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Sunday, April 27, 2014

I'm dating my husband

My husband and I are dating. 
We've been together almost 14 years, 5 married. And yet here we have been dating again for the last two years. It's so much fun.

Life and kids and houses, bills and job demands get in the way of having fun don't they? It seems that time goes by too fast, you forget how long it's been since you last had a real conversation or full meal without interruptions with your partner. 

We get so caught up in caring for the kids that we forget that the original relationship here was that with your partner. 

Sometimes we get on autopilot. We act like the partnership can wait, it can withstand the changes, demands, frustrations, chaos and responsibilities of parenthood. We can deal with our partner later. Tomorrow. Next weekend. Right now there is laundry to fold, dishes to do, bills to pay, kids to entertain, etc. We get so caught up in doing the here and now, this instant - which typically is something kid-related because they can't wait - that we don't plan or even consider our partner or how it used to be when we were just the two of us.

If this sounds familiar, it's normal, natural, a way of life with young children. Don't beat yourself up over it.

But if this is your life, stop and think about how much better it could be, how much less stressful the chaotic parenting duties would be if you and your partner were a bit more connected, slightly happier and laughing more, really on the same page.

Your parenting roles can be better, if only you work together instead of against each other, if you appreciate the other person instead of resenting the other for not helping enough. 

I know, I've been here.

The first year having our first child, it wasn't pretty. We were not as happy as we'd always been. We were frustrated easily, snapping at each other, exhausted.  We were not on the same page. I thought dishes needed to be done nightly because it made it easier to wash the endless bottles in the small sink. My husband thought we could do dishes every other night. We just saw things differently with how to run the household. With one child, it's typically one parent doing most of the tasks, that's a natural progression. It's a feeling of unbalance.

Kids have a way of draining you. It doesn't mean you don't love them, but they can be challenging. You lose the energy and patience you once had pre-kids, when you were able to sleep through the night and go where you wanted at any time.

You can get into a rut, very easily.
It's hard to see past it in the moment when a baby is crying, someone has to rush off to work, or the house is a disaster. It's hard to plan ahead, too. You can't even think about what's for dinner, let alone cleaning the house, calling a sitter, and setting aside money to go out with your partner.

I get it. It's hard being a new parent AND a partner. 

But there is light at the end of the tunnel, I promise.
You just have to accept that your relationship doesn't deserve to be set on autopilot. It can't wait until the kids grow up for you to put some more effort into it. It is something that needs to be cared for and nurtured just like you care for and help grow your children.

I know, I know, you're tired. You don't have time. You have zero money or energy to put into your relationship. You don't want to leave the kids alone with anyone else, you want to be super mom always there with them, putting them first, not yourself or partner.

That's great... but what happens when the kids are older? What will you be left with if you act like you live with a stranger for all those years? 

After that first difficult year of parenting and growing more frustrated with each other, my husband and I started monthly date nights. At first, it was hard. It took so much energy to clean up the house, plan a night that worked for both of us and call for a sitter, get the kids ready for bed and fed before the sitter arrived, all while trying to get myself dressed without being spit up on or have pasta on my clothes. It took so much effort.

Every single time we've gone out on a date night, I've thought, "Ugh, this is not worth it! Why are we doing this? I'm so tired!" And yet within 5 minutes of leaving the house, I felt, "This is so nice. We should do this more often." 

So every month that second year of our son's life we went out. Sometimes we had no money, so we just drove around pretending we'd buy huge houses and drinking Dunkin Donuts hot chocolate. Sometimes we went to the grocery store because that was our only time to do it. Sometimes we used gift cards for dinner. Other times we had breakfast dates because it was cheaper and the only time we could find a babysitter. It didn't really matter what we did, it just mattered that we left and were hanging out together.

When we had our second baby, I vowed that we would not have another difficult year like we had when our son was born. We went out when she was a month old so we could keep up our monthly date nights. It was a short date, but still we did it!

It made such a difference that first tough year of a new baby in the house. We were a better team. We worked so much better together, just having time to communicate.

Our 5 years wedding anniversary was last week. My husband planned this elaborate night away for us. It was amazing! A white limo showed up in the driveway. He gave me flowers, tiramisu (same that we had at our wedding). We ate at a fancy restaurant and spent the night at the hotel we went to at our first wedding night. We had an amazing buffet breakfast, where we sat for more than an hour just talking. We took a walk by the water, then had couples massages! It was amazing to reconnect. We felt like we were on our honeymoon again... yet we were a half hour from home!

We were only gone 20 hours from our kids. Yet it felt like a week - in a good way. We slept in (until 7:15 a.m. - so late in our world!). We leisurely got ready for the day, ate our meals, and talked. Like complete sentences type of talking, unlike kids interrupting. It was so great.

We've never done this since we were married five years ago. We have never gone on a trip with the kids or without. We haven't taken a night away except to have our second child in the hospital. We don't do Christmas or birthday gifts with each other (last year was the first time we started doing it after never having any money the last few years with a new house and babies).

I think that's sad. Why don't we put more time and effort into our relationship, like we put so much time and energy into our babies?

We matter, too. That's what I've realized this week. It's OK to leave the kids every now and then to take care of ourselves. It makes us better parents, that I firmly believe. 

THIS is a happy, relaxed, stress-free wife / mother! 

It was so freeing being away. Not cleaning up kid messes. Not losing my patience. Not folding laundry and finding sippy cup pieces in the dishwasher so that I could get milk to my toddler STAT before she had a freak out. It was nice not tripping over toys in the morning, and waking when my body wanted to wake instead of after hearing in the monitor at my head, "I come downstairs??????"

It doesn't mean I didn't miss my babies and give them the biggest hug when we returned. It just means I adore their father so much and it was nice to spend time with him again, instead of our nightly ritual of collapsing on the couch, half-watching and half-sleeping through a Netflix show.

I encourage you to think about it. Really see if you are putting enough into your partnership or if there are even small improvements you could make. I swear to you it will make you a happier person in general, but also a better mom. 

Next blog post: Tips for HOW to date your husband without adding more stress to your busy life. 

For now, stare at this picture below of the huge amazingly yummy breakfast I ate on our date night away this week. That should entice you to get out with your partner, right?! 

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