New baby. Learning a new role. Information overload! Everyone has advice, often conflicting, and I'd say the vast majority of parents are motivated, by love of their children, to try to make the best choices. This post isn't about the choices, but about investing in break time from the potentially overwhelming pressures of the parenting role. Even though rational parenting can make the career both more delightful and more simple, it's still a challenging endeavor i.e. hard work!
I'm not trying to provide a rationale for taking a break (although that's another worthy topic), I'm just offering some tips for smoothing the process.
Here are some ideas that have worked for me:
1. Find the break provider
Recommendations from friends, teachers, and previous babysitters have helped me in the past. I've also heard of great success with trading evenings out i.e. a friend watches your kids and then you watch theirs. Contacting schools that have masters degree programs in child development (or special needs education if your child has a distinctive concern that makes finding a sitter difficult) can be a successful technique as well. Whether it's grandparents, students, friends, or a paid sitter finding the break provider is step one. That said, my husband and I have gone six months without a sitter twice while searching (and treasuring the shorter solo/couple breaks around our son's schedule), so I acknowledge that this can be a difficult step!
2. Coordinating with a sitter
- Start with a supervised play date where you can observe your child and the sitter interacting.
- Give the sitter early notice of dates.
- Find their preferred method of communication! This one surprised me. I didn't think it would make much difference, but I've had dependable sitters who only respond to text messages or email or phone calls.
- If you usually go out in the evening, find occasional daytime opportunities so that the bond with your sitter and child remains positive and comfortable.
- Pay them for their transportation time. That is time they're devoting to you.
- Be positive if they call out. If they're just unreliable, look for a new sitter. If they're sick or something is wrong and they are a quality sitter, being supportive makes them much more likely to stay.
3. Make it quality, couple time
This is where I've found the most differences in our practices. My husband and I look for actions to share! The idea is to share some way to improve together. Before kids, we took flute lessons together and had a wonderful time working our way to basic competence. Then came horseback riding lessons where it was a good thing I started out with more experience, because my husband was a natural (until he developed severe allergies). Dinner outings are fun and sometimes that just hits the spot. It is couple-nurturing to have quiet, devoted sharing time. These were a staple when we just couldn't count on unfractured evening time, but we found we missed that action, growing together, element. For the last couple months, we've been taking voice lessons together and having an absolutely glorious time singing happy songs from old musicals. I'm working on this song - click preview for an excerpt from Seven Brides for Seven Brothers . We're also singing a duet from one of my favorite musicals from childhood youtube clip from 6:04 - 8:38. (The movie,The Slipper and the Rose , is the Cinderella story from the prince's point of view.)
The joy we have found in learning new things and taking growth actions together has been well worth the trials of finding the sitter and it makes every break more exciting! I'd love to hear what you've done to make your couple time most positive because I'm sure there are techniques I haven't tried :)