6 ways to connect in the busyness of raising kiddos
My husband and I were married for 10 years before our first child was born. We had 10 years of being able to do things like talk without interruption! Now as the parents to an 11-year-old and an 8-year-old life is different, and we can struggle to finish a conversation. Learning how to connect with your spouse in the midst of raising a family can be challenging. We’ve found a few strategies that work for us.
Connecting with your spouse is about more than going on dates. While date night is awesome and I highly encourage it, connection means taking the time to really listen to each other. You certainly can (and sometimes need to) share your deepest feelings, but you also should share the small stuff as well.
I mean all the things you think about in the shower that you mean to talk to your spouse about but don’t get a chance to. Or all the things you start to say and get interrupted. I’d say it even includes some logistical details sometimes that you just need to communicate and connect about. Connection is about sharing life together.
1. Find good times to talk.
One of the best ways to connect with your spouse comes by communicating well. I learned pretty early on in our just over two decades of marriage to start important conversations with the question: “Is this a good time to talk?”
That one question has saved us some grief and arguments in our marriage. Since my husband and I work from home together, we have plenty of opportunities to interrupt each other at inopportune times. So in order to connect with each other, we start with finding the right time to do so.
He may have something he wants to discuss with me and connect with me about right when I’m in the middle of trying to finish an article before my deadline. Or I might need to talk with him about something that happened right when he is preparing for a conference call.
By asking if it’s a good time (and being kind and honest with the question and response), our chance to actually connect improves. Some times are just not convenient times to listen — really listen — to what someone is saying to you.
2. Set boundaries with your kids.
This one looks different depending on your kids’ ages. We haven’t dealt with this with teenagers since our oldest kiddo is 11, but we’ve dealt with it through every stage previous.
The baby days are hard because babies are unpredictable. So, you have to get creative in order to connect with your spouse. When our youngest was a newborn, my husband knew I was struggling. While our daughter had always been a good sleeper, our son wasn’t. I had many nights where I was up the entire night only able to sleep about two hours before our 3-year-old was up for the day. I would literally fall asleep in the middle of saying something to my husband when he got home from work.
One night, my husband left an encouraging note on the changing table reminding me that I could wake him if I needed to. That short note, written on a piece of paper torn from a notebook was the perfect way to connect at that point in our lives.
As our children got older, we got into routines as a family. Their bedtimes coincided. Quiet or nap times overlapped intentionally. Even now they both have to be in their rooms for the night at the same time. So, my husband and I know that by 8:15 p.m., both kiddos should be settled in for the night. That’s important because those are times we know we can connect.
And then there are other times (especially right now with virtual schooling) that we stop our kids from coming into the home office during the day because my husband and I need a moment to connect. Sometimes we connect even by grousing about school assignments together!
3. Utilize kid-free time.
Kid-free time seems like it would be a no-brainer to connect with your spouse, but sometimes we get distracted and spend that time doing other things. I’m an introvert and recharge with quiet. I completely understand that sometimes kid-free time means you just want to not talk or do anything productive. And you need those breaks!
Just make sure that you allow some time for your spouse in the midst of it. Make some time to chat about what’s been going on in your lives or thoughts. My husband and I even end up spending kid-free time talking about the kids. We are in this parenting thing together and sometimes we need to connect about how we’re doing it to make sure we stay on the same page.
When it comes simply to connecting, no topic is taboo, not even your kiddos. The act of sharing your thoughts and concerns with each other connects you with your spouse.
4. Do something fun together.
One of the best ways to connect with your spouse is doing something fun together. This totally depends on what you guys find fun, but look for something you both enjoy.
That said, don’t be afraid to branch out and try what your spouse thinks is fun and vice versa. Since he was a kid, my husband has been a gamer. He enjoys both video games and tabletop games, specifically role playing games. While I played video games with him occasionally, I resisted tabletop role playing games for year.
When I finally tries role playing games with my husband, I found that I enjoy them as well. It’s something fun we love doing together and lets me see a whole different side of my husband and his creativity. And we end up with memories made together that we can talk — and usually laugh — about later.
We also enjoy watching movies together. While it doesn’t sound like something to connect us, we talk about them afterward. We usually don’t have in-depth discussions (though it’s happened and you totally could), but even just sharing what we each thought of the movie helps us connect with each other.
5. Go for a ride or run errands together.
The car can be the perfect place for connecting with your spouse when it’s just the two of you. Nobody can interrupt your conversations! My husband and I have done some of our best connecting on car rides and/or while running errands together.
We’ve connected and had fun while shopping for our kids’ birthday gifts. When we go on road trips for doctor’s appointments for me, we spend part of that time talking and going over topics we care about. We’ve talked through all sorts of things in the car.
Another way we sometimes connect on longer trips is listening to Podcasts together. My husband has some favorite ones he’ll listen to while I read or nap. But there are some we like listening to together as well. (One of our joint favorite Podcasts is a role playing game.) You could also listen to audio books together if that’s more your style.
6. Don’t forget the small stuff.
Finally, connect with your spouse in small ways that make big differences. The right words can make your bond stronger. Say thank you when you notice your spouse doing chores or taking care of something so you don’t have to. Stop and give your spouse a hug when he or she is folding laundry. Pick up their favorite treat at the grocery store.
Connection in marriage happens in small ways every day. You don’t have to have long discussions on deep topics. Your actions and facial expressions can connect you just as much as words. I love the feeling when my husband and I share “a look” about something adorable our kids have done or even something frustrating that’s happened. It reminds me we are on the same page and on the same team going through life. And that’s what connection is all about!