Dear Wendy
Dear Wendy

Topic of the Day: Maintaining Your Relationship After Kids

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This weekend Drew and I are getting away alone together for the first time in well over a year and a half. We took a handful of overnight trips alone together in the years after we had Jackson but before Joanie was born and found that even 30 hours away helped us reconnect and remember why we fell in love with each other in the first place. When you have little kids, it’s a challenge to maintain that connection in the midst of the grueling and exhausting work of parenthood, but it’s so important.

Getting away for a weekend is a big splurge for us — we don’t have family nearby enough to leave the kids with, so we have our longtime babysitter, whom we love and trust, stay with them, and, while we know the kids are in great care, that doesn’t come cheap. Add to that the transportation cost (we don’t have our own car), and lodging cost, and suddenly a day and half trip is costing what we would have spent on a multi-day vacation pre-kids. But it’s worth it, and, obviously, we don’t do it all the time. (This trip in particular is a special occasion because we’re celebrating my birthday a little early; in the future, we hope to get away for an overnight trip maybe twice a year.) A few other ways that we work on maintaining our relationship through these early parenthood years:

1) Though we normally eat dinner together as a family, which I think is really important and which we’re super lucky to have the kinds of schedules to allow, it’s nice every once in a while to feed the kids and then have a parents-only dinner a little later after they’re in bed. To be able to sit at a table together, taking our time eating and not having to compete over the whines of “I hate broccoli” or whatever, feels so luxurious, and, even though it’s not a true date, just having that quiet time to ourselves does make a difference.

2) Obviously, true dates make a difference, too! We were on a roll for a while, getting out every few weeks, but this summer has been a busy one and the last time Drew and I got out alone together was at the beginning of July when my sister was visiting and we snuck out one evening for an hour or two while she babysat. We haven’t even properly celebrated our anniversary yet, which is kind of sad (it was a month ago tomorrow), so, clearly, this weekend away together will be well-appreciated. Once Jackson’s back in school and our schedules normalize a bit and our summer travel is over, I’d like to get back to having dates every 2-3 weeks, even if it’s just a quick happy hour drink on a random Thursday.

3) Random weeknight dates totally count! Our longtime sitter, who watches Joanie (and sometimes Jackson) three mornings a week, has an afternoon gig in the neighborhood that she’s done with at 6 every weekday evening. Sometimes I ask her to come babysit after that for like 90 minutes, and she gets the kids to bed while Drew and I have a quick dinner or drink down the street. It works out for all of us because our sitter is already in the neighborhood and so she’s not making a special trip out for a short job, and we don’t have to pay a big babysitting fee to feel like we got a little break and change of pace and some time alone together. When we get home, the kids are going to sleep and we still have the rest of the evening to Netflix and chill.

4) We don’t do this too often, but every once in a blue moon, when Jackson’s in school and Joanie’s with the sitter, Drew will take the day off work and he and I will have a nice morning together, strolling around the neighborhood, having a leisurely brunch. I imagine doing this more often once Joanie’s in school full-time, too, and paying for a babysitter isn’t part of the deal. We haven’t done this yet, but I think seeing a movie together in the middle of a weekday would feel like the height of indulgence.

5) Occasionally we do the things we did when we first started dating that we don’t have much time for anymore. Like bike-riding! Back when we first met and I lived in Chicago, one of our favorite things was when Drew would come visit me and we’d ride bikes all over the city together. Once I moved here, we didn’t do that as much because Manhattan just isn’t as biker-friendly as Chicago is. And then once we had kids, it pretty much stopped completely save for maybe one or two times we managed to squeeze in a random bike ride. This weekend we’re staying at a B&B that has bikes, and I’m really excited to ride around the nearby vineyards together. Another thing we did a lot when we were first dating that always brings me back to that time in our lives when we have a chance to do it is karaoke-ing. It’s been ages and ages, though, so I think it’s time we made a karaoke date. I like renting a small, 2-person room in one of the weird little karaoke bars in Manhattan during happy hour, when they’re half-priced and empty, and singing our hearts our for an hour. It’s like the rest of the world and all our responsibilities and various stresses don’t even exist. Plus, there’s nothing quite like hearing Drew belt out some Merle Haggard over a $3 Sapporo.

If you’re a parent, what do you do to maintain your relationship with your partner (if you have one)? And if you’re in a long-term relationship without kids, what do you do to keep the spark alive?

14 comments… add one
  • avatar

    ktfran August 23, 2016, 1:48 pm

    I don’t have children and a day off from work… while everyone else is at work… enjoying a leisurely lunch outside, walking around, slipping into a theater sounds like an indulgence to me too! I guess it’s more fun when it’s a day you wouldn’t normally do something like that, like the weekend.

    Have a fabulous get a way and late anniversary/early birthday celebration!

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    Boosker August 23, 2016, 7:05 pm

    We haven’t done this since our second kid has been born, but we probably will soon now that the weather is cooling off a bit: deck movies. We now have a double chaise lounge on our deck but when we didn’t, we’d pull (not very nice) couch cushions and a laptop out there and watch a movie on Netflix. It felt like our own personal drive-in. Use a citronella candle now that we’re all Zika-ed up in here. Right now I’m using the deck chaise lounge for my solo recharge time (blanket, laptop, Vanilla Coke Zero) as my husband handles the boys inside. Escape rooms are also way fun, but you are with a group of people when you’re doing it.

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  • honeybeenicki

    honeybeenicki August 24, 2016, 8:10 am

    Thank you Wendy. I needed to read this today. Its one of the struggles I’m currently having and in my head I know I need to fix it, but the rest of me is exhausted.

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    Vathena August 24, 2016, 9:11 am

    Oh my goodness, a night away… the last time my husband and I spent the night alone together was the night before our daughter was born, so 3 years and 3 months ago. We also don’t have any family nearby, and our parents have some limitations for taking care of small children (my MIL could totally handle it, but she also has to take care of my FIL, who has very limited mobility. My mom is younger, and in another year or so I think it would be fine to leave my daughter with her, but right now the age is too challenging. My mom spends 2+ hours getting ready in the morning and a 3-year-old doesn’t have the attention span or ability not to get into trouble for that amount of time!) We like both of our regular date-night sitters, but not enough to have them stay in our house for a weekend. One day…

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    • Dear Wendy

      Dear Wendy August 24, 2016, 10:21 am

      OMG, do we have the same mother?

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      • avatar

        Vathena August 24, 2016, 11:34 am

        Ha! I mean, it’s fine, she put in her time as a single mom to two kids. But I’m like, if you spend the entire time between breakfast and nap time in the bathroom blow-drying and primping, I’m not gonna leave my kid with you for the weekend. Rule #1 of caring for a toddler solo is, you can only shower when they’re sleeping!

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      • honeybeenicki

        honeybeenicki August 24, 2016, 12:23 pm

        What the hell is she doing that it takes 2+ hours? I’ve never understood that. I get ready in like 5 minutes. 15 if I need a shower to wash my hair.

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        Kate August 24, 2016, 12:40 pm

        I don’t know about your moms, but my mom is obsessed with her thinning hair and her roots. She was going to the salon for color so much that her (and also my) hairstylist told her to cut it out. She touches up her roots the second she THINKS there may be some gray showing. She also uses every volumizing product and roller-sets her hair so you would have no idea that there’s any thinning – it looks super full. I know this sounds scary, but she actually has very nice-looking hair. That’s time consuming, and she does wear a full face of makeup as well. Not like crazy color or contour or anything, but primer, foundation, concealer, blush, lipstick, shadow, liner, mascara, eyebrows.

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      • honeybeenicki

        honeybeenicki August 24, 2016, 1:41 pm

        That sounds exhausting. My mom wears… I think maybe mascara? I don’t wear any makeup because its too much work. And my mom has thick hair like I do so there’s that.

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        Kate August 24, 2016, 1:58 pm

        Yeah, but it makes her feel good, and she’s got plenty of free time to do her hair and makeup and plan her cute outfits. She was going to retire at 62 or something, but then realized she wouldn’t have enough to do. So she and my dad work for the same non-profit in Boston 4 days a week and then go to Cape Cod for 3.

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        Vathena August 24, 2016, 2:03 pm

        Shoot, that is what I’d do if I had more time! Part of what I love about date nights is taking 30-45 minutes to “pamper” myself and get dressed up to go.

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        Vathena August 24, 2016, 2:01 pm

        Yes, this sounds like my mom, though she also already has pretty thick hair. She does blow-dry/curl, do full make-up, moisturize, etc. Plus, she just likes to take her time getting ready. Puttering around drinking coffee, reading the paper, catching the weather report. Which like I said is fine, except when you are the sole care-giver to a small being who needs constant supervision and promptly applied age-appropriate activities to distract them from their natural inclination toward death and destruction.

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    Taylor August 24, 2016, 1:09 pm

    We have dates in town when our beebs is in daycare. About twice a year, we play hooky from work, get a room somewhere, and spend the day in the city. It’s always kind of funny booking a hotel room at 9 in the morning =) We go home after daycare, spend the night there, and then if the hotel has a pool, go back in the morning to swim as a family before checking out.

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    Tiiina August 25, 2016, 10:48 am

    Our baby was in the NICU for 4 months and was fed by NG tube until 9 months. He is now 10 months and we are finally trying to think about some normalcy, but there is so much still to deal with including a touch of PTSD after the ordeal of 3 heart surgeries.

    These are some good suggestions for a start. Thanks Wendy.

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