Why I insist on time away with just him
With the summer fast approaching (or has it arrived?) I am aware that my child-free time will soon be a thing of the past as the school summer holidays will soon be upon us. My three children will be at home, and we will be revelling in all the simple summer holiday fun we can find - quiet days at home, fun days out locally with friends, hot days at the South coast with Granny and cousins, and of course our family holiday in Greece in August.
My kids have never taken to kids clubs (instant loathing in fact), and with my husband's work barely letting up in the summer, the holiday childcare always comes back to me. I may use a local babysitter for a few hours cover here and there, and over the years have found this kind of 'bespoke' childcare to work out best for us (for quality, flexibility and finances) anyway.
And so over the parenting years, and whilst having the flexibility I have working for myself from home, I have chosen to see each summertime as an opportunity to create memories, and lean into the privilege of being present with my kids as much as life/admin/work demands/needing to get round the supermarket in peace will allow.
This will be my 16th summer of parenting. With a 15, 12 and 4 year old I have a few more to come and I plan on making them all count in some small way. I have so many banked memories of day trips to Legoland, trains into London just wandering on the Southbank, hanging out in the local park in the sunshine, being at home doing not very much with the TV idly on in the background...
I keen not to over schedule us. I have 3 very different children to consider, but equally I really don't like to have nothing in the diary as I go stir crazy quite quickly with nothing at all planned. And nowadays the 2 older children have a strong opinion (and strong peer influence) around what they are prepared to join in with - so managing expectations is also very important.
And while I enjoy being with my children and value this extended time together, I am also craving time alone with my husband. Time for just us to chat things through and Be.
We have learnt that if we don't make Us a priority then small cracks start to appear and communication issues are exacerbated as there is always so much to discuss and share on a weekly basis with a busy household, 3 children at 3 different schools, my work, and my husband travelling away with his work most weeks. Life takes over too easily and before you know it you're missing the deep couple connection that led you to create this family in the first place.
And so we make it a priority to take time out for just us. We are lucky to have grandparents to call on to support us in this.
Next weekend my husband and I will take off for a long weekend in London, just the two of us, Friday to Sunday. We don't feel bad about this as the kids have us most weekends, and my Mum is stepping in to taxi them all to parties (both Teen and Toddler) and various sporting activities (Tween), and ensure there is an endless supply of beige carbs available. We are also lucky that we have a live in au pair at the moment who is able to support Granny (I will write another post on this/childcare generally as I feel it is an important thread worthy of proper separate discussion).
And so my husband and I will relax, eat fine food, enjoy cocktails and lies ins and everything else that goes with being blissfully childfree for 48 hours in a hotel in London. We will chat, reminisce, reconnect and just press pause on the business and busy-ness of family life for a few hours.
But by Sunday morning, with the return home looming, we will be itching to get back to it all. We will have refuelled and refilled and reconnected, and possibly cleared up an issue or two that might have been lingering in the background of #familylife. Our conversation will turn back to matters of home; family and house and kids and life stuff and we will take some time to write a few notes on it all and come back from our break with a buzzing list (I do love a list) of short term plans and actions to be done before our family holiday in August, and longer term plans that need time to percolate.
Which might sound a bit masochistic given that it was intended to be a relaxed weekend off, but actually this forward thinking and planning will enable the next few weeks and our family holiday to be less pressurised. It will enable loose ends of life admin to be tied up before we go away; it will enable new dreams and ideas to be played with and held lightly while we are away; it will mean that while we are away there will be less chance of anything new or big or surprising coming up and getting in the way as we are likely to have discussed it already. It will allow the holiday to be just that, a holiday with the pressure taken off and the connection we seek as a couple well under way.
And that sort of talk does not happen with kids around. Life gets in the way, there is no such thing as a child-free evening in our house anymore, family life gets busy and hectic and perhaps a little over-scheduled (too easily done when there are 5 of us all with different needs and timings and desires).
That sort of talk needs to be scheduled in. And timed well. And handled carefully. And led from the front. And that is my role. And to then be able to share the thinking with my husband, it becomes his role too. And a huge part of the reconnection we seek is in the planning and scheduling of stuff like this. So that it does not build up and become issue and emotion laden.
And so that is why I insist on time away together. It is a huge part of our family success, our relationship success, because we make our relationship, and planning and dreaming for our future together - through the 'parenting years' and beyond - a priority.