Sorry, Costco. You’ve been bumped.

This past weekend was full, not bad, just full. Like many with children, a week’s worth of neglected chores and activities clamor for attention during the brief 48 hour period of a weekend. Saturdays are filled with loads of laundry, errands, friends, and activities, all demanding attention after a week of neglect. Sundays bring the requisite “mapping out” of the week ahead to ensure our family stays on course, including calendar reviews, food prep, house cleaning and homework. Our weekends often demand a pace that exceeds that of the “work/school week” making me long for the predictable routine of a Monday.

For over 22 years, I have used the Franklin-Covey time management system. Through the years, I have been to their training courses.  Yearly, I become giddy over new “filler pages” and refresh my understanding of the core principles of the Franklin-Covey method. Daily, I plan my days, mapping out what needs to be done according to my core values and priorities. I try to follow my plan faithfully, keeping “the big picture” in mind.

Then, Saturday morning rolls in like the San Francisco fog, so subtle it escapes notice–until you’re in the thick of it. I get swept away in the busyness of a volatile weekend. I break all the rules of my time management training. I react to unscheduled demands for my time, plugging this “need” in here and that “want” in there. I add tasks to my list as the day goes on and shift priorities with the passing hours. A weekend’s value becomes defined by the check marks on a “to-do” list.  I focus on “putting out fires” rather than prevention. Often, I lose focus altogether.  And, I push to “do it all” before Monday.

For 22 years, I have followed the rules of Franklin-Covey with discipline. It is a system that works for me and I like its precepts. It empahsizes that time is our most precious resource and should be spent in accordance to our core values. It teaches that daily “to-do” tasks should be prioritized according to those core values. Though not for everyone, this system has served me well over the years and kept me focused on what I value most, my family.

Yesterday morning, as I prepared for the week ahead, I looked at the semi-blank pages of Saturday and Sunday. They contained the normal “weekend to-do’s”; laundry, a Costco list, notes requiring follow-ups, the usual.  Glaringly absent, though, was the scheduled date with my husband. Sure, I forget things–but I’m not there, yet. I knew we were going out Saturday night; it wasn’t that I needed a written reminder.  What caught my attention was that Costco and laundry had merited notation on Saturday’s task list–a list that should reflect my core values.  I flipped back through several weekends. I found the same.

Yes, keeping my family in clean clothes and well fed support my #1 core value–to love my family well. However, before we were a family, my husband and I were a couple. Becoming a family has brought us huge rewards and placed huge demands on our relationship. Tending the needs of children can often leave us with little energy for each other. Conversations become focused on the minutia of day-to-day life. Energies are spent on parenting, household projects, and the like. Relationship nurturing is regularly displaced  by daily trivia.

Next month, we will mark 25 years since our first date. This past Saturday, I held hands with my husband in the movie theater. My stomach fluttered with butterflies as we sat in the dark. I was glad for the time with him, just him, as my husband. I wanted to leave my role as “mother” and his as “father” at home. For just a few hours, we would focus on us. I didn’t want our time encroached upon by talk of children or jobs. We saw a movie that generated conversation. Subsequently, we talked about a king and a time in history long past. There were moments of awkward silence as we struggled to avoid the “default” topics. We searched for common ground outside of children. We muddled through.

Sunday morning, we talked again. We have both long recognized the importance of keeping “us” first in our family. We are the core of our family and, I believe, a solid core unit is critical to child’s sense of well-being. It is also critical to surviving the transition into the empty nest years. According to studies, the divorce rate rises 16 percent for married parents in the empty nest years. Often it is due to the fact that many marriages have become frail and fractured through neglect. Marriages require regular nurturing, especially during the demanding years of parenting.; the years when maintenance can be toughest.

My parents had a love affair that lasted almost 50 years. In my opinion, it was the greatest legacy they offered their children. They worked hard to keep their romance alive, and I watched as even they hit a relationship “speed bump” early on in their empty nest years. That lesson was not lost. Saturday’s date, albeit enjoyable, reminded me of the importance of regular relationship care, especially before we become empty nesters. Bridges must be built before they can be crossed. And, even the strongest of bridges requires regular maintenance.  A Costco list may yield food for my family’s  tummies, but a date with my husband will feed their spirits, as well as mine. Sorry, Costco. You’ve been bumped. I have higher priorities.

This weekend I was reminded that, while we still love each other greatly, transitioning our relationship will require new effort from both of us. In many ways, we are not the same people we were before children. Dating during these transition years will open doors to  re-discover the familiar while discovering “the new” in each other.  I am looking forward to the fun, to the flirtation, and to the relaxed play without need for babysitters or curfews.  I believe it is essential to building a solid foundation for the next chapter in our marriage so that we might offer our children a legacy of love.

Now, where did I leave my planner? We have dates to get scheduled.

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