How do you keep your marriage strong when raising a busy family?

My husband and I have five children ages 8, 6, 5, 3 and 4 months. As parents of this many children, you’d think we’d have it all “figured out” by now. Balancing schedules and routines, meeting each other’s needs, making time for each other, and fulfilling our roles as parents and spouses. However, parenting is nothing if not an absolutely humbling experience.  We’re constantly learning, evolving and adjusting to the rotating seasons of life as the kids grow and develop.

The minute you think you have it together and are finally reaching some semblance of an equilibrium, something changes. Praise God He is the same yesterday, today and tomorrow and His love strengthens even tired, weary, and cluttered parents of young children.  

Most married couples raising young children struggle with keeping their marriage strong. With that in mind, there are three tenants we strive to keep consistent and make a priority in order to keep our marriage relationship strong and allow God’s fruits of the Spirit to flow freely through us: 1. Keep God first 2. Be intentional about one on one time, and 3. Get outside help.

1. Keep God first.

We strive each day to make our relationship with God our first priority. If we each, individually, make Him our priority and work harder on our relationship with Him than we do on anything else, everything else falls into place. It’s when our focus shifts and we begin relying on our own, human strength, to make it through the long days and, often, longer nights that everything around us begins to crumble. Our marriage is at its strongest if each of us is actively pursuing God and finding the time to shift our focus back to him. Brett makes time every morning for reading and quiet time in prayer in addition to attending a weekly Bible study and accountability group at Bayside. He’s found that Biblical study, prayer, and accountability, are game changers in maturing his relationship with Jesus. Admittedly, I’ve found it more difficult to stay consistent in my daily walk with the Lord during this busy season of life. Lately, I’ve been up countless hours at night with a newborn while also homeschooling our older children during the day. I usually attend CBS (Community Bible Study), and have been going for a number of years. It is an incredible local Bible study program that has childcare for infants and toddlers and Bible study class for young children through high school aged young adults that corresponds with the study the mothers are going through in their own small groups. It has been an invaluable resource of godly wisdom, fellowship, support, and growth for me during this busy season. Unfortunately, I’ve had to take a break after having our newest addition as the transition has been more difficult than expected and it started to be too difficult to get all 4 older children as well as a newborn out of the house in time to attend. However, I’m praying that we will be able to return by the next session and pick up where we left off. The kids have been missing it as much as I have and we all can’t wait to start back up again now that we’re finally coming out of the newborn stage with our youngest and entering a more flexible season of life again.

I’ve certainly never needed God more than I do now. I’ve just had to adjust my perspective and find new ways to enter into my relationship with Him. It’s become more fluid. A consistent leaning on Him throughout my day. Asking Him for strength, patience, and wisdom as I navigate our daily activities and prayerfully respond to issues that arise. My devotion and time with God has taken a variety of forms as my family has grown, developed, and adjusted to new seasons of life. Although, I’ve found that as long as I’m actively seeking and relying on Him, everything else, no matter how difficult or exhausting it is, suddenly becomes more manageable. 

 2. Be intentional about one-on-one time

Second to relying on God for our strength as we navigate family life, we’ve found that deliberately carving out one-on-one time for each other to be a necessity in keeping our marriage healthy and strong. This helps us recharge our emotional tank and love tank at the same time and can come in a variety of forms; a weekend away, a couple of hours for dinner and wandering around Roseville, or simply sitting in a coffee shop together and watching all the stressed-out college students pound away on their laptops and sit in a spirit of thankfulness that those days are over for us even with how crazy this new season of life is. However, more often than not, it simply means working together to get the kids to bed extra early so we can watch our favorite shows together, read books out loud to one another or enjoy an uninterrupted conversation about our day.

It’s easy to get lost under the seemingly insurmountable list of things that need to be done. The mountain of clothes haunting you from the laundry room, the cluttered house, errands that need to be run, kids that need to be bathed, dinner that needs to be prepared, and your relentless three-year-old yelling at you to put more ice in her sippy. It is a 24/7 job. 100% work and 100% joy. It has never been more important for us to have realistic expectations and perspective. Sometimes it’s okay to close the door to the laundry room, ignore the clutter, order a pizza, and ask your 8-year-old to put some ice in her sister’s sippy cup so you and your spouse can have a little extra time together. Loving each other, and choosing to not allow the noise and movement of young children get in the way of our #2 is crucial to our success in keeping our marriage strong. 

3. Get outside help.

Last, but certainly not the least, is getting help. This can come in the form of grandparents taking the kids to the park and helping out around the house or signing up for a gym membership with childcare so you can get some time for yourself and boost your energy and health. Our gym membership has a pool and cafe, so, often times, (especially in the summer) Brett and I will just drop the kids off in the child care then go hang out by the pool, eat lunch, relax, and read our books. We call it a “date day”. It’s liberating to not have to line up childcare for the kids if we’re feeling desperate for time together and can just spontaneously take them and get a break. Another strategy we use for getting help is occasionally using a meal delivery service so that we don’t have to worry about meal planning mid-week. We also do the majority of our shopping online through Amazon or other online retailers that will deliver groceries as well as diapers, wipes and other necessities. Let’s be honest, trying to shop with five kids is an absolute circus. We homeschool, so our kids are home all day and I don’t get a break to get things like that done. Any way we can optimize our time and our energy removes a strain and potential stress on our relationship by giving us more time to focus on the things that matter the most. 

Our formula certainly isn’t foolproof and it’s always evolving as we grow, but we’ve found that the stress and exhaustion that can accompany having a family with young children begins to fade and our relationship with each other begins to thrive when we’re successfully practicing those three things.

Melanie & Brett Swarts

Here is a free online Youtube Video series we found to be biblical, uplifting and actionable instead of our usual Netflix night that we found incredibly valuable and hope that you will too:

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