November 12th, 2007

Your Turn: Couple Time

A Reader Writes:
I’m writing because I wonder how I can get some alone time with my husband. We have 5 children ages 8,6,4,2, and 11 months. My husband basically starts working (from the home) at 6:00 then leaves for work away from the house at 7:30. He gets home in time for supper at 6:00, and by 9:00 he is pretty much ready for bed. He is a great husband and father. I guess part of the issue is that I hate to put the kids to bed too early, because then they don’t get any time with their dad. Am I making a mistake in doing this?

It’s not a mistake to make sure your kids spend regular time with their dad, but it is a mistake to neglect your marriage in the name of doing so. Time spent alone together is essential to a healthy marriage. You don’t have to sacrifice your kids to do it, but making couple time a priority (especially while your kids are so small) will require some effort on your part.

Here are my rules for couple time:

1. Make it regular. Once a week is a good start. Schedule it ahead of time and make sure the whole family knows what is going on. I think planning at least 2 hours together each week is a good idea. It’s a bit tricky to do with a house full of little ones and a husband who needs to be in bed by 9 pm, but you can do this. Maybe he can stay up later on a weekend night or you could schedule your time together on Saturdays during the daytime?

2. Make it simple. Most young couples with growing families need to be careful with their money. If you can afford a babysitter and dinner out, go for it! If you can’t, you’ll need to be a bit creative. Use bedtimes, naptimes, or movies with popcorn to keep the kids occupied. Depending upon the time of day you choose and your personal preferences, you and your husband can share a meal, have coffee, or play a game. Do the kinds of things you used to enjoy when you were dating. Did you read poetry together? Did you discuss politics? Did you watch sports or movies? It doesn’t need to be fancy or wildly romantic. Dan and I sometimes like to get takeout and watch a movie together after the kids are in bed. Some of our most memorable “dates” have been as easy as opening a bottle of wine and playing a game of Scrabble. The point is to connect through shared activity and time spent together.

3. Make it mandatory. There simply is no getting out of couple time. No excuse is acceptable. You do have 2 hours a week to give to your marriage. Period. I don’t want to hear any complaints. Your family life might be busy, but it’s also too important to neglect its foundation — which is your marriage.

I would love to hear how others manage couple time in their marriages.

52 comments to Your Turn: Couple Time

  • My husband & I recreate the "coffee house" dates of our courtship on Saturday afternoons. The kids get to watch movies in the living room during their regular nap time. I use the good Starbuck beans to make a big pot of coffee. Then I set up a big tray with all the trimmings, cream, sugar, and treats, to bring into our bedroom. (I also bring in the baby (five months) to nurse & nap in her Dad’s arms.) We can usually get at least 1 1/2 hours of uninterrupted time to talk about religion, philosophy, good books we’ve read, all the stuff which requires more thought than can usually be shared at a dinner table filled with little ones.

  • I think you’ve covered all of the bases! You’ve given me some good ideas here. I like the idea of playing games again (we used to play cribbage all the time when we were dating) and the "no excuses" part. It helps that daddy says to the kids (when we need time alone together), "You guys have mom ALL week long, I want ONE NIGHT with her! Stay downstairs and watch the movie or hang out in your rooms (this is on the weekends when it would normally be bedtime so they are more than happy to stay up past their bedtime and leave us alone!) and if you bother us while we’re watching OUR MOVIE, then it’s time for bed!". They listen to him so well that it usually works.

  • We do have early bedtimes at our home so my husband and I get time together in the evening. My husband spends time with the kids in the morning before he goes to work. Both he and the kids are fresher and have more fun together in the morning than the evening.

  • Katie

    We rent TV shows on DVD through Netflix (currently, "Star Trek: Enterprise" and "The Office") and we watch an episode together almost every night after the kids go to bed. We cuddle on the couch, drink some tea, and enjoy the time to just relax together! Neither of us feels the day was complete unless we’ve had that time together!!

  • Maureen

    The key word and action is "making" the time. Marriage is worth it even if it means staying up an extra half hour or so. We tried that and my dh would fall asleep on me. LOL We tried 15 minutes on the couch each evening after shooing kids up to their rooms until we came up to put them to bed. Pesky 2yr olds don’t like that much. We moved on to "date" nights on the weekends which so far is okie dokie. Being open to change your time together is important too as the kids grow. BUT don’t give up, just change it up! I second Danielle’s no complaints statement.

  • We have date nights at home every so often. It *is* tricky to make time…my husband is a nurse and works long, weird shifts…but we make it happen as often as we can. We bought a tiny tv with a dvd player and a folding card table just for this reason, to put upstairs for date nights, and we will get take out or maybe just a special dessert and watch a movie or play cards or something similar. The tv takes up little space and the card table folds up and stashes in the closet when not in use. Because of the way our living room is situated, we have no privacy there, plus an older child that stays up until 9pm, so that’s why we started having date night upstairs. We can put the littles to bed and have a couple of hours (we both go to bed pretty early for grown ups). When we have a little one co-sleeping, the tv moves easily downstairs into the school/play room, which also has a futon, and that becomes the date night room. 🙂 Be creative!

  • Love this topic and have been thinking on it lately. We have not had an actual date since…well, I don’t think we ever really dated much since we met online and lived in different states until we got married. And since kids came before the first anniversary and money has been tight, we haven’t done any date nights out in about 5 years. That being said, we get the kids to bed by 7:30 each night and we sit and watch a show (usually a one hour show rented or saved on the DVR for just such a purpose…I highly recommend using a DVR or rental program like Netflix since it gives such flexibility as to when you watch and how much you watch). Then we are in bed by 9:30 and my husband leaves for work before we are up in the morning. I have been thinking lately that he needs more free time with the kids when he gets home (he does so much to help after dinner that he doesn’t sit until it is just about bedtime for them), which means I have to be on the ball and get lots of stuff done before he even gets home. I am also trying to plan meals in such a way as to get most of the dishes done before we eat, if at all possible. Just to cut back on after dinner chores.
    And I think it is time for us to use the babysitter, even if it is for lunch, or even breakfast out! I guess it is my job to insist on this. I remember hearing once that during courtship it is primarily the man’s job to come up with the "date" and after marriage it is primarily the wife’s job (not to say that he shouldn’t also come up with dates and continue to court, just that wives should be more proactive about it than we may have been during courtship).

    Wow…am I rambling or what!! Too much coffee this morning!

  • Kathie

    When our 5 children were small, Saturday was date night. The kids had pancakes for supper, a treat for them, then went to their rooms for a "slumber party", ready for bed at 7. My husband and I would enjoy a quiet supper, usually at home, always on the good china with the good crystal…even if it was pizza! During the summer we hired a sitter every Friday and went out, usually to the free adult evenings at the neighborhood pool. They were special times!

  • anon

    Hmmm… THANK YOU, Danielle for this post!

    Everything you say is what I’ve been trying to tell dh!!!

  • Anonymous

    It is great the the writers husband is home by 6:00 for dinner. Count your blessings that you are able to have dinner as a family every night. If you did bedtime by 8:00 each night, that would give you an hour alone each night – it is all in how you use that time. Dishes can wait! The children are able to get quality time with their dad during dinner and bedtime. My husband doesn’t get home until between 7:30-8:00 once dinner is done, so our 5 kids are in bed waiting patiently for a story, prayers and daddy time. During that time, I’m getting dinner prepared for our dinner together. It is hard not having dinner as a "family", however weekends are a different story when it is all about the family. Good luck!

  • Dani

    My dh and I make an effort to do a date night once a week, though that does not always work. We feed and put the kids to bed early (they are too young to tell time yet), then throw a couple of steaks on the grill or something else that’s quick and too dear for the whole family to enjoy. Then we pop open a bottle of wine and have a nice evening together, though usually interrupted once or twice by the baby waking up and needing a little soothing back to sleep.
    When I was young, I remember my mom hiring an older child from the neighborhood who was a couple of years older than we were but not old enough to babysit us alone. She would come over to play with us and keep us occupied for a couple of hours on a saturday afternoon while my parents had "mom and dad time." It was cheaper than going out or hiring an older babysitter, and we always looked forward to this "playtime" with an older friend.

  • We had a 8pm bedtime rule for little kids. Big kids get Dad alone after that. Friday night used to be our date night but its been hard lately.
    My husband is also ready for sleep by 9 but most nights he at least sits to watch tv with us. Snuggles someone in his easy chair or me on the couch.
    Were due though!

  • Carolyn A

    Hmm. . . I think we went out alone together one evening in October 2006. That said, we do spend a few evenings a week watching a few programs we like together or a movie after our son is in bed. Sitters are so hard to come by, and we could really use the money in other places, so we have to settle for what we can get. It’s also hard to keep that evening time strictly recreational. There are usually 5 things I need to talk to my husband about in the evening – whether it’s about insurance, financial stuff, the daily mail, etc., etc. Blocking the time off completely would probably be a good idea. We want to learn to play cards and chess together but have yet to make time to just do it.

  • Simply

    Nicely said.
    My hubby and I get out about once or once every other week. No matter how tired we are or stressed or even mad at each other…we know we NEED TO DO THIS!! for our marriage and Yes, all other things can and do wait.
    We get coffees about 2 hours before we go out…so that way we can make the most of the time out.
    that has helped tremendously.
    Another thing is i pick what we do one week and he picks the next week. We have 2 very different enjoyments so this helps not one person to get uptight always doing something they would rather not do.
    THis takes time to prepare and gives us somthing to work for and look forward to.
    babysitting is a true blessing but it did not come till 5 children later and 8 years married- a FREE babysitter- old lady at Mass we met. awesome and amazing!

    THis is a HOT topic but it really is life or death of your marriage…you HAVE to do it!
    No matter how much money you spend- does not matter. we have learned that spendning a lot of money on a night out to dinner or movies or something fun but costs a lot is SO worth it b/c it is our marriage that keeps our family stable. This is so important. I second what others say about even staying home and doing the "in house date". wow, good thoughts.
    My husband loves it when I put a lot of thought into those nights so that they are not just Pj’s and couch potato times (which we do too) but when i surprise him and go all out. I would dress up and put on pantyhose and dress shoes and real pretty dress…
    do a candle light thing….you get the drift.
    He knows I am way tired and still do that kind of thing. That impresses him and he works harder as a husband. Not that that is my goal of those nights.
    Well said Danielle….I agree 100%
    May God bless our marriages and help us to make them the best that GOd created them to be!!!!

  • Evelyn

    After having children and 15 years of marriage, and my
    hard working husband working long hours we decided,
    we would start"dating" again. At least once a month, we’d have a babysitter and go out to dinner and a movie. We kept it simple, sometimes we’d just go out for a pizza after the show. And we both looked forward to our "date" each month. Eventually our kids grew and were out on their
    own. Our dating continued, but now we went out to dinner
    once a week! We both looked forward to our "Friday nite
    dates."

  • Catherine

    We have two girls, 4 and 1. We work opposite shifts, so this is really hard for us. Thankfully, I only work part time on the weekends, so we can usually get some time every day. We get the two hours usually, just in small increments every day, which I find to be better for my sanity anyway.

    How? We cook together whenever possible, we do the dishes together after the kids go to bed, we sit and talk on the couch, and play a game of cribbage if we don’t have to be up early the next day (the last one is extremely rare). We used to cook together all the time before marriage and before kids. We really enjoy it and work together well in the kitchen. Before kids, I used to work at the same business he did, so I really enjoy hearing about his work, as it brings back memories (and often reminds me of why I stay home now :)).

    You do have to be forceful about this sometimes. Our kids have a strict 8:00 bedtime so that we have some time together each day. We also avoid playing music (except classical) or talk radio in the car so that we can talk then. And we talk all the way through any job we are doing, be it dishes or cleaning out the garage. We spent three hours getting our garage ready for winter on Saturday, and talking through everything helped us to plan out our winter! We’re probably a little weird, but it works for us.

    We have one big motivator though. My husband is reserve military, and he was deployed for 16 months. When he returned home almost three years ago, I started getting this time in every day. Every time I think we can "let it go" I remind myself that he will be deployed again, and we won’t have these chances. He’s leaving again in March, and I know that we’ll remember to take advantage of every opportunity between now and then. There is truly no time like the present.

  • I agree with those suggesting the kids go to bed by 8 pm. We do our family prayers at 8 pm. My older boys can read in their room, but they get scolded if they get too loud. Even with occasional interruptions, most everyone is quiet by 830 pm. The time from 8 until 9 is our time. We usually spend it talking, but sometimes we watch TV. We try to watch a movie one night a week, but that keeps us up past 10 pm.

    If I did not have this time to talk about my day, his day, our lives, our future, our kids, our short term and long terms plans and goals, recent news, politics, etc, I would probably lose my mind.

    Husband and wife time is vital to a strong marriage. Two hours of family time (dad and kids) is plenty for week days with more time on days off of work. Dad time can and should include dinner (with mom and dad at least attempting adult conversation as well), bath and PJ time, bedtime stories and prayers.

  • Sarah L.

    We do the "date at home" most Saturday nights. I feed the kids at the usual time, and also try to prep something for my husband and I to eat later. Once the kids are in bed I finish our meal prep (a lot of times it’s homemade pizza) and we eat at the coffee table in the family room so we can talk and maybe watch TV or a movie. When I am pregnant and getting heartburn we usually eat with the kids and then just have dessert for our date!

    Also, this isn’t a date, but we have made it a priority to spend time together each night just talking, reflecting and praying. At 9:15 the TV and computer are off and we sit together to talk (and sometimes eating ice cream:). We have been using Dr. Dobson’s "Night Lights for Couples" book to jump-start our conversations. Dobson isn’t Catholic, so the book doesn’t always reflect a Catholic understanding of marriage and family, but it nonetheless has given us some good topics which lead us into prayer. You’d be amazed at how important this daily time has become- to my husband! He loves it (and so do I).

  • Pat

    My dh and I just past our 25th wedding anniversary. We are both in our late 40s and have three teenagers. But I remember how hard it was to plan dates when our children were younger. In our early years together, as others suggested, we had many "at home" dates– that included picnics in our backyard–where the kids had their dinner on the picnic table, and we set a romantic candle-lit table on the porch (even if dinner waited til they were in bed)! However, as the years went on, we sacrificed some of our income for our own re-creation… buying one short subscription series (3-4 shows) each year to either a local community theatre or local concert series. We groaned to pay the bill upfrount, but once those tickets were in hand, we had "dates" on the calendar. The trick was finding the sitter, but knowing the dates in advance, I had plenty of time to plan. It was worth every penny: to anticipate the night, to dress for each other, and enjoy some coffee after the show. Being a stay-at-home mother, I needed to get out once in a while… our little extravangances now and then reminded us how special we were to one another. In some lean years, we skipped birthday gifts or anniversary gifts for each other and just bought those tickets. And when asked by caring relatives what gift they could give to our children… we often told them– a date night for their parents! Many graciously complied!

    We were also friends with a wonderful Catholic couple who had a few children of their own. We had a pact to sit for each other–taking turns one Friday a month. And we were accountable to one another: it had to be a ‘date’… not a shopping trip or an errand to run! After our spouses got home at night, one mom would go to the other’s home and stay with the kids while the dads took care of their own. Having a ‘veteran mom’ in the house always gave me peace of mind. When she was there, I never worried or called home to check!

    As each teen got older, we started them "sitting" on Saturday morning, so mom and dad could go out to breakfast together. It was a low cost morning "off" and the young teen got sitter "practice".

  • Our couple time can get expensive. We have four kids (6, 5, 4, and 2 with #5 due in February), but we still go out. Our absolutely non-negotiable time is tailgating for UNT football. We are alumni of the university and live in town, so it is easy to do. We do have to pay a sitter, which is expensive, but we plan for that ahead of time. We also watch Lord of the Rings about 4-6 times a year, a little bit at a time. After the kids are in bed we put the movie in and watch until we are ready for bed, usually just an hour or so at a time. Since we have seen the movies we don’t feel like we have to watch it all at one one time. This is a way for us to reconnect without talking, or even thinking very much.
    Some friends of mine started a date night co-op, where they took turns watching kids on a weeknight so each couple could go out for dinner or run errands or whatever. It was just a couple of hours and usually the kids were watched in their own home so they could go to bed on time and stuff. I couldn’t participate due to work, but those couples really enjoyed it.
    Like Danielle said–it does not have to be fancy, expensive or even out of the house. You just have to both agree that it is important and find ways to make it work. I always tell people that we were married before we were parents, and nurturing the marriage is as important as nurturing the children.

  • Sr. C

    The "Wilsons" lived across the street from the church and school – and I was the teacher of a few of the younger of their eleven children. These Catholic parents were exemplary models of Jesus to their children and fellow parishoners. When asked how they managed to cope with eleven children, be quite active in the church, and still remain sane and hold their marriage together with ease, they said, "Once a month we leave the children with Grandma and Grandpa, and we go to a motel for the weekend where we spend quality time with each other." PRAISE GOD!

  • Ronda

    We don’t have a set "date", but we often take time to talk and "catch up" while we watch TV or a movie after the kids are in bed. We usually end up going to be late anyway, and it’s a good way to get time together. Sometimes we’ll plan to eat a late dinner with a movie once the kids are in bed, and this is nice too since you don’t have to tell a single small person to mind their manners!

    Just last night we talked about some things we want to do (join the church choir, etc.) but decided we’ll wait until it’s "our time" once again. Life is very full & busy now with all the kids’ activities, and we are active as leaders in their scout groups. This busy time will be over before we know it (our oldest is already 13!). And when the kids are busy fledging on their own, it will be time for us to turn our time to our own hobbies. That’s not to say we’re completely devoted to our kids right now to the exclusion of the things we like to do! We just can’t add any more to the mix, and now we have some ideas of what to do with ourselves once we have an empty nest.

  • ana

    wow, it seems so many couples spend their time "their time" watching movies or TV.

    Any other ideas?

    It would be great if we can all pool in together and make a list of things to do with our spouses- to fit all temperments…
    any ideas????
    Danielle????

  • Anne Marie

    What I would highly recommend is a Marriage Encounter Weekend. It is a very private time for a couple amid a group of like-minded couples. It is meant for a "good marriage to make it even better". It is worth the effort and arrangements it takes to have a family member or friend take over your family from Friday evening until Sunday afternoon. It will also benefit your family besides being wonderful for yourselves as a couple.

  • Jennifer

    We had more time alone when the kids were younger and went to bed earlier. How I long for those days! Now with a 12 and 10 yr old who stay up later, it gets a little tricky. We do try to go out to dinner or the movies at least once a month, as our schedules permit.

  • lindsay

    Absolutely. There are no excuses.

    My husband is a freelance photographer with a wacky schedule—flying here this weekend, driving there the next. Each week, we pick a night, Date Night. I would say every 2-3 months we actually go somewhere else. Usually, we get take-out and he has some wine or a Margarita (nursing me will have to wait on that this year:))
    We do Blockbuster Online, which I can’t brag about enough. (It’s so much better than the "other" company. You get all the benefits of online (more obscure, high quality films) and you get to exchange them in the store for free. They mail your next films instantly.) Anyway, we usually watch a movie or get a TV episode off ITunes—the rule is it has to be something that you can’t do with the kids. A foreign film or suspense thriller. We also play Scrabble or Chess or Trivial Pursuit.

    Anyway, it saves us! I feel like I can be the gal he dated and it’s the same for me—no talking about anything mundane…All the big dreamy talk you fell in love with.

    Honestly, the romance in your marriage will not survive without the necessary care. You would not drive your car without the necessary oil changes and tune-ups…Why would you consider living out your marriage without the same courtesy?

  • Nikki

    Great topic, as usual! We are very fortunate to have close friends with a similar number of children to ours and we exchange babysitting on date nights. Every other week, we watch their brood and every other week, they watch ours. My husband and I sometimes go out to dinner, get a pricey cup of coffee at the local coffee emporium, or just drive up the hill in our town to "park" and view the city lights. The one thing we never allow ourselves to do on our date night is go to the movies or spend the time with other couples. We strive to spend this time alone together, and engaged in conversation we don’t often get a chance to have with all the kids around. Granted we only get this every two weeks, but we look forward to it the entire time, which makes it even more special.

  • As a couple with primary infertility, we have discerned that we are called to give of ourselves generously to our parish and the young adult ministry. That leaves little free time during the week for just us. We decided that Wednesday nights are our "date nights." We decline any ministry invitations or any other event that would conflict with those nights. Now everybody knows about our Wed. nights, so they don’t even ask:) Some weeks, it’s the only quality time we will have. We rotate whether we do inexpensive dates at home–making a nice meal together and using the fancy china, taking the time to sit together and talk about whatever, etc. Every once in awhile, we splurge and have a fancy date night, with dinner out, an activity, a motorcycle ride in the country, etc.

    It’s crucial,as was said before, to take the time to and really plug into your marriage, to oil the hinges, change the brake pads, see where the other is at, talk, listen and just love.

  • My husband is the opposite of the one who needs to go to bed by 9! He’s a total night owl, and regularly stays up past midnight. These days the reason is mostly work (yes, even after a long [9:00-6:30] day at the office), but even on nights when he doesn’t have to work, he stays up to watch a movie or whatever game is on or sports center.

    He doesn’t usually get home til between 7 and 7:30 (he has a 45-minute commute), and he plays with the boys (ages 3 and 1) while I finish up getting dinner ready. We all eat dinner at 7:30-ish. After dinner, the kids go to bed (by 8:30), so the time he spends with them during the week is short, but like you I feel it’s so necessary, which is why we have later dinners and bedtimes.

    I have always loved going to bed early, but unless I’m abnormally tired, I usually stay up til at least 11:30 or so … that way my husband and I regularly have two to three hours together every night. Even when he has work to do, he’ll often wait til I go to bed at 11:30 to do it. Sometimes we’ll eat dinner together after the kids are in bed, sometimes we’ll watch a movie. Even just lounging on the couch together watching TV is fun.

    So maybe you could suggest to your husband that he try to extend his bedtime til even 10:00 some nights? Then you’d have an hour more together … often when I feel like I’m too tired to stay up, but I really want to, I’ll have a half cup of coffee with dinner, so maybe that could work too?

  • Melia Love

    My grandparents used to have drinks and appetizers alone together when my grandfather would come home. My mother and her siblings would know that they were to go into their rooms and do homework or read for an hour until suppertime. I always thought that was such a great idea, even an hour makes such a difference. I’m also the mother of 5 (14,9,7,2 and 8 months)and know how hard it is to get time alone especially with babies but maybe the older children could play somewhere with the babies? I know our babies love it when they get to be "one of the guys"
    Good luck to you!
    Melia Love

  • Teresa G

    I would suggest to the writer that on 4 weeknights, she does as she is doing already, except maybe putting the kids to bed by 8 pm, and spending a half hour or hour with her husband. On the other weeknight, I’d scrape the bottom of the budget and get a babysitter each week and go out from 6-9 pm for dinner and conversation (and/or movie and an errand).

    When our kids were all young like the writer’s (and somewhere around the 4th or 5th baby), we realized we needed one night out a week. That was (and still is) the only real way we could have uninterrupted time. We have the luxury now of having our own teenagers who can babysit for the little ones, but it was worth every cent when we did have to pay one.

    And I am not such a stickler as some who mentioned that they don’t talk about the kids, or home business, or run errands on a date night. We seem to always need to stop at at least Wal-Mart for something on our date (with nine kids and home schooling it’s hard for me to get out on other days!). But we also make sure we have dinner out, and do something enjoyable…..usually a movie this time of year, but in the nicer months we may go for a walk in a park, put our bikes in the truck and go to a Metro Park for a bike ride, or some other outdoor adventure. The main thing I need is time alone with my husband, and to do something relaxing. We go out on a weeknight to avoid crowds at restaurants, and because our kids usually have things going on on the weekends.

    Oh, and January-May, we have a standing Monday night date at 9pm to watch "24", our only TV show!

  • Maureen

    Ana there are so many things as a couple. I would suggest starting with what you like to do. Maybe play a board game, cards or sit down and relax with conversation about anything. You can have a picnic in the livingroom, tell jokes, pray, and recall the days you spent together when you first met. Maybe work on a project if you like woodworking or take on a project together with something, anything. Write each other a love letter, or go for a walk or just sit outside and look at the sky and each other. My dh and I sometimes on cold and warm nights would swing on the swingset while the kids were sleeping. Oftentimes the neighbors joined us. If you have a basketball hoop shoot some hoops. We have had many fun laughs with that one! Anyway, the possibilities are endless….spontanious ideas are great too. Anyone else have ideas to share?

  • We have a smaller family and our three girls are close in age. Couples time was much harder when they were really little than it is now, but to be honest it helps tremendously that both my DH and I are the night-owl sort; even though we don’t insist on an early bedtime for the girls (9 or 9:30) we have plenty of time together once they’re in bed.

    I think this problem is much harder for those couples who really do function on different schedules. Two morning people might have some time together early in the morning before the children start their day; two night people can easily get a couple hours’ alone time when the children have gone to bed. But for couples where one must be on a very early schedule and the other is more likely to stay up late, more effort to meet in the middle is probably necessary.

    The woman who wrote in has two children (the 8 & 6 year olds) who are possibly old enough to be told gently that Mom and Dad could use a little time alone to talk or reconnect at the end of the day. If the younger three are put to bed by 8pm, the older two could be allowed a privilege such as reading (or even coloring) in bed, watching a short video, or a little computer time a few nights a week to allow Mom and Dad that time to catch up, talk, and so on.

    While I agree that it’s important for children to get "Daddy" time too, there’s nothing wrong with children realizing that Daddy can often spend more time with them on the weekends than during the week. My girls look forward all week to their Friday night video game time with Daddy; it’s the only time all week they’re allowed to play video games (because Mom has them convinced she doesn’t know how to hook up the machine, LOL!) and it allows me something else homeschooling mamas need: about two hours a week to do whatever I want by myself!

    Date nights and other creative ideas are great, of course; but I think it’s really important to find some ordinary everyday time together, even if it’s just half an hour of communication and connection.

  • Melissa

    We have a standing date night on Friday nights. We have a tv program we both enjoy and have popcorn or maybe a glass of wine. We are diligent about getting the four kids to bed on time so that we do not miss out on our time together. We make a point that you can’t do anything else on Friday nights…no school prep or work…We also make a point of talking on the phone on his drive home from work each day and going to bed at the same time each night and spending some time before going to sleep. I stay up later, but will go to bed when he does and then just read after he goes to sleep.

  • We have 7 kids, age 9 and under, and a babysitter isn’t affordable very often (even if we could find one to watch all 7).
    We have two shows that we watch together during the week. (Heroes and Bionic Woman. OK, I let him pick the shows. I can stand to watch Bionic Woman, but he can’t stand to watch Design on a Dime.)
    When I say we watch together, we actually watch together. We don’t just happen to be in the same room with the show on the television. We usually get a snack/treat, (often he’ll make a Sonic run before it comes on), and talk about the characters, plot points, and speculate during the ads. I will admit there is a little snarkiness from me.
    He also started printing out Suduko puzzles from the internet. He prints two of the same one and we compete.
    Also we do the basic household chores together and talk.

  • We have six kids (13 and under) and are currently in the process of an adoption. It is vital that in raising a large family we make time for each other. Here are a couple of ideas that work for us:

    -Bedtimes are staggered after family prayers at 7:30. Youngest ones first, giving the older kids some time *alone* with Mom and Dad. The oldest kids are all in bed between 8:30 and 9 while we stay up a little later together-just catching up, talking, hanging out together, etc…

    -We have another family (with 4 kids) who we switch off date time each month. It’s free, easy and the family shares our faith/morals so we don’t worry about what is happening in our absence. A few hours a month to get out for coffee, a walk or simply to run a few errands alone is priceless.

    -Finally, we started a "Couples Bible Study" at our parish. We meet just one Friday night per month for a couple of hours (sometimes at our church, sometimes at different couple’s homes). It is a small, but tightly-knit group of other parents, seeking to learn more about the Catholic faith and to pass what we know on to our children. It is both a social night out for us with other couples and a spiritual night where we leave feeling re-energized and re-charged in our commitment to our faith, our marriage and our parenting.

    It doesn’t have to be a major event, but making it something consistent and something that you can look forward to will bless your marriage tremendously. God Bless!

  • kasey

    Thank you Danielle!

    We take Thursday night as date night. No excuses. Our kids go to bed aroun 7:30 on most nights, but we have sports ect. that make a dent in our weekday family life. So, on other nights one of us might be out carpooling one of the kids.

    We tend to "snatch" time together. We have breakfast alone on weekends. We shut ourselves in our room for 15 minutes after my husband gets home from work. This allows him time to destress and reconnect before having to be on for the kids.

    Also, we are very blessed to be part of babysitting co-ops! No payment for babysitting! Yeah! When you have a large family, it is a gift to know that your children have the best adult supervision. The other moms in my group have between 3-8 kids! We need to band together!

    It is worth all the time we invest in our marriage. My husband and I know immediately when we have been neglecting "our time."

  • Mrs. Kathy Anderson

    Couple time: When our youngest started taking tae kwan do (spelling wrong?) he did not like us staying and watching after he became confortable with the group. We took that two hour period for our time. Sometime it was a glass of wine and hit the sheets!!! Most of the time it was just being together, each doing their own thing (sewing for me and working on our home for my husband.) The love was just being together in the same home. Our son was "tail-end charlie" and his brothers and sister had gone from home. We ran the risk of one of the married ones coming over to use the washer and dryer, but that added a dash of risk and we would just smile and ask it they needed any help or something to eat.

  • Joan

    When our kids were younger, we used to lock ourselves in our bedroom for a half hour to get alone time. We got a sitter about once a month so that we could reconnect. Now that the kids are old enough to take care of themselves, all’s we have to do is make sure the youngest is accounted for and be on our merry way. Not that we get to go out that often, because college is expensive, but at least we can go out for a slice of pizza or the diner without having to worry. There are many nights that we are alone in the evening now. It’s nice, but I have to admit that I have more of an interest in "date night" than my husband. I think I’ll do that fancy dinner and dress up this Friday night. I wonder what he will say?

  • Regina

    We do brunch. It’s easier and cheaper than dinner out. It’s easier for us to get a sitter for late morning Sundays after mass, than for Friday and Saturday nights. We don’t talk about household projects or inlaws!

  • Jamie

    Wow, this could not have come at a better time, my dh and I just had this conversation last night. We have 4 children ages 7, 5, 3, and 17mos. the older 3 are in bed around 8-8:30 and then I nurse the baby until 9:30. Getting a babysitter, even for 2 hours costs $16, so, this rarely happens. (like months inbetween)

    Thanks for all the ideas and thank you Danielle for the great topic. It is nice to know we are not the only ones.

  • Well now, this is a wonderful – and important – topic. There were many, many years after we started having children that Brian and I did not set time aside for ourselves. We didn’t have support to watch our children, so we didn’t leave the house. Eventually, we made time each evening to read aloud together from whatever book took our fancy. For many years that sustained us.

    Recently, however, we’ve had a life change that has unexpectedly provided an opportunity for togetherness. We have been attending Diaconate discernment classes for our diocese. Twice each week, we take ourselves off to class a half-hour away. Our eldest makes a great babysitter, with the help of our neighbour and my parents who now live just down the road. We talk about life on the way in, enjoy our class time together, then talk about class on the way home. We’ve also grown much in our Faith – together – which has made our marriage, and consequently our family, stronger.

    While I don’t suggest that the Diaconate is for every family, it’s been (so far) a wonderful blessing for us.

  • Mary

    We have eleven children, and have had "Thurs. Nights" for 15 years or so. Our older children, 12 and 10 at the time, would get to stay up to play with the younger ones while we had alone time in the living room or bedroom. (This way, everyone looked forward to it and we had few interuptions). I chose Thurs. because my husband had so many eve. mtgs. (and still had daytime work hours), so if he stayed up late one eve.–at least it was only Fri. we’d have to make it through!!!
    One note–I always had a list of specific topics to cver, so we made a book…the empty lined-kind, with my topics outlined i.e. ‘Provide and Protect’ -show love by planning for events- birthdays holidays days off etc.; ‘Spiritual Life’; ‘Emotional Life’; ‘Physical Life’; ‘Our Children’; ‘Schooling’; ‘Husband’s job,and preceeding life issues for him; ‘Family Faithlife’; ‘E.R.–Critical Marriage Issues’; ‘Family Issues’; etc. We don’t cover all of these each time but it gives us a starting place for real communication….We also always do candles and special dessert (at home usually) with the baby at my side, when there is a nursing child. It’s been great for us.

  • Comment for Mary

    Thanks Mary. This is a great idea. I always wondered how I could remember things to talk about when we had some downtime.
    I am going to see about putting one together for us too. Thanks!

  • laura

    I think I’m an odd-ball here. Dh works full-time AND goes to school. Not to forget he works nights, so he’s going to bed when the kids are waking and he’s waking in time for about 30min of dinner before he leaves for work and then the kids are taken to bed. This is a hard schedule, but we know it’s short-term.

    Finding time for "dates" is nearly impossible unless I postpone bedtime on a night he’s not working, which i’m willing to do.

    We have really been discussing the topic of couple time because we are feeling the effects of not enough of it. Getting a babysitter is pretty much a non-option just because when he is home during everyone’s waking hours, we want family time. We have a few more years of this.

    Also, I make it rule that NO movies on our evenings in. I’d rather play scrabble or cards than be anti-social with a movie. If anything, we could watch movies in our own free time (ha!) and then discuss it on a "date," but I’d prefer other topics.

  • Therese

    /we have 8 kids, 18yo-18months. It’s much easier now in some ways since the oler ones can watch the littles when we go out for a bit (although they’d really rather not). We still don’t go out too often. Through most of our childraising years we haven’t had any support system near by to watch the kids. When we had 6 kids under 10yo we were better about getting them to bed at 8ish. Now with the widespread ages we are pretty terrible about consistent bedtimes, and our 18 month old is the worst! She doesn’t get to sleep until after 10 most nights, as my dh is ‘reading’ (aka falling asleep). This gets frustrating. I’m motivated again to get the kids to bed at an earlier time. Wish me luck!
    But, dh and I have learned to make the most of short spurts of time. When the majority of kids have gone up to bed, we almost always have a snack together at the kitchen table – beer and chips or ice cream. Since there are teenagers roaming around (who could stay up past them) we can’t get into anything too deep and personal in the way of discussion but it is still down time together for us. We also like to go for walks – need to do that again. And times we’ll do the grocery shopping or run errands together. Often I don’t care what we do together, I just want to be with him ALONE, able to talk freely.

  • karnak

    WE have the 3 kids and we need couple time so w e4make an effort at least to go our for each others birthdays without kids. My niece or mother babysits them for us

    I quite like just having a cup of tea with my husband don the weekend on Sunday morning and just talking over things. We have a TV and DVD player in our bedroom and watch DVds in peace. The best investment is a lock on your bedroom door which we have installed so we have no interruptions once the kids are in bed without notice.

  • PM

    It took me along time to realize that we needed to make the financial investment in a babysitter so we could get out regularly. It is just as important as buying food for us to set aside that money. Being a very frugal person I had been against spending money on a babysitter.

    We love to go for a hike/walk and picnic (with inexpensive food picked up form the grocery salad bar)

    Movies are relaxing but do not allow for intimate conversation and I find what we really need to do is communicate.

  • OK we ‘made’ it happen last night.
    Note to self: Don’t get discouraged when you realize, during the first real conversation not about the troublesome teen in 2 months, just how many things are going wrong. Yes he has not heard anything for 2 months. Yes you were speaking English at the time. He just needs to catch up. It was a decent date after all and you have a doggie bag of grown up food to look forward to for lunch.

  • Anonymous

    I am a husband, and i can report on what a few husbands said the other day when this issue came up.

    Said one: Why would I want to sit alone with a woman and get criticized for an hour? I’d rather just watch TV.

    Sand another: Yeah, but you’ve got to do it. If you sit and take an hour of hits once a week, it eases up a little for the rest of the week.