When my husband and I first met, we would spend every single evening together sitting on the roof of a half-built house beneath the stars in the African heat, learning each other's language and culture. We'd dance the night away to Afro beats at the local club, sweaty and full of love. Nowadays, we sometimes get a quick moment - enough for a glance, a kiss, an "I love you" - before we drift off to sleep after a day full of toddler activities, work, and daily life. Some days, stress and lack of sleep take over and our house is silent, despite our 3-year-old loudly singing her own tune. But even when that happens, we still work to find the time to say "I love you," kiss, and connect. We may be far from where we met in Ghana, West Africa, and far from the two carefree 20-something souls that we were then, but we still have our love and strive to make time for it, through the ups and downs of life, marriage, and parenting.
When we had our little girl, we were just finding a home, jobs, and a life after my husband's move from Ghana and months of immigration. Finances were tight; I was home loving on our daughter, my husband was working around the clock to keep up with bills, and we hardly got to see each other. And honestly, at first, I didn't long for "us" time. I was content marveling at my new baby and didn't want to be bothered once she was asleep. I wanted to read, sleep, shower, and eat. But from my experience, when I began to check out of my relationship and dive into motherhood, our troubles began. Even though every couple is different, I think that it's important that we all find time to nurture our love. It's taken me almost three years to find balance as a mom and wife, and still find space in between to be me. Here's how I figured it out.
- Schedule time.
I know, it sounds boring and way less passionate. But guess what, if you schedule time you might actually get the time - which is definitely more passionate than no time at all. I'm not much of a planner or scheduler, but if I don't set aside time for my husband and I, I'll continue my reading, writing, and extralong showers and forget about the importance of our time together. I notice such a huge change when we have alone time, whether it's 30 minutes in the gym or making him watch an episode of The Bachelor with me once our daughter is in bed. We are a much better couple when we actually hang out.
- Get creative.
It's all about finding little moments where you might not expect them. For us, creative couple time sometimes means taking advantage of our gym's childcare so we can workout together. Plus, it's good for our health. We also try to attend her swim lessons and dance classes together. While she's in the pool or tapping away on stage, we sit together. Yes, we spend much of the time looking at her, but we hold hands, and maybe even sneak in a flirty wink.
- Find helpers.
This has been extremely hard for us to navigate. I use to shrug off offers to watch our girl because I only wanted to hang out with her, but now I accept the offers whenever I can. Even if it just means we get an hour out of the house, that's rejuvenating enough. And when we're able to get that time together, we try to not only talk about our girl or spend the hour looking at her photos. Instead, we talk about life, love, and our future - all the big subjects that can get pushed to the back burner in our day to day lives.
- Be flexible.
I love to go to bed early, sometimes as early as 8:30 p.m. But my husband works till 9 p.m. some nights, and if I go to bed as early as I'd like, I don't get to see him. So I stay up later to at least say hello and have a conversation. On Monday mornings, we don't have work and my daughter doesn't have preschool. My husband used to use this time to run to the gym first thing. Now, we decided this is our morning. I sit in a cozy chair with coffee in her room as they play make believe and get silly. Compromising meant we all get to see more of each other.
- Talk openly.
When my husband was rushing to the gym every morning and we weren't getting time together as a family or in our relationship, I let him know I was missing that time. When I was falling asleep with my girl in bed every night before the sun went down, he let me know he would love to hang once she's down for the night. When I chose my book over intimacy or he chose a movie over coming to bed early with me, we addressed it and worked through it. By keeping the conversation going, we were able to find ways to satisfy both of our needs. And in the end, it's really paid off.