It can be difficult to find the time and energy to care for your relationship once you have kids. In the exhaustion that comes with having and raising three children under the age of four, we have had our fair share of challenges.
The most difficult thing has been balancing the ever-increasing needs and wants of our children with our needs and wants as a couple, and as individuals. The question of how to ensure the wellbeing of one another, ourselves, and the children, all at once, is not always easy to answer. It’s always a bit of a juggling act and we both have trouble keeping all our balls in the air from time to time: We get tired, tempers fray, balls are dropped, or fly off at unexpected trajectories, sometimes landing on our dear one’s toes. In extreme moments, we may propel them in the direction of our other half on purpose. We’re only human after all.
However, we have developed a weekly practice which helps us to acquit ourselves with grace (or at least equanimity) in the circus arena that is our lives. I thought I would share this idea because it has been very helpful.
It is very simple. We have two meetings a week:
On a Sunday night, we have our Planning Meeting: We spend half an hour going through our plans for the week ahead and decide who will do what and when. For instance, we decide who will be responsible for the creche/nursery run on the relevant days. We discuss plans for the following weekend. We announce ambitions like trying to sort out the kid’s toy collection and so on. We don’t always do everything according to The Plan, but the process of making it give us a structure for the week and sets up basic expectations.
On a Wednesday morning, we have our Reflection Meeting: We begin by talking about things which we think are going well in our lives, then discuss any problems that we have noticed, and anything which is bothering us. We decide how we will attempt to solve issues and resolve whatever is bugging us that week. We will evaluate attempts we have already made and refine our strategies.
We have our planning meeting at home, but have found that it is better to have the Reflection Meeting in a local cafe. For a start, it is pleasant to spend time together away from the house, and this also has a distraction-busting effect because we have no other agenda in this place. We do it at a time when we are not going to be rushed, and we are reasonably fresh. This means that we can broach difficult subjects when they arise, with the best possible chance of responding to each other in a constructive way. We can also dedicate time to celebrating our triumphs and being supportive of one another’s ambitions.
Incidentally, we take baby Evie with us, and she either snoozes in the sling or exchanges gummy grins with the regulars while we talk.
Our Reflection Meeting came about after we saw a video on TED, which features a father describing how his family make use of meetings, and why. Follow this link to watch Bruce Feiler tell you how Agile Programming can help you create balance and harmony in the family household.
As the children grow, I expect our meetings will evolve too. I would like to begin having family meetings with the kids when they are a little older, where we can discuss their successes, their troubles, their wishes, how we should expect one another to behave and what the consequences should be for not doing so. I just read a nice blog post about this. Here it is.
These weekly rituals have been really beneficial for us. Knowing that there is time set aside each week for us to really listen to each other is a reassuring harbour in the tempest of our family life and reaffirms our love of one another. I recommend it.
I would love to hear about more useful ideas for keeping a healthy relationship within the context of raising a family. Please feel free to share thoughts xx