This November my wife and I will celebrate our 15th anniversary. I began to think through our time together, the great times, the average times, and believe it or not, the hard times. The most difficult time for me in our marriage was 6 months after we had our first child.
Having a child drastically changes the dynamics of a marriage. I soon began to realize, the undivided attention I once received from my spouse, was now divided between our child, the business that entailed, and myself. After 6 months of this change, I felt like I was at the bottom of the list. Supposedly my responsibility was to go to work, pay the bills, help out when I was home, and repeat the cycle. I began to ask myself a series of questions: Is this just how it has to be? Is this why people grow apart? Have we grown apart? Do I just need to learn to be happy doing my own thing?
After some time struggling with these questions, I can tell you the answer is ‘no.’ You can still have a great, strong marriage while raising kids. The key is, I have found, to be intentional in keeping quality time with your spouse.
How can you be intentional?
Build quality time into your daily routine. One of the greatest things we did for our family was to solidify a routine. For the most part, we wake up the same time, eat at the same times, and go to sleep at the same times every day. That routine allows us to have quality time together daily. For us it is every evening from 9-10pm after our children are in bed. For you that may be a different time, the import thing is to have it somewhere in your routine.
Keep weekly date nights with your spouse. It’s somewhat strange that our culture has a practice of ending dating after marriage. You will never know your spouse completely. Part of the excitement of marriage is in pursuing your spouse and knowing he or she on a progressively deeper level.
Remove distractions. I am guessing as you read the first two tips on being intentional, something inside of you said, “Yeah right, who has time for that?” I would have to say that most people have that reaction, but I would propose it is largely a priority problem. How can I say that? Statistics show the average person spends just over 5 hours per day watching TV. Combine that with time on the phone or tablet and you begin to see the picture of why most people are too busy. The key to quality time is to remove these distractions. Shut off the TV, put your phone and tablet away, spend some time with the one you married.
Quality time is so crucial to the health of your marriage and your family. Wherever you are at in your marriage journey--good times or hard--I would encourage you to find and incorporate more quality time together. I think you will find the time investment is well worth it.
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One of the most amazing things about parenthood, in my opinion, is watching your children develop their unique personalities. Each stage of life brings a new look into your child’s character. In a way, its like you get to meet them again, and again. When they are born, you are introduced to this tiny person. But that tiny person is going to grow, and as they grow they are going to discover, and have adventures, and begin to show you what they love. And if you have more than one kid, you quickly see how different your children can be from one another.
Any relationship has its beautiful and difficult moments. Parenting is no different. Getting to know someone means you learn what makes them tick, what inspires them, and what totally absolutely drives them crazy. Learning these things helps you relate to them in a better way, thus minimizing conflict and encouraging joy.
My kids are absolutely different people. One is a bee, the other a butterfly.
My son is my busy bee. He’s focused. He’s practical. He’s direct. But he’s also creative, and kind, protective, and productive. He likes to be with people, but he needs his alone time to recharge. He also struggles with anxiety when things are out of order or if someone breaks the rules.
My daughter is my little butterfly. She floats from one thing to another without much care. If her room is messy, she doesn’t mind, she’s too busy thinking about flowers. She loves to create, and sing, and dance, and play in the mud, too. She loves to be with people, always, every second. She is also very competitive, and has a temper that rivals the Hulk’s.
So, quite naturally, I have to parent my kids differently in some ways if I want to keep some peace in my household.
Here’s an everyday example.
After my kids get home from school, my daughter could easily be with people for several more hours. My son, however, needs time to recharge by himself. So when they get home, rather than making them do the same thing, I send her outside to play with friends or with her dogs, and I send him to have alone time. I don’t have her bring friends over during this time because he needs to unwind after being with people all day long. And I don’t make her go isolate, because it would only make her tired. She’d fall asleep, and then as parents surely know, bedtime would be a nightmare. Sometimes this varies, of course, but that seems to be the usual routine. No matter what, I make sure that my son gets his quiet time and my daughter stays active. Figuring this out about my kids has made their lives, and mine, much, much easier. Just half an hour of “me” time designed for each of them means two kids who are much happier and therefore more ready to cheerfully comply with their to-do lists.
As they get older, this could completely change, or stay the same. I have no idea how different stages of development will change how I interact with them. I have no idea if a bully at school will steal a little bit of my daughter's confidence, and I'll have to approach her more carefully than I'm used to in order to restore it. I won't know if my son's first day of middle school will leave him full of anxiety or excitment until it happens, and until I ask him. I'll have to meet him again. This cycle continues, but that's not a bad thing. It's exciting. I get to walk with them, and learn more about them.
In order to relate well to our children, we must get to know them individually. We must communicate with them, have positive conflict resolution, and clear expectations. Take time to get to know your kids again and again. If we take time to do this, parenthood might just be a little less difficult and a lot more enjoyable.
Our parenting workshops can help you pinpoint areas in your relationship with each of your children that you can improve. Parenting happens on an individual basis. So understanding your children on individual levels is very important. We can help with that in a very practical way! To join us for a free workshop, click here and find out what classes are available for you!