I work with a lot of young moms and wives as a Bible study leader and Mom To Mom mentor.
Since our son is 17 and our daughter is 15 1/2, I am not so far removed from those early years that I can’t remember the exhaustion, the stress, the potty-training drama…as well as all the unique fun and joy that little ones bring into a life.
Running like a strong thread throughout those years was the timeless and vitally important piece of advice that our pastor gave us during our premarital counseling sessions: “NEVER STOP DATING. Don’t stop being Doug and Susan, even when there are little ones who call you Mommy and Daddy.”
I share this advice with young moms every chance I get, because it is so essential to a marriage.
We will celebrate 21 years of marriage in May and we have heeded Pastor John’s advice all those years ago.
It was very easy to do during the nearly four years before we had kids. Doug worked in New York City, so that was our playground.
However, when we had two children who were only 19 months apart and lived far from family, dating became much more of a challenge.
Yet, we persevered.
We made sure to have a date once a month.
When my parents came to visit, it was easy. We took advantage of their free babysitting services and not only went out to dinner and a movie, but sometimes went away for the weekend. But since they only visited a couple times a year, we had to make other plans for the remaining months.
There were times when Doug would get take out from one of our favorite restaurants after the kids were in bed and bring it home. We would light candles (to soften the effects of the hideously painted yellow kitchen with blue countertops in our rented home), put a Frank Sinatra CD on, and enjoy dinner and dessert right there in our kitchen.
We also traded babysitting duties with other couples. One month, Doug and I would watch their kids; the next, they would watch ours.
This led to some interesting scenarios for me.
I still remember having to go to our friends David and Wendy’s home one Saturday night by myself because Doug was sick. As soon as I put their kids to bed for the night, I began to be completely terrorized by a gigantic black spider that skittered across the floor out of nowhere and ran right by my feet under the sofa! Then it came right back out and ran back in! I screamed and ran to the kitchen to sit on one of the breakfast stools. That is where I remained for the next few hours, as the spider continued its reign of terror while I tried to read my book and prayed for our friends to come home early!
The second scenario that comes to mind is one night when our neighbors, who had NEVER had one night out in all their years of marriage, finally agreed to allow me to watch their two young boys so they could attend a glitzy function at the husband’s work. They were so excited and I was praying that they had a wonderful time. Doug was across the street taking care of our two kids, who were still quite young at the time.
Fifteen minutes after their car pulled out of the driveway, their oldest son proceeded to lose his entire dinner all over her polished wooden floors.
Now, I could not even clean up after my own kids when this happened and now this. So, I held my nose, prayed for grace, and did what I had to do.
All this to say…it will not always be easy to continue to date your spouse when you have small children, but it is worth every effort.
Because those little kids who tear through the house like a tornado right now? They will be leaving for college tomorrow.
If you have not put in the work (and yes, a good marriage requires hard work), this day may fill you with appropriate sadness, but not despair. Why is that? You have done your parenting job to the best of your ability (not perfectly because there is no such thing). You have equipped your children with what they need to know to strike out on their own and begin to live their story.
And now, you and your husband can live out the rest of your love story because you will have worked at staying connected throughout your parenting years.
If you haven’t done this, it’s not too late to start. Consider your resources and make a plan. Be creative but by all means, reconnect with each other as a couple.
Begin to consciously remember the things that attracted you to your spouse in the first place.
Start small. A date doesn’t always have to be dinner and a movie. It can be a walk around the neighborhood or along the beach. A trip to the local ice cream stand. One couple I know enjoys riding a tandem bike together. Whatever works for you and your husband, just do it.
The moments add up and add a sweetness to your years.