How we get quality time together as a homeschooling, full time travelling couple
Top o’ the morning to ya, and what a fine day it is. A cloud of micro-flies has set up camp in our bathroom and refuses to leave no matter what we do, there is a monkey dangling his ‘bits’ over the edge of our roof and Patrick just got kicked out of the Balinese Embassy in Colombo for showing his ankles, the saucy minx.
I thought that today was a good day to talk about something that a few people have asked, both homeschooling families and those interested in that or the full time travel lifestyle.
It is, when our kids are around us 24/7, how do we make time to spend together as a couple?
I’ll tell you what we did in the UK and what we do now that we live on the road.
Couple time as a homeschooling family in the UK
In the UK, Patrick worked full time in an office and I was at home with the kids. I worked from home so each day I would do what I call ‘taking the emotional temperature’ of the kids- if they were all perfectly content chilling at home and entertaining themselves (which they are super good at) I would get on with some work if I needed to. On other days when we were all stir-crazy by breakfast time, I would take them out and do work in the evenings. My Mum had the girls every Thursday so that I could get a full day of work in, which I really needed.
With regards to ‘marriage time’, Patrick and I would go out whenever a trusted family member could look after the kids. It wasn’t easy as our siblings don’t live close by but they were kind enough to sometimes come over so we could go out for the evening. We never went far, just down the road to Pizza Express or the local pub- usually anywhere where we had vouchers for!
We also like to sit together when Patrick came home from work; even if I’d had dinner with the kids I would sit with P and chat. We also didn’t have a TV so as soon as the kids were in bed we would go to bed (three homeschooled kids is TIRING) and chat, watch something on the iPad, etc.
We also talked to each other over WhatsApp throughout the day; it was nice to keep that connection and just know what kind of day the other person had. If one of us had had a tough day the other one would be ready to pick up the slack when P came home and would put all the kids to bed so the other could chill out.
As great as the idea of weekly date nights is, I don’t think that it is a realistic concept for most young families. Most of us can’t get weekly babysitters and don’t have a ton of cash, so we can’t go out that regularly- however I think it’s a good idea to still try and implement a stay-in date night if possible, or as close to it as you can get. This might be watching a movie or playing a game together (Bananagrams for the win!) together when the kids are in bed, or one of you cooking a nicer meal than usual (not difficult in our house) and turning off your phones. I think keeping that interest in each other alive is really important in a marriage; Patrick and I are far from perfect but with each year we get better at valuing each other and loving each other.
Useful info: Something we have found helpful is consciously putting time in to maintain and improve our marriage. At work, relationships are evaluated and supported and improved all the time, and you can’t get out of something what you don’t put in. Before we got married we went on a marriage preparation course and last year we went on a 7 week marriage course with other couples which was loads of fun and reminded us to go over and refresh all the different aspects of our relationship. I would definitely encourage people to go on something like this- the one we did was The Marriage Course and we would both recommend it. The Love Languages concepts and books are also really good (see my posts on Love Languages for kids parts 1 and part 2) and can help partners identify how best to love the other person, as well as figure out what is important to them.
Couple time as a full time travelling family
Most of you probably know that we travel with my Mum, so it might seem like we can hit the town most nights of the week. In reality we have gone out for a date together a handful of times in the four months we’ve been travelling, for a few reasons:
- Work. Mum looks after the kids while we work, so we don’t generally ask her to have them in the evening too. It’s not fair on her or the kids and after a day working we often just want to see them and hang out at home (wherever that is).
- Money. We are on a tight budget so we don’t generally splash out on meals out for the adults (we eat at local places most of the time); we save that for the kids’ food. Patrick and I have been to a local buffet twice this week which is awesome- it is £3 each which is expensive for us (really!) but we love it so are treating ourselves!
- Mosquitoes. Seriously! If we get a chance to go out in the evening we have to weigh up the benefits of this with the knowledge that we will get eaten alive (we both get bitten a lot cos we’re super delicious and the products don’t work particularly well on us).
- Sleep. That rare resource that is abundant when you’re young but then kids come along and you have to hack tiny golden flakes of it out of the mine that is parenthood. If the kids are asleep the clock is tick-tocking so we don’t stay out late.
All that said, we have been out a few times and it has been lovely. We also try to keep connection in other ways. People think we are together 24/7 so we must always be chatting, but have you tried to have a coherent conversation with three little kids around? I’m often out at work too so we actually don’t have a ton of time to focus on each other. So we connect throughout the day, often because of something lovely the kids have done or said, and we have ongoing chats that we pick up whenever we can (usually about theology, veganism, parenting, etc). We send each other links to debates and podcasts and memes and just generally keep up the same stuff that we used to when we were best friends in the office where we met. We always end WhatsApp messages and texts with kisses or nice emojis, or message each other ‘Love you’ in the day; just taking the few seconds to do that can make a big difference.
We have also got pretty good at conflict resolution- we used to argue a lot when we first got married but now the main focus is the fact that both of us just want to have a nice time together and that’s more important than whatever it is we disagree about. The first few weeks of travel was super hard, figuring out new dynamics and ways of communicating with us together all the time. We are pretty proud of ourselves having navigated such a huge lifestyle change and it is paying off more all the time.
In summary, we hash it out and do our best. If we are somewhere for a few weeks we try to get into a routine, if not we make it work. Family life is so dynamic and changeable as kids are born and grow up- house moves happen, jobs change and of course for us now we are travelling- I think each couple just has to look at their routine and figure out where they can try and fit in time that is special to them.
I hope that helps! Any questions?
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