame or guilt that you may be feeling about the way you approach quality time in the evenings, especially if you guys, like us, know that you are both just so spent by the end of the day and naturally lean towards binge-watching Netflix as a result. I think it’s important that we acknowledge and respect where we’re at — physically, mentally, and emotionally — in this current season if we’re going to move in a healthy direction and find what works best. Because what might work best for the couple without kids or the parents who have young teens is going to look vastly different from what works best for the couple who have little ones or a brand new baby!
I want you to allow yourself to examine things from a new, more grace-centered perspective, and I want you to believe that your best opportunities for quality time ARE out there. It just might require a little more creativity to find it.
To help you with this, I’m going to share three ways Grant and I prioritize quality time and have been able to improve our marriage, starting with what’s most revolutionized our time together:
1. Make the mundane work for you.
I am now a firm believer that one of the best things a husband and wife can do for their marriage is turn everyday, mundane things into moments of good, intentional quality time together.
Let’s be honest. A vast portion of adult life is just plain boring. There’s always errands and grocery trips, haircuts and dentist appointments, yard work, housework… so much work! It’s no fun when every weekend or every day spent together is filled with menial tasks, and the worst part is IT NEVER ENDS.
For the longest time, I resented adulthood because of these things. It felt like they were inhibiting us from enjoying life. We were so busy running errands and checking things off the to-do list (and also taking care of a kid who NEVER LEAVES) that I just couldn’t see how we were going to be able to relax and have fun together.
But this — and please hear me out and know that I am speaking from a place of grace, NOT judgment — isn’t anybody else’s fault but my own. This idea that life is running ME instead of the other way around is a load of crap. The truth is that even though I might “be a slave” to our to-do list (as I used to call it), I am still absolutely, completely free in HOW I complete that to-do list, and I can either let it control our marriage or I can make it work for our marriage.
Once I allowed myself to look at things from a different perspective, it was like everything changed. Instead of grocery shopping with the family being this stressful and solely task-oriented event, grocery shopping became our “stroll in the park” where we weren’t pressed for time or just trying to “get it done.” We were talking and making jokes and actually having fun. Car rides turned into dance parties. Folding laundry turned into a time for listening to podcasts. Cooking in the kitchen suddenly became sexy with the right music…
I used to think that everyday, mundane tasks were holding us back from truly connecting with one another when in reality, they were some of our best opportunities for connecting with one another. We just had to shift our attitude and make the most of them.
2. Just start with ten minutes.
You don’t want to give up your TV time in the evening together? I get it. Us either. So let’s talk about how to utilize evenings (or whenever you generally have that one-on-one time on a regular basis) without compromising your ability to enjoy your shows.
Grant and I love to use those first ten minutes after the kids go down for laying together in bed. No, this does not always lead to sex, but what it DOES almost alway leads to is a sweet moment of great connection, whether that means we’re spooning or snuggling or just sharing a few thoughts that didn’t come up earlier in the day. Some of our more serious, heavy conversations tend to happen in these ten minutes, too, because it’s the first time we’re alone together in a safe space.
And then do you know what happens after those ten (or twenty, depending on the mood) minutes? We sleepily walk downstairs, plop down on the couch, and resume our evening together. And we aren’t any less connected because of it.
I think it’s tempting to believe that quality time has to use up a certain amount of time for it to count, but the truth is that ten minutes isn’t just a great place to start; it might actually be all that you need. It isn’t so much the length of time that matters; it’s what you do with it.
3. Don’t wait until the kids are gone.
Just because your kids may always be around and you’re always Mom and Dad doesn’t mean you can’t also be husband and wife. You have the ability to curate quality time with your spouse — even when your kids are around — as long as you’re willing to be creative.
For Grant and I, this means we use family time at the park to our advantage by putting both kids in the stroller and talking as though we are alone while walking around the track. When we’re at home and just want to relax together, we pull out markers and play doh and other things that, though messy, are also really good at keeping our two year old entertained. We go outside in the backyard and let the girls splash around and play in the water table while we sit back and chat. We put on Moana when we’re preparing dinner and use that time to listen to a sermon or podcast we can talk about together later.
This is what intentional quality time looks like for us these days, and what it can look like in a busy, crazy season for you, too. It’s not what you see in the movies. And it may not even be what people are telling you to do. But the people who are telling you that you HAVE to go out and do weekly date nights or that you HAVE to stop watching TV (even if you’re too tired to do much else) or that you HAVE to play board games together (which, I’m not against by any means, but I can tell you right now is NOT my cup of tea) — those people don’t know the specifics of your relationship or how you connect best. That is up to YOU to discover and why I believe it’s so crucial to approach this idea of quality time from a place of excitement and grace rather than stress and guilt.
Connecting with your spouse is something that you have the freedom to be creative with.
Instead of allowing the busyness of life to hold you back from prioritizing quality time with your spouse, I want to challenge you to use the busyness of life to propel you forward into stronger connection, deeper intimacy, and even more great memories.