Couple spending time together

Between orchestra concerts, soccer and baseball games, and end of school year activities, we were constantly on the go during the month of May. Is the month of May like that for any of the rest of you? While we love our children and want to support them, months like these can wear parents out a bit. Additionally, we’ve noticed that the busier we become, the harder it is for the entire family to get enough sleep.

Because it can be so easy to get caught up in the busyness of life, it’s so important to be intentional with both how many activities kids are involved in as well as how much sleep kids are getting. This isn’t just important for the happiness and development of the children, but also for the sake of the marriage relationship.

1. Be intentional with the amount of “out of the home” activities.

Our family settled on a rule of 1 extracurricular activity at a time per child. You may agree or disagree with our specific approach (but that really isn’t the point of this article). The general principle, however, can apply to everyone. Intentionally reducing unnecessary busyness may have more benefits than you’d think!

For our family, applying this principle has helped us protect some of our precious family time (our busy month of May notwithstanding). While much could be written about the parenting benefits of intentionally preserving family time, think about how having less on your collective family schedule could help you and your spouse have more time to nurture your marriage.

For instance, if your family schedule was a little more open, would it be easier for you to have more frequent “pillow talk,” weekly dates, more time for romance, or more spontaneous conversation? Simply put, if your family’s schedule was a little less busy, would it be easier for you and your sweetheart to spend more time together strengthening your marriage?

For the record, that was a rhetorical question. I already know the answer. 🙂

2. Be intentional with children’s bedtimes.

There are various suggestions for how much sleep children need; however, the recommendations seem to be reasonably consistent. One site (WebMD) suggests that our 5 children should be getting between 9-12 hours of sleep each night (depending on the age of the respective child). Ensuring that our children actually get this much rest can take a lot of effort on our part (especially as our kids figure out that their friends don’t sleep that long). However, as is so often the case in life, the path of least resistance rarely yields the most desirable results. In this case, sleep provides countless developmental benefits for the children, as well as also providing benefits for your marriage!

Nourishing your marriage while children are in bed

For parents with children still in the home, would your marriage benefit by having an hour or two of child-free time each evening? I suspect that for most of us, the answer would be a resounding yes.  And please don’t feel guilty for feeling this way. Like me and my wife, I’m sure you love your children dearly! However, it’s essential for spouses to have their own time together regularly.

How the time is used may not be as important as having that time together. Marriages can be strengthened by doing dishes side by side, exercising together, reconnecting after a busy day, and even kissing for six seconds (or more :)). Years of research conducted by Dr. John Gottman suggest that a deep and abiding friendship provides the foundation for a satisfying marriage.

There are many ways to nourish that friendship. However, carving out some alone time each evening can be a great way to maintain that marital friendship. Of course, this works better if the parent’s bedtime is intentionally later than the children’s bedtime. If everyone goes to bed at the same time but children simply sleep in longer, we may miss that opportunity to strengthen our marriage

Really, I could write a whole article on why kids need enough sleep. But this doesn’t just affect the kids. As you already know, the frustration from dealing with sleepy and grouchy kids can often spill over into the marriage relationship as well.

I believe it’s a wonderful “coincidence” that children (even teenagers) require more sleep each night than their parents. This provides opportunities for couples to strengthen the oft-neglected but critically important marriage relationship.

Start Today!

It can be so easy to get caught up in activities and to-do lists that our marriages can easily get shoved aside. But as we are intentional with how much our kids are involved in, as well as with how much they sleep, we can make time to really nurture our marriages. So try these simple steps today and take one step closer to an even happier marriage!

Please help us strengthen families by sharing this article with your friends and family! Likewise, to see more of Dr. Rob’s articles (as well as articles by Dr. Tim), please also check out the rest of our blog and our Facebook page.