Romance after kids

Romance: How To Keep It Alive After Baby

Romance. It sure looks different from the day you married to the day you find yourself rocking an inconsolable babe in the middle of the night. We all know it but until you have kids it is really hard to understand how much it affects your marriage. Although children are a gift, you have to work at it to keep your marriage a priority. Dates are an obvious way to keep the romance alive, but it isn’t always possible to find or even afford a sitter. 

Here are 5 tricks my husband and I have learned along the way to help keep the romance going even when kids make it complicated.

#1 Stroller dates

When we only had one child, my husband and I would strap our son into the stroller and we would walk around IKEA talking and dreaming. It was a perfect date. Our son enjoyed the scenic people-watching and we enjoyed the time *alone*. I know a couple who would load their kids into the car, with their jammies on, and grab take out. Then, they would drive around for a few hours while their children slept and they talked. They would often go to the state border! Whatever it takes to get alone time with your spouse, right?! I have friends who do date night’s in. We’ve done this before. You can get the kids to bed and make a special evening together watching a movie or baking cookies or insert you favorite past time. Find activities that are still doable while kids are sleeping or in a stroller or in a pack ‘n play. The point is to have adult conversations, dream a little, hold hands and date!

#2 Coffee Dates

We now have three kids and limited opportunities alone. We’ve started having coffee dates in the mornings. While the kids sleep, we sit in the family room sipping our home brewed coffee and talking. It’s not very glamorous but it is nourishing our relationship. Each morning, we are bridging the gap that having lots of kids and little time creates. I want to note that rhythm was very important in making this happen as well. Until I could guarantee the baby was going to sleep through the night, getting up early for coffee was not going to help our marriage! It may not be a coffee date for you and yours but find a DAILY activity that you can look forward to that provides adult conversation without the constant interruption of little ones. 

#3 Resource free or affordable childcare programs

Couples need times when the kids have a safe place to be and you and your spouse have a place to be without them! In our area, both our church and a local non-profit offer Parent’s Night Out programs on a regular basis for a very affordable price. These are priority one in the Parker Household! We block our calendars on these dates. We know that our children will be well loved and cared for and we can have much needed time alone without breaking the bank! The kids have a wonderful time and my husband and I come back refreshed, more connected as a couple, and better parents. There is likely similar programs in your area. Sometimes, you just have to know where to look or who to ask.

#4 Schedule Time Together

I remember sitting in a MOPS meeting this past spring listening to a panel of women sharing their wisdom on how they kept their marriages alive while their children were little. The honesty and ideas that came out of that session were gold. The most priceless advice was to schedule time together both for conversation and intimacy. There will always, ALWAYS, be something or multiple little someones clamoring for your attention. You have to make the decision and steadfast commitment to date, get away without the kids, and remain intimate. It will not just happen. Put a big X on the calendar. Schedule reminders. Carve out times to make your relationship a priority. Having kids has a way of removing the spontaneity of all things romantic but please, still be romantic even if there has to be a big red circle on your calendar reminding you to be intimate with your spouse. I know there will come a time when scheduling quality time alone with your spouse won’t be so hard, but until then do what you gotta do!

#5 Ask for help

Whether this is your first baby or your fifth, you and your spouse just can’t do it alone. Family is not nearby but our church and life group have become our framily. If it had not been for the love, support, and willingness of our friends,  I have no idea how we could have cared for our children, when our second and third child was born. We all need a village. Find yours! Plug into a church. Get involved in a small group. Get to know your neighbors. If you’re near family, please invite them into your life and resource the free babysitting! Connect with people who can help you keep your marriage a priority. Swap babysitting with other couples. Watch their kids one week while you have a date, then they can watch your kids while you get a date! You need this. Your spouse needs this. Your kids need this.

Romance with kids is tough!

Jon Acuff said recently: “Toddlers are amazing, but they are also a crisis. They never stop moving, like raptors constantly testing the boundaries of their containment for weak spots. Your life is upside down when you have young kids.” Let’s own the fact that kids make our marriage relationship difficult. You can, however, find ways to stoke the romance flames between spit up, meltdowns, and night terrors. It will get better. And it’s going to take work. Keep pursuing one another. Your definition of romance may need to change for a while but your love for one another doesn’t have to.

Have kids? Here are some tips on how to stoke the romance flames between spit up and night terrors!

Your Turn! How have you kept the romance alive between raising littles and the every day demands of life? Comment below with your tips for finding time with your spouse! 

Read the introduction here: Bringing Home Baby, Again

Read last week’s post here: How to Help Your Child Adjust to Baby

Next Week! 

Having kids does a number on your social life. It brings the spontaneity and late nights to a screeching halt. And if they don’t stop, someone is paying for it in meltdowns and chaos. Join me next week as we discuss how kids change your social life!

Photo Credit: Rhonda Ramirez (header image), Captured Photography by Emily (content photo)

Not Your Typical Father’s Day Post

It’s been a bittersweet exercise to thumb through my Facebook and Instagram feed today. It’s Father’s Day; a day set aside to honor dads.

Scrolling through the posts, I see the thank you’s to amazing fathers. I witness the blessings and joy these fathers and grandfathers are to their children and grandchildren.

I also see the missing my dad posts. Some are fresh hurts, others said goodbye to their father many, many years ago yet the pain and loss are still very real.

I see another type of post. It is sandwiched between the best dad ever and the I miss my dad terribly. It is unseen because it is left un-said. Not posted. Not voiced.

There are those who have longed for years to be called daddy and have not been able to hear those glorious words spoken from the lips of their very own offspring.

There are others silently posting: I wish I had a dad worthy of this holiday. Whether living or passed on, they wish that they could with conviction say that they love their dad or miss their dad terribly. But the words fail because their dads failed.

It’s a tough spot…father’s day. Celebrating, and rightfully so, those who have fathered well. They’ve made mistakes, of course, but at the end of the day they have loved and lived well the role of father. Today is my sixth father’s day without a father. It is also my sixth opportunity to honor the father, the amazing daddy, that my husband has become!

There’s a part of me that dreads every Father’s day. Each year I grieve a loss. Like a tormented King Saul, my father struggled and fought to be a good man and although he tried, my dad sadly failed more than he triumphed at being the daddy my family needed. Most of my memories are filled with proof he failed. There are a few sweet moments I try to hold onto wishing they would wash away the painful recollections. Sometimes my intellect wins out and I can see and name the psychological demons that so tormented my dad’s mind. In rare moments of grace, I can sympathize and even applaud his fight to overcome his own abuse-filled childhood. In many ways he did overcome. But not completely. Although hurting people hurt people, that doesn’t mean that I deserved to be hurt and that is what stays with me the most.

Amidst my dad’s bi-polar tendencies, my dad lived with epilepsy. My earliest childhood memory involves a thanksgiving gone awry because my dad had a seizure just before we prayed over our meal. Throughout my childhood, seizures and black-outs were a constant and often daily occurrence. I recall one weekend while home from college sitting with my dad on the front porch. I took a chance and began pouring my heart out to my dad. I shared experiences from school, dreams I had for the future, and ideas I was chewing on. One minute he was smiling and engaged, the next his eyes had a distant look. In that moment I knew his body was present but his mind was elsewhere. The epilepsy had taken over. My shoulder’s slumped and my heart sunk. In a moment of vulnerability my words fell on the deaf ears of a man experiencing a mild seizure. As I sat there, stunned, waiting for my dad to come to, I felt God speak to my heart.  “I will never leave you nor forsake you.” My dad had left me but my Heavenly Father was right there.

A dear friend texted me today because she understands what it’s like to scan the card aisle in desperate search of a father’s day card that doesn’t cause too much pain to sign and deliver. She shared a beautiful scripture passage and left me with a great reminder. She reminded me of the amazing fathers that both our children have.

Oh the redemptive work of Jesus!

I have a choice to make. I can wallow in what I’ve lost or rejoice in what I gained on the day our first child was born. I choose to rejoice.

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Although I will likely struggle on days like today for like…always, I am thankful for the father’s love. I do not have many fond memories of my dad to look back on but I witness daily the richness and blessings of a daddy who loves his children oh so much. The Lord redeems my childhood in every hug, every smile and every word of affirmation my husband speaks over our children. It’s a beautiful thing.

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I can’t speak to your pain or joy….

But I will try anyway:

If you have a wonderful father, I rejoice with you. You are so blessed and I am very thankful you have this gift!

If your wonderful father is no longer living, may he live on in your laugh, in your smile, in your child’s determination or sense of humor.

If you have experienced the loss of a child or never had the opportunity to hear those sweet words: Happy Father’s Day from the lips of your child, may the God of all comfort give you peace.

If your relationship with your child is strained, may God restore it.

If your father is not, or was not, what you hoped he should be, may God redeem your story through the miraculous transformation of your father or through the provision of men in your life who honor you as a child worthy of love.

“See what amazing love the Father has given us! Because of it, we are called children of God. And that’s what we really are!” 1 John 3:1a

This Is Our Journey

This past Tuesday, my husband and I celebrated 8 years of marriage! I posted this picture and description to my Instagram account:

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“Joyful. Beautiful. And sometimes a glorious blur. That’s what the past 8 years have been with the love of my life!”

It has been an amazing whirlwind. We’ve had three kids and moved states and houses in those eight years. Some years we’ve celebrated with dinners out or overnight trips. Our first anniversary was celebrated amidst moving boxes. This year our family of 5 took a long overdue vacation. We decided that on our very special day we wanted to creatively walk down memory lane and take our children along.

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On our wedding day we released monarch butterflies instead of blowing bubbles or throwing birdseed, so we started with a trip to the Butterfly Palace to look at beautiful exotic butterflies.

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Then we went to Pasghetti’s, an Italian Restaurant, because we honeymooned in Rome.

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Finally we returned to our vacation rental to watch our wedding video. The kids were mesmerized. They would ask questions about who this person was or where was so n so. My eldest asked if I still had my dress and if I would wear it someday. I answered “Someday” (I need to lose a few pounds!)

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As we sat and watched this retelling of our marriage journey now 8 years in, I was struck by the story-lines I witnessed and how much life for us and others had changed! 

 

An image of me dancing with my father now gone 5 years.

A family of 4 now a family of 7.

A married couple now divorced.

Toddler cousins now teens.

A mother now a cancer survivor.

An eternal bachelor now married.

Childbirth.

Infertility and miscarriage.

Foster care and adoption.

Life and death.

Miracles.

Hope and worry.

Beauty.

 

Weddings bring many many different people together. They enter a room with company they would never know otherwise. For a brief moment, there is joy and hope and bliss;  the “in sickness and in health; for richer or poorer” parts of the wedding vows seem more a tradition of words than a covenant of actions.


But when the “you may kiss your bride” has faded and the butterflies have been released…when the wedding dress has been stored and the tuxedo rental returned…when the dj packs up his music and the pastor goes home…when the honeymoon is a distant memory…life continues. It begins really. As it does, with all it’s rough “life happens” edges, we must choose to see the beautiful in spite of the ugly. We must choose to love deeply although the shallows feel safer. We must fight for each other when we’d rather walk away or even worse ignore. We must dig deep.

Life is beautiful. It is lovely on days worth celebrating and on days we’d rather forget. Through the mundane and the breathtaking, sucking the very marrow out of every moment really is worth it.

 

My brother and his beautiful wife wrote and sang this song for our wedding.

Our journey together starts today.

I’ll take you as mine together for a lifetime.

I give you my heart.

I give you my vow.

I give you my life right here and now.

This is our journey.

 

May your journey be worth traveling and may you never ever give up.

 

Life is beautiful.