My husband Ty* is on sabbatical, enjoying some well-earned ‘me-time’. And since I’m also taking a break from paid work, we have plenty of ‘we-time’ at our disposal.
Yes. It’s a privilege not available to everyone and we feel very fortunate to have the opportunity. But it’s not without challenges. A topic for another day, perhaps …
Coincidentally, an article from Mumlyfe recently popped up on my Facebook feed espousing the importance of both ‘me-time’ and ‘we-time’, particularly for parents. And it prompted me to reflect on how Ty and I spent our ‘we-time’ BBC (Before Business and Children), then contrast that with ‘we-time’ ABC (After Business and Children).
BBC, carving out time together was easy. I worked long hours; Ty had a cushy job and played lots of sport. Outside of those commitments, our time was our own and we chose to spend most of it together. Often just hanging out, absorbed in our own particular interests (him – TV; me – books), yet content to be doing so side by side in our shared space.
We particularly loved our Friday night rituals. A weekly excursion to the local supermarket, strolling up and down the aisles together. It’s crazy to think I married one of the few men who enjoy grocery shopping 🤷. Me, menu-planning on the fly and flitting from shelf to shelf grabbing essential grocery items for the week. Ty, wrestling with the trolley and filling it with non-essential comfort foods – potato chips, chocolate, ice-cream – when my back was turned 🙄
Then home via the local fish ‘n’ chip shop to pick up our Friday night feast. Hot, crispy flake, potato cakes, dimmies and chips laid out on fine butcher’s paper, served with tomato sauce (for him) and soy sauce (for me). Enjoyed picnic style on the lounge room floor, in the comfort of our trackie-daks or pjs. Washed down with a bottle of fine Australian bubbles🥂
On the 8th day of each month, we raised the bar a notch and planned something a little more special to commemorate the day we met – usually dinner at a nice restaurant. And then after we married, we made sure to celebrate each wedding anniversary and birthday with a getaway – a few days in a B&B, hotel or resort somewhere we hadn’t been before.
ABC, these rituals required a bit of tweaking to survive the relentless demands of parenting. Supermarket shopping, like most of the home-based chores, somehow defaulted to me 😒 8th-day observances ceased because weeknight child-minding was tricky to organise. And, if I’m honest, they began to seem a bit self-indulgent, triggered feelings of guilt … and you know how it goes …
But Friday fish ‘n’ chip night endured, as three became four on the floor around the butcher’s paper. And with the help of parents and siblings, who understood the importance of ‘we-time’ and willingly cared for our children, we continued our mini birthday and anniversary getaways – grateful for the opportunity to remove our parent hats, however briefly, and rediscover the person we fell in love with.
Of course, realising how fortunate we were and careful not to abuse the goodwill of our supportive sitters, we tried to limit other child-free outings, opting instead for date nights at home.
These date nights required some serious advanced planning and negotiation with little people. Actually, who am I kidding? We didn’t negotiate. We bribed Lizzie* and Will* with fast food and DVDs and allowed them to sleep together camping style in a makeshift bed on the floor in the spare room. They thought it was great fun. An adventure in their own home. And in return for these ‘treats’, they agreed to leave us in peace to enjoy our ‘date’.
Once the kids were settled, Ty and I would prepare a special meal together and enjoy it by candlelight with a bottle of wine (or two, depending on the prevailing stress level). Sometimes, we’d follow with a slow dance around the living room to some of our favourite tunes.
As on our getaways, we’d vow to talk about anything but the children, then proceed to talk endlessly about them. But Lizzie and Will were a source of such shared love, pride, joy and wonder, that those conversations intensified our connection.
It wasn’t all sunshine and rainbows though. As mentioned in my bio, Ty and I ran a business together for 20 years. When business was going well, it enhanced our personal life. But in tough times, we packed up the challenges and conflicts at the end of each work day and took them home with us. Allowed them to infiltrate our family and leisure time, dominate our conversations, drive a wedge between us. Perfunctory exchanges and quiet seething supplanted date nights. ‘We-time’ after hours dropped off the radar. It was the last thing on our minds.
Then, like the weather in Melbourne, we’d wait a bit and a change would roll through. Storms cleared and the sun shone again on our partnership. All would be right with the world … until the next time threatening clouds gathered on the horizon …
I sometimes wonder how we managed to work together for so long and stay married. It seems like one of life’s great mysteries.
Sure, work was an added complication in our life, but I think all relationships are like a rollercoaster ride. With highs and lows; ups and downs; laughs and tears; good times and bad. You can’t afford to get comfortable or complacent. Change is always in the wind.
So, maybe it’s important to have a goodwill buffer or some form of insurance to mitigate the worst of the relationship risks and help us ride the bumps. And ‘we-time’ might be the answer.
The way I see it … throughout our 37 years together, we’ve made regular small deposits of ‘we-time’ into our relationship account. The shared experiences have accumulated over time and strengthened our bond exponentially. So, during challenging times, we’ve been able to withdraw from this account, rely on its reserves of love, trust, respect and support to keep us together … until we’re ready to start depositing again.
I’d call that a sound investment strategy.
How do you and your partner invest in ‘we-time’?
*names have been changed