It is 4:25 p.m. and the house is a mess. There are toys scattered all over the floor, cracker crumbs smashed into the rug, and whiny kids hugging my legs because they are starving. (Apparently the 25 snacks they have eaten between lunch and now hasn’t held off). The tears subside (from the kids and sometimes me), as we hear the garage door open. DADDY IS HOME! I take a deep breath in relief that I finally have someone home to help me with the chaos that is before me, and someone else to interact with other than a toddler.
As my husband walks through the door he is greeted with sweet smiles and kisses from our 3 1/2-year-old son, and our 18-month-old daughter, as our kids are so eager to finally see daddy after he has been at work all day. He greets me with a quick hello and a kiss, and I continue getting everyone’s dinner on the table, knowing that yet again, the only topic of conversation during dinner will be my husband and I trying to get our picky toddler to eat.
After dinner, we try to be intentional about having quality family time together. And during that time, my husband and I “try” to tell each other about our day, in the midst of the kids asking many questions, and needing us at their beckon call. We try to have a conversation, and we try to listen to each other, and we try to show affection with each other with a quick kiss or hug (but that always gets interrupted by our son that comes in between us and splits us up). And although my husband and I would never trade our kids and the beautiful life we have been blessed with, sometimes we just miss being “us”. Sometimes we wonder how to still be us while we are in the midst of parenting young children. And sometimes we wonder how to keep the spark alive in our marriage when we hardly get a chance to interact with each other most of the day. Over the past couple of years, my husband and I, together, have been challenged with these questions countless times, and we have become very determined to keep that spark alive and burning within our marriage. Here are some of our tips and tricks we have learned over the years:
5 ways to keep the spark alive in your marriage while parenting young children:
- Staying-in date nights. Before the kids go to bed, my husband and I discuss what we want out of “our time” after the kids go to bed. We discuss it so that way we can be on the same page once that time has come, and then we can make the most of that time. We either sit together and discuss our day, discuss a book we are both reading, enjoy our hot tub together and get some fresh air, play a game, or lay together on the couch and watch a movie; whatever it is, we are being intentional about the time that we DO get together. (I understand that husbands or wives might not always be home every night, ect. due to their jobs and other factors, but the point is that whatever time you do get together at home, MAKE THE MOST OF IT!)
- Making each other feel noticed in the midst of the chaos. While I am busy folding laundry, making meals, cleaning dishes, and wiping noses, it is nice to feel seen and noticed as “me” sometimes. Not just mom. And when my husband is cleaning gutters, mowing the grass, and being Mr. Handyman around the house, I know that he appreciates being noticed as my husband, and not just dad. So we make it a habit to compliment each other as we are passing each other in between tasks, or in between playing with the kids. We go out of our way to tell each other how proud we are of one another and how much we love each other. We are taking the time in the midst of the craziness of life and parenthood to recognize each other as the individuals that we are, and that we fell in love with. When we encourage, compliment, and make each other feel noticed, then that spark becomes brighter and stronger than ever.
- Writing each other notes. Over the past couple of years, my husband and I will leave surprise notes for each other to find. I usually leave notes in his lunchbox for work or on the coffee pot for when he goes to get his morning cup. And he usually leaves them around the house for me since I am a stay-at-home mother. Get creative and have fun with it! The idea behind it is to give your spouse a boost of encouragement throughout their day, to make them feel noticed and loved, and to put a smile on their face.
- Surprise date night out! Nothing ignites a spark between the two of you more than to have a night away, uninterrupted by your children. Hire a babysitter, ask a parent, whatever you need to do to get out of the house, do it! And let me just add: dress up for your spouse! Sometimes we get too comfortable with one another that we forget that we need to clean ourselves up a bit and get your spouse all googly-eyed for you again.
- Learning your spouses love language. My husband feels like he loves me best when he provides for me or takes care of our home. But he feels like I will receive that love and feel that love in the same way he does, (acts of service), because that’s how his tank gets filled up. However, I feel love through quality time and words of affirmation. So as you can see, we experience love in completely different ways. It will take us a lifetime to keep this in mind and to continue to love each other in each others’ love language, but I truly believe this is the most important act of love we can show each other. To put each others’ needs before or own, and to be conscious of how our spouses love tank needs to be filled, rather than how we want to receive love. (“The 5 Love Languages: The Secret to Love that Lasts”-Gary Chapman).
There have definitely been some days and seasons within our marriage where we have had a hard time being able to invest as much time, energy, and love into our marriage because of the craziness and responsibility that parenting brings, as I am sure you have experienced as well. But, when we dedicate ourselves to keeping that spark alive within our marriage, not only do we change for the better as individuals and spouses, but our children change for the better, as they feel safe and loved in a loving environment and home. Make time for your spouse, mama. Make your husband feel noticed again. Make him feel loved and cherished. It is time to carve out time for each other again and to reignite that spark. You both deserve it, and so do your children.