Marriage and toddlers is a tough combo – especially when you have more than one (toddlers that is). Part of parenting is working as a team to teach, love, and care for your kids, the hard part comes when you have to balance that with your love and support for each in marriage. Which makes it difficult to simply make time for your marriage when you have toddlers, much less allow it to flourish.
Luckily, we’re not the first to experience tough times and quiet nights after our toddlers go to bed. The stress of parenting and marriage is a common struggle, which means you shouldn’t feel guilty for experiencing it – and there’s tried and true methods of helping you both push through.
Making Time for Your Marriage and Toddlers
Let’s just say that making time for both is going to involve a lot of balance, effort, and communication. You’ll need to set aside time for date nights, time together, or start new habits – like no phones in bed. Little things make the biggest difference and can reintroduce spontaneity even when you’re tired.
Additionally, you’ll both need to sit down and have a good conversation about why you’re struggling. Do you feel as though one partner is doing “less” than the other? Is the cleaning and caring split? Are you getting enough sleep or eating enough? All can contribute to feelings of dissatisfaction, and while work may not be divided unevenly, communication can typically clarify what one is doing and the other and make you look past the surface of the situation.
Lastly, you’ll have to tackle the toddler situation. Stimulating independent play, introducing new family activities, or finding daycare/babysitting/school for a temporary reprieve are all great options – although not available to all. You’ll need to look at what is possible financially and physically for your family. To make time for your marriage, it’s also a good idea to look at the schedule you keep in your home such as your toddler’s bedtimes.
4 Ways to Make Time for Your Marriage When You Have Toddlers
I’m sure you understand the importance of making time for your spouse and your relationship – the struggle comes with how to make time for your relationship. I’m going to share four methods that worked for my husband and I to improve our quality time and relationship while raising two toddlers:
#1. Set Aside Specific “Nights” to Spend Time Together
While we can typically only fit 1-2 hours at night to spend together depending on the housework and how tired we are, the time together really makes a difference. After we put our toddlers to bed around 7pm, we take two days out of the week (Tuesday and Sunday) to spend from 7pm-9pm together. We watch our favorite TV show, play video games, or play card games to pass the time.
#2. Share a Schedule
This is possible for us mainly because I work from home and I’m able to set my own hours, but it can be done for working couples too – provided that your work schedules allow. We both get up at 4:40am and spend time together before he heads to work at 5:30am and the toddlers wake up at 6:30am. In the time spent alone, I’m able to do my work, which is what allows us to easily spend time in the evenings together.
#3. Take Date Nights and Trips
The hardest part of this one is finding trustworthy caretakers for your toddlers. We are lucky in having their grandmother available to care for them overnight and allow us to go to dinner or take a vacation. Alternatives to family can include drop-in daycares or in-home babysitters – both of which we’ve used before. When we do use childcare outside of the family, we stay closer to home and take less time.
Trust me, making time for your marriage is much easier when you and your spouse are on the same page. Make sure you are both taking the time to communicate the needs and wants of yourself and the household. For example, what needs to be done together (cleaning the den) or what can you divide and conquer to lessen the individual workload (taking one toddler to the speech therapist while your spouse handles your napping toddler).
What if We’re Both Still Overwhelmed and Can’t Make Time?
Then it’s time to rethink and restructure. Not your marriage, but how you are both handling your toddlers and your relationship. Look at outside sources that could be increasing your stress. Is your house cluttered? Are you struggling to keep up with your finances? Is your toddler or toddlers having health or development issues? These are outside sources that can affect your mental health and stability, making finding peace and support that much harder.
Tackle what you can, when you can! Decluttering was a huge relief for me and allowed me to focus on my relationship – that and my youngest toddler getting through a rough teething patch. There are still times when we feel like we don’t get enough time with each other and our relationship is on the backburner, but we communicate during those times to figure out what we can manage to do to make it better.
And, just remember, change doesn’t happen overnight! Give yourselves some grace while you learn how to balance toddlers, parenting, and marriage.