Finding ways to improve connection with our family is a topic that I am passionate about. This includes the recognition of the juggling act we as parents take on between being a partner and a parent and how we make time for each other.
As a marriage and family counselor I see many couples who still love each other but describe a loss of connection. Couples often describe busy schedules that include work, friends, chores, school, etc. What’s usually missing? Quality time with each other.
As Parents, Time With Our Spouses is The First to Go
Unfortunately, when we’re stressed and stretched thin, the individuals and relationships we care about the most are the first to suffer. For example, sometimes date night can be so far down the “to do” list that it never happens. However, as a parent, it is more important than ever to connect with your partner – admittedly easier said than done. Here are 2 big ideas about time that I like to keep in mind when talking about the juggling act:
1) Be Intentional with Your Time. It is easy to look at your life as a parent and see a never ending cycle of cooking, cleaning, sports, school, and playgroups. It seems like you never get a break. Nap times and bed times can sometimes be a source of new found time. Even though you don’t have as much time together as, say, a date night, it is possible to use this time to connect with each other. Leave the dishes and other household chores that can wait for another time and spend some time talking with each other about your days. An at home date time can still be quality time! This can be a great time to pull out a game, read a book together, or start a new hobby together. Whatever you choose to do, the purpose is to connect with each other.
However, nap and bed time schedules don’t always allow this alone time to happen. The point here is to be intentional with your time, carving out a time in the week to spend alone with your partner. Some couples I’ve worked with have been able to find other “lost” time in the day to sit down with their partner and talk.
2) Place Boundaries on Your Time with Your Children. Some parents I see spend most of their energy
on their children and taking any of that time and energy away can create feelings of guilt. But sometimes, it can be healthy and beneficial to place boundaries on the time with your children. Asking your children to wait while you have an adult conversation is ok! This models for them how to appropriately ask for attention, teaches patience, and reinforces the importance of your relationship with your partner. Children will also benefit by learning to wait and play independently (or with each other).
Taking time to spend exclusively together is important too. If you have family or friends in the area ask for help with watching your little ones! It can be tough to hire a babysitter that you do not know well, ask friends with children for referrals and have them over while you’re home until you’re feeling more comfortable. By going out on date night you’re modeling for your children the importance of your relationship with your partner. Your child also benefits as he learns to interact with and trust other caregivers.
There’s no denying that juggling being a good partner and a good parent is tough and takes some intentional work and planning. When parents are able to re-connect, the entire family benefits!
Amanda Regalia, M.A. is a marriage and family counselor and clinician for The Marriage and Family Clinic in Denver, CO. Amanda specializes in working with families and children ages 5 and up. She is passionate about helping people to create practical solutions that support them in achieving their goals and improving their relationships and life.