There are 86,400 seconds in a day. I spend about 83,000 of those seconds changing diapers, folding laundry, washing bottles, putting out fires caused by tiny humans (not actual fires, but big emotions in little bodies), and trying to have at least one cup of coffee. Parenting is hard work. It’s exhausting at times and extremely time consuming.
My husband and I have been married for two years. I started fostering when I was single, but he’s brand new to this foster care world. We are newly married with three kids between us already. We both left very independent, single parent lives to join our family together AND we jumped into foster care. We are juggling not only daily life as parents, but we are adding an entirely different dynamic to our marriage when we say yes to fostering. Each time we say yes to a placement, we are potentially saying no to something else.
As a couple, our relationship is important to us. However, we are outnumbered and our time is very stretched. We found ourselves having to navigate finding time to connect with each other while there were six tiny and not-so-tiny humans begging for our attention . Even this week we had to make the time. We had to set aside 90 minutes for a kid-free dinner to connect. So being committed to the success of our marriage, we make our relationship a priority. It isn’t always easy, but it is worth it.
We look for moments to have one on one time. We leave each other notes. We text throughout the day. We find opportunities to engage with each other, even if it’s just five minutes here and there. Some of our date nights end up being at Walmart or Costco because there are still things that need to get done, but at least we can do them together. It is not always easy to find time to be alone, especially with 6 kids. We have to find babysitters and work around a lot of different schedules, but even if it’s roaming the aisles of Costco and feeding each other samples, it’s worth the effort and the intentionality so that we can connect.
We take advantage of sleepovers with grandparents and godparents. We take advantage of people in our village who say “let me have a kiddo for the night. Or two!” We ask well in advance so that date night or “us time” is on the calendar. Being strategic means we have a plan well in advance and a back up plan… or two. Sometimes it goes great and sometimes we find ourselves adjusting and having a date night on our back porch with cheesecake that was delivered by Door Dash!
It’s easy to get caught up in everyday life and at times feel like you are just two employees at a daycare. It’s easy to forget you are a husband and a wife first, and then you are parents. However, it’s something that can be done. You can thrive in your marriage AND be parents to many, but you have to be wise with your time. You have to fill each other’s love tank.
We do a status check regularly. We learned something at a marriage conference that we still use. We ask each other “how’s your love tank?” Anything below a seven means we need to be more intentional. We need to find time to connect a little more that week. Let’s face it, in a perfect world my love tank would always be a ten out of ten, but that’s unrealistic. We know this. If my love tank is at a seven out of ten it means there’s work to be done. If it’s an eight or nine out of ten it means we are doing pretty good connecting, affirming, and encouraging. So, what’s your love tank at?
So here’s my humble newlywed advice for fostering as a couple:
It isn’t always pretty and it doesn’t always flow the way we like, but we have learned how to make time and stay connected. It’s difficult and tricky, but it is so worth it to maintain a strong connection with your spouse and it’s very doable with a little bit of work, creative thinking, and the village of people who surround you.
What has worked for you? How do you stay connected in the relationships that matter most to you? How do you navigate the challenges of foster and adoptive parenting?
Parenthood in any form is a lot of work – changing the dynamics in your home and rhythms of your daily life. Foster care and adoption may add additional stressors. That’s why it is so important to be on the same page as your spouse; sometimes the best thing you can do for your marriage in foster care is “to listen to each other.”’