As a parent, it's not always easy to make time for yourself much less your relationship with your significant other. There's always something to be done whether it's activities, work, cleaning, helping with homework, and the daily drudgery of everyday life. But, the time we grant to ourselves is probably one of the most important things we can do to re-charge.
I was married for eight years before I had kids. My husband and I had lots of time to build our relationship. We moved around the country taking in each city, exploring, enjoying nights out, building our careers and enjoying our friendship to every last drop. We got used to being alone together, laughing, talking, and establishing a bond that I can honestly say compared to that which I share with my very closest girlfriends.
And then we had kids. No, it wasn't that our relationship fell apart—it just changed. Suddenly we weren't the center of each other's worlds. There were new stresses. There were new discussions to be had. There was someone other than ourselves that had to be considered at every step of the way. And that was okay. We loved being parents and doing all the fun things you do with kids. Our friendship was still strong but there just wasn't as much time to work on it.
We've always believed in the power of alone-together time. From a very early age, on a pretty regular basis, my kids have had babysitters so that we could go see a show, have a kid-free dinner, relax and talk without interruptions. Sometimes, my husband surprises me on a random Wednesday night with a sitter so that we can go somewhere and just sit and be like we used to be in the old days. And that has been the strength of our marriage.
As the kids have gotten older and more independent, they give us a lot more time to ourselves. We can spend hours sitting in the living room or on the patio enjoying each other's company without hearing a word from the kids. We discuss life, worries and happy things, and it's all comforting to know that I have a partner in this sometimes very crazy world. But for as much "free time" that we have, there's still something to be said about heading out the door and getting away from the house and our normal lives.
A few months ago on a Sunday afternoon, my husband and I needed to go to the home improvement store to get some things for what seems to be the never-ending project called our house. My younger son was building a new Lego set and my older one was up in his room doing whatever it is that 12-year-old boys do. We asked them if they wanted to come along. Of course, the answer was no. They were too busy. I've left the boys alone for a trip to the grocery or the drug store. But, the two of us heading out together, leaving the boys behind, rarely happened.
It was the perfect set-up. It was daytime. We were hours before any meal that needed to happen. The boys are good, responsible kids. They really didn't need us for the next couple of hours. So we left.
We spent time inspecting what seemed like every possible item at the store, picked up the things we needed, and got back into the car to head home. As we approached the house, my husband turned to me and said, "You want to stop somewhere and get a drink?" Hmmm. That sounded like a great idea. So, we called the boys to check in and headed to a little bar and grill.
For the next hour, we had a drink and an appetizer and talked about how great it was to escape on a Sunday afternoon to spend some time alone without having to have a babysitter while knowing that the boys were okay. This was what the last twelve years of parenting had gotten us to. We had raised two good kids who, for the most part, could function on their own allowing us to have our friendship time that had escaped us so often.
When we got home, we agreed that those two hours that afternoon might have been the best two hours we'd had for a long time. Yes, we'd still get sitters at night and for longer periods of time away from home, but our afternoon escapes should become a part of our normal lives. We were re-energized.
Since that afternoon, a couple of times a month on a weekend, my husband and I escape for our mini-dates. They are short but very sweet. We try to build in some errand such as going to the grocery, an estate sale, or something so we don't feel like we're just leaving. The boys benefit from our renewed energy and the sense of independence we are giving them and we benefit from having a couple hours to ourselves.
Our boys are not always going to be living under our roof. We know that. We want them to someday spread their wings and fly away. We don't want to be staring at each other the second they leave and wonder where we are and if we can live happily without the distraction of them. Our relationship is built on a friendship that should survive no matter what our circumstances. And, I believe our little dates that remind us why we're in this together will certainly help us when that day comes.