So now that you’ve thoroughly fallen in love with your baby, how do you keep the love fires burning between you and your spouse? I know firsthand as a new parent, the last thing on my mind after a day of feeding, changing diapers, and cleaning bottles is, “How could I be more romantic towards my wife?” My first thoughts are, “How am I going to get enough sleep and when can I rest?”
I know these thoughts sound very selfish but they are a reality for many new parents. We get so fixated on taking care of our newborn we forget what life was like before he or she came along. So how does romance fit in?
Finding a sitter is the first step in the process of getting some time alone to keep the romance alive between you and your spouse. For us, finding a family member made the most sense. Early on, we let relatives see our son, Elijah, often. Because of this, in time, he got comfortable with staying with grandma, uncle, or auntie for extended periods of time.
Our pastor, Don, had some good suggestions for keeping the romance alive between spouses when you have kids:
1. Let your husband or wife sleep in.
2. Give each other a night off.
3. Be proactive in household chores.
4. Plan a date night at least once a month, organizing the babysitter and everything else.
5. Love on each other before you love on the baby. Be genuine in asking about his or her day instead of running off to play with the baby.
Start with simple things. Physical things make a world of difference. Taking the time to give my wife a massage lets her know I care. I know that I appreciate a good hug now and then. It helps to relieve tension and stimulates some ‘feel-good endorphins.’ When you go out, hold hands, kiss, and touch often. One of my friends, Angela, who has a baby girl, said, “Humor makes life fun and light-hearted and definitely keeps the romance alive.” She and her husband act goofy with each other. They also are best friends. They can talk about anything and be truly vulnerable. Something else that helps is to find out how your husband or wife is doing (and to not wait until the end of the day). If you can, send them an e-card telling him or her how much you care about them Or send a text, e-mail, or even chat with them on-line to see how the day is going.
I asked another couple at our church, Shelly and Cesar, who have been married for several years, “What they do to keep the romance alive in their marriage?” Shelly said, “It’s important not to forget date nights.” When her kids were younger, her sister would watch her kids while she and her husband had a getaway weekend. Cesar added, “Sometimes it’s not even dinner. It’s having coffee together and being able to talk.” Or if Shelly knows Cesar will be away for a retreat, she will send a note along with him telling him how much she loves and misses him.
If you can’t find a babysitter, you can always have a “home date.” After baby has fallen asleep, you can cook together, listen to some good music, drink some wine, have a good conversation, or pop in a movie.
There have been nights when we don’t have anyone to watch Elijah until after 7pm. In those cases, when our sitter is available, we go out to shop together at the store and have some alone time for a couple of hours. This is also a good opportunity for us to catch up and have some adult conversations.
In my particular case, my wife and I mutually decided that I would stay home with our son. So if this is the case, the question after a long day becomes, “How can the wife be attentive and show love towards the husband and not just the baby?” Something that my wife does periodically is to bring home gifts for me. Now and again my wife, Cyndy, will go out shopping with friends or girlfriends while I stay home with Eli. One day after she had been out she surprised me and brought me home a baseball tape dispenser since I love baseball. Another time, she brought home some nice sunglasses. Or other times, she brings home certain foods I like. These things definitely make me feel loved.
Common interests often cement the bond of love. Both Cyndy and I enjoy good food, movies, and watching TV shows together at home. Recently, we had an opportunity to have dinner alone and then go watch a movie. We got to have dinner but we missed the movie because we forgot the movie time. I was pretty disappointed about the movie but we still got to have a “date” at home watching our favorite shows on-line.
Lone Ranger Syndrome
Being a stay-at-home parent can be a very lonely job at times. I feel like a one-man show that just keeps going until my back-up comes. I’ve told Cyndy this sometimes. There have been some weeks where she would work all day and then have to do something on Saturday all day. I felt like a single parent of sorts. I have to realize that I can’t have it both ways. It’s inherent in my job that I will have the bulk of the responsibilities. As time has passed, I have fallen more and more in love with my son. What was once a chore is now a labor of love. Realistically though, each partner needs some time alone. Oftentimes I will talk to Cyndy about this when we are in bed or when she comes home. If I’ve had a tough day, I’ll let her know. If she isn’t tired herself, she will encourage me to go to the gym or go to Starbucks to have some “me-time.” I also give her the space to go shopping with friends or to the gym after work.
So when you do get the time to have a date, what can or should you do?
To Go Out or Not to Go Out?
1. Movies – Going to the movies or renting a movie is one idea. It’s a good time to relax, hold hands and escape.
2. Enjoy a meal out – Having a chance to enjoy a good meal at a restaurant is also a great date! Sometimes that’s all you’ll have time for. I can remember one night when we asked our friend to watch Eli. It was the first time we left him with her. We were having dinner nearby and got a call during dinner that Eli was crying and wouldn’t stop. We had to hurry up and finish and get back to pick him up.
3. Make a mix CD of songs that express how you feel about your spouse or songs that have a special meaning to the both of you. Your spouse can listen to it on the way to work or download it on his/her iPod. I’ve actually done this. I included the song “Love of My Life” by Jim Brickman. I sang this song to Cyndy at our reception on our wedding night.
These are just a few suggestions that don’t take too much planning and are manageable if you can find someone to watch your child. Whatever you do together, make sure that you try to reconnect with your partner. You may even have to re-learn what it is to go on a date with your spouse as well. It’s hard not to think about the baby, but try. Be in the moment. Also remember that the small gestures like kisses, hugs, or touches add up to as much as big gestures like planning a night out or giving your partner a chunk of time alone. Just remember that not everything has to be a grand production when you are trying to be romantic–it’s really the thought that counts.