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Meet the woman who schedules time away from her family every week.

My husband and I schedule our time together and it’s romantic. Seems like an oxymoron, right?

Scheduling sounds all clinical and mathematical. And, yes, I guess it is. I hated the idea initially. I’m a go-with-the-flow kind of girl and if someone had told me my marriage would be operating on a timetable, I would have laughed.

I used to think romance was meant to be all spontaneous and free, unencumbered by the minutiae of practical life. I watched way too many rom-coms in my 20s, clearly.

I schedule time away from my family every week
Vanessa is very happy with the scheduling arrangement. Image supplied.

And I then I married a mathematically inclined man. And we had a child. I’m not sure when our first scheduling occurred but I feel like it coincided with the first few years of parenting. I remember our collective despair when we realised that vast expanse of post-dinner time we had so enjoyed, was gone.

Somehow, in parenthood it has whittled from four hours to two. And God, we missed that time. To reconnect, to do the things we loved spontaneously, or just to zone out in front of the television together. Thinking back, it’s like my brain can’t even compute how it used to work before our schedule. I guess we just had more time.

Now we have Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday nights where we hang out. It’s negotiable. Things pop up. Sometimes we switch things around. We still have dinner most nights as a family but after our child’s in bed, we’ll go our separate ways, to watch our own TV shows, read our own books, blog our own blogs or gobble up hours of time accidently on Facebook.

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If it’s a date night, I’ll usually cook a dinner that involves wine, we’ll watch a movie we know we’ll both like, or a show we’re tracking together, have sex and go to sleep at roughly the same time.

When I first started to tell friends that this is what my life looked like I expected them to widen their eyes in horror. How boring. How particular. How unromantic.

But instead, they looked at me and for some of them a light went on behind their eyes. They told me that they hardly see their husband, even though he’s sitting on the lounge next to them every night. Or, maybe he wasn’t on the lounge last night, maybe he was on the computer. Had they watched the movie together or separately?

Maybe one of them had drifted off to do something else half way though. They couldn’t really remember. And sex. Did they have it this week, or last? Or was that the week before? It all ran together, in the way life so often does, when it’s not being scheduled.

But how does it work? They’d ask me. What do you do when it’s your night off? Don’t you just want to hang out with him all the time? At first, I must admit, I struggled a bit. I grew up in a family that did everything together. My parents are both infinitely generous with their time and easy going.

How do you know if you’ve found the one? How do you know if you are willing to change a bit to be with the one? Post continues after video…

Our life was very social and outdoorsy, which marries nicely with parenthood. But my husband needs his time and space and so, it turns out, do I.

I am a reader and a writer, and both of these things necessitate time alone. I have read so many more books since our scheduled life. I will usually organise one post-dinner drink with a girlfriend a week. And I write fiction, so I have less excuses to avoid writing.

On weekends things are a little more flexible but we still come up with a rough plan. We’ll have an afternoon or morning of family time, and then there are the inevitable parties and extended family events, chores and trips to the supermarket, not all of which we do together.

I schedule time away from my family every week
Vanessa and her husband enjoying scheduled together time. Image supplied.
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I’ve become aware that some families do everything together, all the time, even trips to the supermarket. And there is something beautiful about this, too. Some people are not made for schedules. They don’t need to have time alone, away from the tribe. They carve it out naturally.

I think maybe, I used to be one of those people.

Friends in relationships without kids probably don’t need to schedule their time as much, but even so, some have said they’re tempted by the idea. I’ve realised, talking to them, it’s not only about time. It’s about focus.

So often our focus is so fractured. It’s the fault, I guess, of having the whole world ready to open up on our phones, all the time. We end up spending a lot of time in a kind of passive consumption of information. We are, in some ways, slaves to the what wonders you can see next down that colourful internet highway.

But when you carve out time with more intention, you create space and focus.

Maybe it’s about quality over quantity. Just because you spend a lot of time with someone, doesn’t mean you’re paying attention to them.

I’m possibly sounding a bit lofty here, but when I talk to most of my friends, they don’t want to spend every night of their lives on their phones, or watching television mindlessly. Sometimes yes, but not every night.

They don’t want their spouse to be invisible to them through sheer, blind, repetition. They want to do a hobby they love but have neglected, or get more sleep so they can, yes, focus better the next day, or they want to read more books.

They want to have more sex. I’m sure a schedule would completely kill the romance for some couples; they do just fine winging it. And there is something to be said for spontaneity in igniting the spark.

If someone could just tell me where it’s hiding, maybe we’ll go wild and hook up on a Monday night this week.

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