Earlier this month, my friend Brooke wrote this great post with ways to bond with your toddler in five minutes or less. Since then, Bensen and I have taken quite a few walks to the mailbox together. Our mailbox is three houses away so it's a fun little adventure and he runs to the front door excitedly every time I ask if he wants to go check the mail. A few days after reading Brooke's post, I had an idea and asked her if she would mind if I used her post as inspiration for a similar post about marriage.
Life with two little ones has been a crazy, chaotic adventure and one that hasn't left as much time for Joe and I to spend working on our relationship with each other as we're used to. As with every other stage in our lives, we've made adjustments and are making room in our schedules for our marriage. Not only is it different having two kids who are different ages and have slightly different schedules and routines, but it is also different having a preemie who we can't take out in public with us. We're no longer working to balance our time between home and the hospital, but some days it feels like our family is still divided when half of us are able to go to an event and the other half stays home.
I know that our time together will shift as our babies get older, but I also know that time will never slow down and life will always be busy. Finding ways to build my relationship with my husband and my kids every day, no matter what my schedule looks like, is important to me. So I sat down the other day and wrote down a list of ways that I can connect with Joe on the days when we're only able to spend a few minutes together between sleep, work, feedings and our other responsibilities. Because I know there are other couples in similar situations that leave them with only a little bit of time together each day, I thought I'd share that list with all of you.
Share a drink
Drinking is something that seems to be a social activity. I don't drink alcoholic beverages or coffee, but going out for a drink together seems to be a popular date night activity. Enjoy your drink of choice together, whether it is alcoholic, an ice cold soda or something warm like tea, cider or hot chocolate. Meet somewhere after work, go on a Saturday or send one spouse out to get drinks while the other gets the kiddos to bed, then enjoy your drinks on the porch or somewhere cozy in your home.
Play with your kids together
It's not quality alone time, but I promise by the end you will feel more connected as a couple. A couple of Sundays ago, I left the dinner mess for a couple of hours while Joe and I spent some time playing with Bensen. It was a lot of fun and we made a lot of fun memories, plus I know that Bensen really appreciated the time that we spent with him.
Read a chapter from a book
Every night before bed we sit down and watch a episode of our current Netflix favorite while I feed Emmy. A few nights a week, I would like to start reading and discussing a chapter or two from one of the books that we've been meaning to read together. Our little stack of "to read"s currently includes this book and this book. I am also always a fan of couples reading this book together. And for a little fiction fun, we've been meaning to listen to these books on tape because Joe hasn't read them all yet.
Wash the dishes
I'll be honest, this is something that you'll never see Joe and I doing. Dishes are at the top of both of our "least favorite chore" lists. This is something that I've seen my parents do. Take something that needs to be done and turn it into an opportunity to connect. One of you can wash and rinse the dishes and the other can dry and put the dishes away. It's a task that doesn't take a lot of thinking so you can spend the time talking and enjoying each other's company
Everyone has to eat and in order to eat, you have to make food. Dinner time is about when Bensen starts to want a lot more of my attention, even if we've just been playing together, so I usually rely on Joe to keep him occupied while I cook. If I'm home by myself, I'll get the coloring book and crayons and put Bensen in his chair at the table and he's content to color while I cook. If I do that on a night when Joe is home, he can talk to me while I make dinner or we can strengthen our teamwork skills and prepare the meal together.
Dance to your song
After the kids are in bed and the dishes are done, pull up your wedding song, or any love song that fits your relationship, and dance together. I always picture dimmed kitchen lights and a couple dancing around the island and the kitchen table. We also have nice sized open space in our front room that is perfect for dancing, both with my husband and with my kids.
Sit and cuddle
Don't do anything but cuddle, hold hands and talk. Don't look at your phones, don't watch TV, just enjoy being together. You could purchase a big fluffy blanket like this one and dub it the "cuddle blanket", reserved for those moments when you want to connect and hang out. If you have a fire to sit in front of while you cuddle, that's even better.
Watch YouTube videos
This may be similar to watching Netflix together, but it's still fun. It can be a great way to wind down at the end of the night and take anywhere from 30 seconds to 10 minutes depending on the length of the video(s) you watch. We look forward to getting e-mails from The Piano Guys saying that they've released a new video and we always wait to watch them together. We also like most videos on this YouTube channel.
Look at wedding pictures
After we got married, I printed all of our engagement, bridal and wedding pictures and put them in an album. Bensen constantly asks to look at it and he'll flip through every single page and look at each picture, Whether you have all of your pictures printed out or if they're in an album on the computer, sit down together to talk about and remember the moments behind the images. I've also put together a book for each year of our marriage filled with pictures and stories of memories that we made. We love to look through those together every once and a while.
Enjoy a treat together
Whip something up for the two of you to eat. Share a milkshake, make these skillet cookies, run to the store and grab each of your favorite candy bars. I've even seen desserts for two at the store both in the bakery and by the frozen foods. Set aside any distractions and enjoy the time that you have to spend with each other while you satisfy your sweet tooth. If you're not a big fan of sugar, you could make some nachos or seven layer dip, or grab any savory snack that you both love.
In an ideal world, we'd have plenty of uninterrupted time to spend together. Maybe one day when we the kids are grown and we are retired, we will have that kind of life. But for now, we're going to make the most of every moment that we do have to spend together, whether it's only ten minutes at the end of the day or an entire evening away from the kids.
What do you do to connect with your spouse each day?