This winter was a tough one for Will and I when it came to finding time to connect and nurture our relationship as a couple. Between juggling life with a new baby, a host of colds running rampant through the family, adjusting to a new job and long commute for Will, plus homeschooling a kindergartener and preschooler, I’m gonna say it was just about the least romantic season Will and I have experienced since having kids. We recognized this when the strain started to show itself with more arguments than are usual for us, and began to work more intentionally on getting quality time together. The payoff, of course, is incredible, because more connection between the two of us leads to our children feeling more secure, our mindsets being more aligned, our productivity and creativity at work or with homeschooling more measurable, and our life being more balanced. That’s a whole lot of good that can come from making sure we are getting some quality time together.
So if you’re a tired parent wondering how on earth you can reignite your connection with your spouse or drum up the energy for a date when you’re exhausted beyond words — literally, you have no words left to give your spouse by the end of the day, and if you do have any, they might not be worth expressing — then hopefully some of our ideas and the things we’ve been trying out can help your relationship to thrive, even in a season of stress.
This was taken while in Italy five years ago and I am now realizing it’s one of the only nice photos of the two of us since having kids…time to fix that!
Here are 7 creative ‘date’ ideas we’ve been enjoying as really, really tired parents! If you can make it through the list without falling asleep, kudos to you!
Double dates save you from having to stare awkwardly at each other across the table with nothing to talk about…sometimes all you need are two other tired parents to help reignite inspiring conversation and a sense of connection.
1) Double Dates
They save you from having to stare awkwardly at each other across the table with nothing to talk about but work and kids. Sometimes bringing along two other tired parents is all you need to reignite inspiring conversation and a feeling of connection. One night we met up with another couple and went for an evening walk, then broke out wine and dessert while on the trail. Inexpensive and fun, plus it gave us a chance to feel connected without having to figure out what to talk about!
2) The Gym
No joke. If I’m already paying for childcare, then why not use a guest pass for Will and either get a workout in together or just chill poolside. Recently we actually decided to forgo the workout as we were a bit behind schedule and just took the kids swimming. This lead to ice cream and a drive through the hills looking for wildlife while a couple of the kids slept. Unbelievably we came across a herd of 17 elk, (totally rare for our area) which gave us something exciting to see and talk about together. Even if we didn’t get much time to ourselves on that occasion, we came home feeling like we’d been on a mini adventure and were bonded by the experience.
3) ‘3000 Questions About Me’
Not so much a date, but something we can do when a date isn’t an option. I bought this book ‘3000 Questions About Me’ on a whim, thinking it might enliven our conversation. While it might sound cheesy, it’s actually been fun and thought-provoking. This book is literally just a list of 3000 questions that Will and I open up while getting ready for bed or while driving in town. Some questions are deep while others are anything but, however all have been perfect jumping-off points for further conversation. I’ve learned things about Will that I didn’t know, which is nice, because after 12 years together I feel like I’ve heard most of his stories and know all his preferences.
4) Puzzles & Audio Books
One of our best at-home date nights involved wine, popcorn, an audio-book and a puzzle featuring an illustration of New England in the fall. We listened to ‘As You Wish: Inconceivable Tales from the Making of the Princess Bride’, written and narrated by Cary Elwess (Farm Boy/Wesley/The Dread Pirate Roberts from the movie ‘The Princess Bride’). It was one of our best in-home date nights ever. I went a little overboard with the next puzzle I purchased and it was so difficult that after one night I gave up, leaving Will to tackle it on his own over the next week or so. Before you rain down judgement, let me just say that I spent hours that night attempting to piece together a cloudy sky while staring at the puzzle upside down (Will was working on the puzzle across from me but got to look at it rightside up.) My eyes were burning by the end and it was so difficult that we barely said a word to each other the entire evening. I highly recommend a puzzle that can be done in one sitting and doesn’t require so much concentration that you don’t speak for hours!
5) Day Dates
To be honest, I’m often exhausted by the time a Friday or Saturday night rolls around, and I’d much rather get my pjs on and cozy up with Netflix, chips and guac, and something fun to drink, than get all done up and go out. Those casual date nights in are great, but you know, so is talking and not staring at a screen. So over the past few years, we’ve discovered the beauty of daytime dates. Our go-to for this is a hike/walk and then brunch. Pretty perfect right? You also get your money’s worth when it comes to utilizing a babysitter because the kids aren’t in bed for half the time and the sitter can wear them out with hide and seek or random games that I just don’t have the energy for these days! The other bonus is that there’s less pressure to dress up if that’s either a) not your thing, or b) not something you have the energy for.
6) Art Exhibits…or something like them
Okay, I realize that this is not going to be everyone’s cup of tea, but you can substitute it with any other cultural or sports outing that you might not take in on a regular basis. Honestly, it’s just nice to do something that doesn’t require a lot of your own creativity but sparks conversation and is a good time. The Monet exhibit recently featured at San Francisco’s De Young museum was so incredible that I decided I needed to show it to Will. He wouldn’t necessarily call himself an art guy, but he really appreciated it and the show allowed for some discussions that didn’t involve diapers, yard work, or time-outs.
7) Evening Gardening
This is very different to me than ‘yard work’. This is done after the kids are in bed and there is a glass of something lovely in hand to sip while we water our flowers or burgeoning citrus orchard. We chat, we wander the yard dreaming out loud about what we could do in this corner or with that section. It’s a nice way to let the stresses of the day fade and allow the beauty of our little garden to envelope us. It’s romantic in its own way, and I look forward to a summer filled with many evenings like these. Evening gardening is also a way to get something done together without feeling the pressure of ‘yard work’.
I think one of the benefits to having an intense season where romance or connection with Will wasn’t as easy as it has in the past, was that I was challenged to think outside the box and find ways to connect that didn’t feel high pressure or cost a fortune. I think that a number of the ideas I stumbled upon will be things we do well into our old age. Puzzles anyone? Gardening, absolutely. Plus they’re almost free and bring a lot of pleasure without the pressure. I think we’ll gravitate to these ideas in future times of challenge or stress. One of the things that I admire most about my own parents is that even when their relationship was under duress, they still did a lot together. They still pursued hobbies and were still each other’s partners in various pursuits. They continued to connect over common interests and I believe that is one of the key components to maintaining their marriage even during the tough times. I love that example and it’s one I want to experience as well as model for my own kids.
All right, well if I wasn’t tired before, I sure am now after writing all of this. Plus it’s lunchtime and my crew has probably worn my babysitter out. She’s gonna need a nap. You might too after reading all of this. If you can, sneak one in for me okay!
Also, if you’re wondering how to handle summer boredom (for you or your kids) I’ve got a blog post with you in mind!