My wife Ashley and I just got back from a family vacation with our four young sons. We love our kids more than anything, but braving planes, trains and automobiles (and theme parks) with young kids will bring anyone to the brink of insanity. Now that my mind is slowly recovering from the crazy (but also very fun) trip, I've been thinking about the necessities every married couple needs to keep their sanity in the beautiful-but-hectic years of raising young kids.
This list below isn't comprehensive, but these five things listed below have been lifesavers in our marriage and they could be lifesavers in yours too. Make every item on this list priority and you'll be safeguarding your sanity!
In no particular order, you will need...
1. Reliable babysitters
Notice this is plural. You don't need just one reliable babysitter, you need a plan B and plan C. It blows my mind how many couples don't establish relationships with any babysitters (and then end up losing their sanity as a result). Stop making excuses why you can't find a babysitter! Ashley and I have moved to new cities, and each time, one of our first priorities was to search out, interview and establish relationships with people who could provide consistent, reliable childcare. It has done wonders for our marriage (and our sanity).
2. Friends with kids the same ages as your kids
Maybe you've got some great friends from way back, but they don't have kids yet or their kids are different ages than yours. Definitely maintain those friendships, but you also need to be intentional about seeking out friends in your same season. Find families where your kids and their kids can play together and you and your spouse can also connect with the other parents. We have a small group from church of families who all have kids of similar ages, and those relationships have been such an incredible source of encouragement for our marriage and our kids.
3. A daily "quiet time."
I try to wake up each morning at least thirty minutes before the kids wake up, and I like to spend that time on our back porch with my Bible and a cup of coffee. I listen to the birds chirping as the sun comes up. I enjoy a few moments of peaceful stillness before the chaotic pace of the day sets in. I say a prayer thanking God for the blessings in my life and asking Him to direct my steps and I read some passages from the Bible for instruction, inspiration and direction. Some days I sleep in and miss this ritual, but the extra sleep never helps me nearly as much as this half hour on the back porch*.
*Don't feel guilty about taking time to pull away to recharge. The Bible teaches that even Jesus pulled away from the crowds and his disciples regularly just to pray and recharge. If Jesus needed time away, you do too! Be fully present and engaged with your kids as much as you possibly can, but also take time to recharge personally and spiritually and also reconnect relationally with your spouse.
4. A consistent date night with your husband/wife
One of the single greatest investments we've made in our marriage is to have a consistent date night. It's rarely glamorous or expensive. We often end up just going on a walk and talking, but that time together without kids helps us recharge and become better spouses and better parents. Don't put your marriage on hold while you're raising your kids or you'll end up with an empty nest and an empty marriage!
5. A consistent, overnight getaway with your spouse (without kids)
Several times a year, Ashley and I plan short getaways without kids. You have to have #1 on this list in place (reliable childcare) for this to become a reality. Always having something on the calendar to look forward to is so important. Sometimes, it's as simple as one night at a bed and breakfast right here in town, and other times, we save up our money and splurge on something like a cruise. These take planning and an investment of both time and money, but you can't put a price tag on your marriage (or your sanity).
This article was originally published on Patheos. It has been republished here with permission.