In my post about kids, I received a comment from someone who wished I would have written a bit more. So here are a few bits of advice I have on ways to keep your marriage your number one focus even after kids. (I understand that this will not apply to many of my readers, but take what you may. I also know this list is not exhaustive and if you have anything to add, feel free to comment!)
John and I implemented a few key "rules" in maintaining a close marriage after kids.
The first thing we agreed to was that our bedroom would always be our bedroom. We have no pictures of our kids in our bedroom, it's a toy-free zone, the boys were in their own cribs (not in our room) within two or three week of being born, and we keep our bedroom our marriage "sanctuary". This has helped us have a place, an adult place, in our home (Because toys seem to take over!).
Second: We make date nights a priority. We are blessed with good friends and plenty of close family members to make this happen. Of course, this didn't happen till the boys were about 6 months, but now John and I make an effort to have at least one date a month. And when we are out, alone it's our "rule" to not talk about the boys. At first this was hard, but now I look forward to the two or three hours of just adult talk with John.
Third: John and I have "mini" dates each day. Jill Savage, founder of Heart at Home, suggests this in one of her books. A mini date is about being intentional in having alone time every day. You have to be intentional about this because with two toddlers running around, it's not that easy. But once you get into the routine of having time each day, you look forward to that quality time.
Fourth: We've maintained early bedtimes for our boys in order to allow for "us" time when they are in bed. Normally, our boys go to bed between 7:30 and 8:30 pm. This gives us a good hour or two where the house is quiet, we keep the TV (sitcoms) off, and we play games, talk, soak in our hot tub, read, or just watch a movie together.
Fifth: We believe that our children do not come first. Because kids are so needy (let's face it, when they are young they need almost 100% attention) we have to be intentional about keeping each other number one. There are a 100 things each day you can do to put your mate first. They are alot of little things, but I know it helps us keep our marriage a focus and priority.
Sixth: John and I firmly believe that we were given our children to train them in the ways of the Lord. We make it our goal to teach them obedience and that they are under our authority. We believe that one day they will be under the Lord authority, thus we want to teach them to obey Him, by being obedient with us. This takes work and consistence. But when you train your children they are a joy to be around and this, I believe, will enhance your marriage. (I strongly recommend: Shepherding a Child's Heart by Tedd Tripp for wonderful tips on training your child's heart.)
Finally: If you've read my blog for any amount of time, you'll know I am a communication junkie. I love being honest and real, especially with John. John and I have been about to talk openly about our differences in parenting style, how we view each others discipline style, what we're thinking, and how we're feeling. These conversations have drawn us closer as we navigate new territory of parenting and new seasons of our marriage. Without that honesty, I believe I'd feel suffocated by some of my own crazy emotions!
Hope this helps!