Best of Both Worlds podcast: Nurturing your relationship during the busy years

The Best of Both Worlds podcast has listeners of all ages and family types. But the majority are women in what we sometimes call “the busy years” — building a career, raising a young family.

For people in the busy years with spouses/partners, finding time for that particular person can feel really tough. There’s some time diary evidence to bear this out. While women are spending more time working for pay now than they did in the 1960s, and men and women are both spending more time interacting with their children, time couples spend together each week has fallen by several hours.

The good news is that you don’t need a ton of hours to stay connected. In this episode we discuss strategies for putting couple time on the schedule. We do hope to grow old with our husbands and the busy years do not last forever (though with five kids they will last a long time…whoa…)

In the question section, we read a letter from a listener whose oldest friends don’t seem to share her value of equal parenting. While agreeing with our listener that we wish more couples modeled these values, we also note that her own children will be more influenced by her and her husband’s example than by others. We can’t necessarily change other people. We have to simply live the best lives we can and talk with children about why we value what we do.

Please give the episode a listen! And if you’ve had a cool date night lately (or have another tradition, like lunch together with your partner every Wednesday), please let us know!

9 thoughts on “Best of Both Worlds podcast: Nurturing your relationship during the busy years

  1. 1. At home date-nights (we actually call them this – “Okay kids, time for bed – it’s Date Night”) every Saturday – and, now, usually Sunday too.

    We feed the kids supper a bit earlier than normal and don’t actually share the meal with them; we put them to bed a bit earlier too, usually allowing a sleepover in one of their bedrooms with some screen time.

    We adults relax into an evening of delicious food, usually a movie or documentary, and time together. It is one of our favourite relationships “tricks.” When we’re travelling or have company visiting, I miss this more than anything else.

    I blogged about it in more detail a while ago:

    2. The other thing we do for connection is exercising together. Walking/running together is a great way to connect AND check the exercise box off for the day.

    1. @Elisabeth – most of my kids are up later than me on weekends. That said, they could be told to go watch a movie for a while!

      1. Oh the kids are AWAKE through our date-nights, they are just put in their rooms earlier (+ with a laptop to watch a video or have an audiobook playing) than normal.

        I know things may have to change as they get older, but eventually we’ll either be able to leave them home alone OR they’ll be the ones out in the evening with friends/working.

        For now it works, but I’m sure it will take tweaking as the season of life changes…

  2. It was fun to hear about your relationship histories and the longevity of marriage for both of you. Mine got married in 1969, so same year as Sarah’s in-laws I think? They were 20 or 21 at the time? Hard to imagine now but that was a different world and they were HS sweethearts. My husband’s parents were married for 40+ years before his dad died. I got married late in life (at least for this region – midwest) at 36 and then had babies at 37 and just shy of 40. So we are in those exhausting early years of parentings. But this episode reminded me that we are sort of in the golden stage of both kids being in bed by 7:30. We spend about an hour watching a show together and then I head upstairs to read for an hour which gives my husband time to watch something else (always something I’d have no interest in watching). We have not gone on a true date since pre-covid times… it’s just hard to fit in and it doesn’t feel like the best use of money to hire a sitter. We’ll get back to going on dates again, maybe after the baby has weaned from breast feeding? Or drinks milk w/ dinner? We’ll see. We did do a day date for our anniversary in 2020 and went hiking at a state park. I was hoping to do that again this year but it just didn’t happen. I am hoping we can go on our first kid-free getaway since having kids in the spring for our 5 year anniversary.

    As far as the listener question goes, one other thing I wanted to mention is that just because you were raised in a family that demonstrated a certain style of parenting doesn’t mean you will end up that way (in other words, her friends kids won’t necessarily have the same balances as their parents). I was raised in a very traditional household where the mom did much of the domestic work. But as an adult, I have as equitable of an arrangement possible. When we were engaged, my husband and I talked about the kind of marriage we wanted and how we wanted to split the responsibilities. And it’s been renegotiated as we added children. So her friends children aren’t destined to have a similar set up. My parents raised me to be a very strong and independent person and there were so non-traditional things about my parents relationship, like my mom completely managed the money/finances. I do think about the example we are setting for our sons, though. I like that they see dad getting groceries, helping with dishes and laundry, making meals, etc. It is a different model from what I experienced and hopefully that will encourage them to be the same kind of husband that their dad is to me. But I feel like I’m an example of the fact that you aren’t necessarily going to have the same marriage your parents did. Which may mean someone raised in an equitable house hold might end up in a less equitable house hold? It may come down to personality and what is most important to that person?

    1. @Lisa- very true that people don’t always wind up emulating what their origin families were like. Indeed, people can go completely the opposite direction!

  3. I really enjoyed this episode! I find it hard to have good quality time with my spouse when we are home. Our kids are bigger now and they are awake all evening. We have the best “couple time” when we either go away to a hotel for a night or two or go to dinner etc with another couple. For us getting out of the house seems to be crucial.

    1. @Sarah K – I have been trying to enforce the rule that children are upstairs in their rooms after 9 p.m. on weekdays…but inevitably somebody is up for something! So yes, not very good private couple time.

  4. Great topic and one that can fall low on the priority list. When I tracked my time for a week in January my biggest insight was how little time my husband and I spent together alone. It was a goal for the year that we have done OK at. Two focus areas are 1. trying to do monthly dates that are more active than dinner out: tennis, bike rides or kayaking and 2. use the evening time we do have with more “effortful fun” like dominos, playing cards, puzzles (he will do those!), etc. But it all take energy which can be in short supply.

    My parents have been married 51 years and the other thing I tell myself is there will be hard times. My parents almost got divorced at one point but if they had 5 years that were tough, or even 10, isn’t that still a success in the grand scheme of a 50+ year marriage? It supports your point of realistic expectations that it’s not all sunshine and roses and maintenance phase is OK at times.

  5. My kids still go to bed at 7:30 and I’ym now terrified at the thought that parenting is going to get harder in the next couple years. Thanks…

    This week’s question struck a nerve for me, probably because I’m a wife/mom who let her career take a serious backseat (not your target audience). I guess if that’s really the questioner’s highest value – that spouses must have equally-prioritized professional lives, and equal proficiency in all parenting-related tasks – then she wants friends who share it. But there are so many dimensions in which children can seek role models; families whose work/parenting balance is unequal may have many admirable qualities that outweigh this particular disagreement.

    Also, parenting is hard, especially in the beginning, and complaining is how some people bond. When my kids were babies, my new-mom friends and I complained about our husbands constantly, even though they were all excellent fathers (aside from their inability to lactate, or gestate baby #2). It’s possible that the division of labor in these families is more equal than the questioner realizes.

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