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Best Of: How to Make Time for Your Spouse or Partner

Even if you are married with kids, a (quiet) candlelit dinner is possible! cynthiab ©/stock.xchng

Even if you are married with kids, a (quiet) candlelit dinner is possible! cynthiab ©/stock.xchng

Being married with kids can sometimes give you tunnel vision. Wake the kids, feed the kids, play with the kids, get the kids to school, get the kids from school, get the kids to afterschool activities, feed the kids dinner, put the kids to bed and everything else that the kids need in between.

All important of course, but it’s also necessary to make time for your partner in all this — your spouse, boyfriend, girlfriend — it doesn’t matter what they are called, but it does matter that you get some alone time together, or at least a few minutes to talk uninterrupted. But how? Certainly you could hire a babysitter for an evening, but that often comes with extra cost and not everyone has access to a person they trust.

Instead, consider ways to make time within the confines of your busy life to find time. Take advantage of the few quiet moments or carve out some time by making your own (some are better advised than others). Even if the kids are with you, it is possible! Here are our suggestions:

  • Tuck the kids into bed early, rent a movie or play a game and bring in take out for a late dinner
  • Consider taking a break from dinner time being family time for a night. Let the kids eat in the living room with a movie while you have a quiet dinner in the dining room (or vice versa)
  • Wake up early and eat breakfast together alone
  • Pack the kids in the car and go for a long drive. If your minivan or vehicle is equipped with DVD player, utilize it. If not, let the kids bring books or portable game systems that will keep them occupied. (Make an exception if you usually frown upon such devices.)
  • If you both work (or if one of you does) while the kids are in school or daycare, consider taking a “goof off” day
  • When the weather is nice, go for a walk as a family at a local high school on the running track. Let the kids run ahead (staying in sight of course) while you two talk.
  • Invite another couple with kids over for dinner. Let the children entertain each other while they play, giving the grown-ups a chance to socialize.
  • If there is another family you are friendly with, consider setting up a babysitter swap arrangement where you take their kids for a night and they take yours.

How do you make time for your marriage?

Our Two Cents: Advice for a Dad Planning a First Mother’s Day

©irenaeus-h/stock.xchng

What's the secret to planning a great Mother's Day? Ask the aforementioned mom! ©irenaeus-h/stock.xchng

Dear Amanda and Suzanne:

This isn’t a problem per se, but I am looking for advice.

This year my wife will celebrate her first Mother’s Day. Our son Gavin is 8 months old. I want to make the day special for her, but I’m not really sure what to do. I’ve asked her, but she’s been really vague about making plans, simply saying that she just wants a day with her family.

So what does that mean exactly?

– Dumbfounded Dad

Amanda: You are very wise to come to us with this question. And seeing as you are of the male species and don’t speak mom (and clearly you’ve lost your handy dandy translator) I’m happy to decipher your wife’s words for you.

She just wants a day with her family.

(Was that too on the nose?)

Yes, I know, you got that. “But what does that mean exactly?” I see your eyes rolling all the way over here. (And don’t take that tone with me.)

It means as long as you don’t decide to spend the day golfing with your buddies, this is an easy one. Just spend the day with her. You, Gavin and your wife.

Now you are exasperated. “DOING WHAT?”

It doesn’t matter. Really. It’s not a trick question (or answer). She just wants to be with you and your son. But since you seem to want something specific, let’s talk this out. You actually have a couple of options for planning a great day, and despite your wife’s indistinct directions, I think you should definitely take the initiative and plan something special.

You can totally surprise her with an itinerary for the day, or, if you are more comfortable, go to her with some specific ideas. You can even say, “Honey, I know you said that you just want to spend the day with Gavin and me, but I really want to make this day special for you. So I was thinking we could X, Y or Z. Or two of those. Or all three. What do you think?”

And if she’s still sort of undecided or unspecific on what she’d like to do, take your cue from that. Truly, maybe she just wants to spend the day at home doing nothing.

But the main idea is clear, whether you have brunch at a restaurant, breakfast in bed, a walk with her extended family, a day at the park or just time spent cuddling in bed.

She wants to spend the day with the two most important people in her life: you and your son.

Good luck and have fun!

Suzanne: While I agree with Amanda’s translation, I just want to make sure we’re speaking the same dialect as your wife.

Because when some women say what your wife did, they really mean it. Like me. And like Amanda.

If our husbands planned something low-key at home, just like we requested, neither one of us would be boiling inside thinking, “This is it? No diamond earrings, no spa gift certificate, no Mother’s Day brunch? Just wait until Father’s Day. Hummmppph.”

So think back. Was your engagement everything she dreamed it would be? Or did she later confess that she was a little disappointed that it wasn’t more romantic or splashy? Was there ever a time you agreed not to exchange holiday presents to save money, and she spent the rest of the day insisting she wasn’t mad that you really didn’t get her a little something, but you know she was.

Nothing against your wife if that’s the case. That just means she is into a flashier kind of a simple day. So you are probably going to want to make reservations for lunch, pay a visit to the jeweler and buy her a bouquet from you and the baby. Then everyone will be happy. For real.

On the other hand, if you’ve never disappointed her in the past, then Amanda’s plan will make for the perfect day. Tell her how much you and Gavin appreciate her and want this to be a day that is all about her.

If she still says anything sounds good, then plan the day around a few activities that give her time to focus on the best parts of motherhood. The fun of pushing Gavin in a swing. Or walking along a scenic path holding your hand and watching her son’s drooly smile as he rides in the baby carrier on his Daddy’s chest.  You might also consider making a keepsake of sorts, maybe enlarging a special photo of the two of them, stamping it with his baby handprint, and presenting it to your wife in a beautiful frame.

Let us know how it goes and whether a nice day at home was all she really wanted.

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OK moms and dads, got any suggestions/advice for our new friend D squared? How did you spend your first Mother’s Day? In a perfect world, what will you be doing this May 8?

You know what’s so great about sending your questions to advice@wearebothright? You get double the opinions!