THE ART OF THE MICRO-DATE // quality moments for time-poor parents

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Time is precious in our house.

OH works really long hours running his own business, often leaving before we get up and arriving back home after the girls are in bed. We barely have time to say ‘hi’ to each other before he heads off for some much-needed sleep, and the rigmarole begins again the next day.

Which is why our weekends are sacred, as we’re basically cramming a week of family time into just two days. Which has its own challenges: by the time Saturday rolls around the girls are desperate to see Daddy, and he’s yearning to see them after a week of only seeing them asleep. From my end, however, after spending every single minute of the week being sole caregiver and household organiser, and juggling work on top (my family are all back in New Zealand so there’s no one to call for backup), I. Just. Need. A. Break.

I’m a classic extroverted-introvert and need time to myself to recharge or I start feeling stressed and overwhelmed. Sometimes I just take myself off to my room to read a book, or watch a movie on the iPad, or go to the gym. After that we shoehorn in some much-loved family time, or head off to attend special events with family and friends.

But there’s one thing that always seems to drop off the bottom of our ‘To Do’ list, and that’s our time together as a couple. We made a promise at the beginning of this year that’d we’d earmark a night every six weeks unapologetically for us… we managed drinks and dinner in February and seven months later we’re still waiting for our follow-up date. Sure, we had a big home renovation earlier in the year that took up a lot of our time and energy, but it’s finished now and we’re still struggling to carve a few hours out for ourselves. There are literally not enough hours in the day.

Add to that the exorbitant cost of babysitters when you don’t have grandparents to call on, and we not getting quality OR quantity time.

So I was interested to hear about a new concept in quality time for overstretched parents. Micro-dating was actually introduced to me by the team at Legal & General (you know, the insurance and investment people), who surveyed 1000 parents earlier this summer and discovered that 67 percent of us believe a regular ‘date night’ is vital to the health of their relationship. However, the majority of us struggle to actually find the time, money and energy to squeeze them into our social schedules.

The answer? The micro-date. No, not a tiny dried fruit from the Middle East – I mean bite-sized chunks of quality time squeezed from an ordinary day. This can take the form of a coffee together before the school-run, a video call at lunchtime, or a catchup while the kids do their swimming lesson. It doesn’t matter so much WHERE you are, so long as you dedicate that bit of time to each other, and are attentive and ‘present’ (to use therapy-speak).

In the case of me and OH it’s a bit trickier, as his job is extremely demanding and there’s no such thing as lunch breaks or spare time in the evenings. I’m not a natural morning person, but I do enjoy that calm period before the girls wake up, so every so often I’ll get up before OH leaves at 6am. He doesn’t drink coffee (I drink enough for both of us) but at least I get to give him a hug before he rushes out the door.

We both love movies so when we do have a free Saturday evening we’ll get the girls in bed, crack open a bottle of wine and settle down to watch something together (political thrillers are our favs). In summer we sit out on the back deck, listening to music (or should I say – arguing about what to play next) and watching the kites circling overhead, and the sun setting behind the hills.

Do I wish we had more time together? Yes. But it is what it is at the moment, so rather than complaining about what I can’t change I’m going to keep making the very most of the time we have, and seek out new micro-dating moments every month.

How do you squeeze in quality time with your partner? 

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