To celebrate our first anniversary, Frank and I hiked the West Highland Way in Scotland. The nearly 100 mile trail wound through farms and small towns. Some days we saw lots of people; other days it was just us on our section of the trail. I’ve written before about one of my favorite days: When Frank and I hiked separately for the whole day, taking in the scenery and processing our thoughts at our own pace. We met up for lunch and, of course, that evening we walked into town together. We were never out of each other’s sight, but we weren’t together, either.
That evening, when we sat on the sunporch at our B&B, we reflected that it was a good day. We connected, we had a shared experience, but we each had time to ourselves.
Frank and I are in a season of squeezing alone time into the margins. We’ve been practicing a rhythm that seems to work well for our family at this moment: Frank gets up super early and is at work by 5:00 but then he’s home before dinner’s on the table. This means that we’re heading to bed by 9:00 every night, which is probably a healthy choice in any case.
The only downside to this arrangement is that our evenings together are shorter. We have to be more intentional about our 45 minutes before bedtime. But what I’ve found is that, because there wasn’t a crazy rush of dinner! Daddy’s home!! Finish! Play a game that winds us down rather than up! Bedtime!! we are able to have more quality connection in those 45 minutes than when we had longer but were more tired.
Often, in these 45 minutes before our 9:00 alarm sounds, we don’t talk much. We’ll read or scroll Facebook. Sometimes we sit and talk and dream. Sometimes we look at the budget. Whatever we do, we do it side by side. We are sure to sit on the couch together; to sit next to each other, even if we’re not talking.
In some ways, this season reminds me of that day of hiking. We’re together in this, we are in each other’s sight, but we aren’t necessarily walking at the same pace. We’re tag teaming bedtime and household duties. And yet, because we’re still in sight; because we aren’t disconnected, it seems to be working.
Of course, we need actual in-person connecting for this all to work. But it’s a good reminder that sometimes you need quantity time to just soak in (like after tax season) and sometimes we need to recognize the importance of quality time, when we simply don’t have a quantity.
In this season when I’m rarely alone and when I simultaneously need to spend my time connecting, I’m thankful for a partner who recognizes the need to stay in view, to do the work together, and to leave space for quiet.
If you have a partner, how do you connect at the end of a day filled with work and kids and life? How do you best unwind?
This post is Day 5 of the Write 31 Day Challenge. I’m spending the month of October writing about the StrengthsFinder test. You can find the entire series over at Live Your Strengths page.