We are married with three kids, ranging in age from kindergarten to junior high. We have a hectic life. Some days are extremely hectic. Homeschooling is a rewarding, but time consuming task. On top of the typical homeschool schedule each of the girls is also involved in at least one class at our local public school. The kids have a long list of after school activities. All of them come with child carting duties. On top of all that, our children also expect that we meet their basic needs, in terms of food, clothing, shelter, and healthy relationships.
Melissa and I also have our own individual schedules. I work outside the home. We both volunteer our time for various causes we find important. Even though our lists of hobbies and interests are shorter now than they were before children lived in our home, we still find ourselves with an ongoing challenge. Creating time to spend together, with minimal interruptions, is difficult.
Finding time to talk as a couple is hard during the child raising years. We find it imperative to our success as a parenting team, though. We need time to talk through our days, both what has already happened and what is left to come. As issues arise that affect the kids, we need time to discuss those situations as well.
Conversations that should happen, but don’t because time is never found, are a serious problem in any marriage. In addition, talks between two parents that are constantly interrupted aren’t as worthwhile as those that can be had in peace. Oftentimes, interruptions can actually lead to miscommunication and misunderstandings. This makes situations worse, not better.
One period of time we have found that works for us to consistently converse as adults is during meal preparation. During the work week, that is confined to supper prep, but on the weekends we make most meals together. Our children really enjoy eating, but find the task of preparing a full meal generally boring. They occasionally help, but prefer to bake and cook when the time suits them, not when they are hungry. The girls are far more likely to quickly pop their heads in the kitchen to ask when supper will be ready than to actually help out. As a result, meal prep time has become a perfect opportunity for Melissa and me to keep communication lines open.
In spite of our busy schedule, we are generally able to eat our evening meal together as a complete family almost every weeknight. Most of our meals take around thirty minutes to prepare. Those five nights of meal preparation, Monday through Friday, translate into 150 minutes of very precious time in our marriage. This may not seem like much time for talking about important issues in any given week, but that is what we regularly have to work with between 6 am and 9 pm most days. We have learned to make the most of it.
I have not always been comfortable working in a kitchen, so when we first started cooking together our time was not efficient or conversational. A large portion of our interactions involved me asking what I should be doing to help prepare food. I was causing the interruptions we were trying to avoid. Once I began to better understand Melissa’s ways around the kitchen, though, less discussion surrounding meal prep was required and more time could be spent working cohesively while genuine discussions actually took place.
We generally use our thirty minutes the same way each day. First, we quickly recap the highlights of our individual days. Sometimes this only takes five minutes, other times it takes more. That portion of the conversation gives each of us a peek into one another’s mood and feelings. I learn a whole lot about Melissa’s frame of mind and how she is doing simply by asking about her day. And vice versa.
Second, we talk through any items that need to be discussed with the kids over supper. We want to ensure we are a team when we present items to the family. This is especially important when the news is something the girls might not want to hear.
Finally, if there is still time left, we talk more about other items of interest. The first and second portions of our meal prep conversations are the most important because they relate most closely to our family dynamics and relationships. Discussions about politics, pop culture, sports, and what color to paint the house in five years are saved for times that interruptions don’t matter and undivided attention is not required.
I realize not everybody has the flexibility, or interest, to prepare meals together. My point is that sometimes you need to be creative when trying to find time, as adults, to talk through life and its challenges. Every couple has their own schedules and interests. Find something that works for you. Enjoy and relish a few moments with your spouse during the day. Talk about the important things first. Do it for the betterment of your family.