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Breaking the Couch Potato Habit

Breaking the Couch Potato Habit

By Amalah

Hi Amy,

Thanks for all the laughs over the years! I am looking for some recommendations from you and your readers. My husband and I have gotten into the habit of putting the kids to bed at night and collapsing in front of the television until one and/or both of us glaze over and fall asleep. Not a terrible thing a couple of times a week, but it’s now every night.

We have a 4 and 2 year old, my husband has demanding job, and I’m home with the kids full-time. Yes, we are tired by 8pm, but realistically we (usually) get enough sleep and I’d like to get more out of our time alone together. What do grown-ups do in the evenings? We don’t really have “hobbies.” In the movies it’s all so romantic: Take a tango class! Work together to solve world problems! Drink fancy martinis in front of a fire! Unfortunately, we can’t leave the house, our dedication to healthcare reform loses some passion after a long day, and too much booze on a weeknight is ill-advised.

We’ve tried relaxing in a room without a TV, but eventually one of us checks their phone and then we look up an hour later with no idea where the evening went. What a first world problem, huh?

Thanks for any ideas!
Couch Potato

What do grown-ups do in the evenings? Let’s see. We usually put the kids to bed and then collapse in front of the television until one and/or both of us glaze over and fall asleep. Is that wrong?

In other words, don’t be too hard on yourself right now. Your kids are little and your jobs (outside and in) are demanding and you’re probably just now getting acclimated to everybody having an actual bedtime that sticks after years of pregnancy/newborn/baby/young toddler interruptions. It’s perfectly natural to not feel up to anything more ambitious than binge-watching Breaking Bad after a long day of Nick Jr.

Of course, you don’t want to go TOO far in that direction and settle into a boring, passionless roommate-type scenario with your spouse. Or to become That Mom who essentially turns her brain off whenever she’s not around their kids (since admittedly kids are not really known for providing the deepest levels of mental stimulation to begin with), so if you’re looking for other stuff to “do” — either together or separately — here are some ideas from a fellow TV junkie grown-up who does occasionally try to get up off the couch at night:

1) Do-ahead baking and cooking. My husband and I always enjoyed cooking, but since having kids we’ve really developed a love of cooking and baking stuff from scratch. (Bonus: Saves money because our children have hollow legs and are never not hungry.) We do most of our regular projects after the kids go to bed. We make our own bread, homemade chicken, fish or veggie nuggets for the freezer, batches of snacks for the lunchboxes like granola bars and snack cakes, and sometimes we’ll even get super ambitious and do some canning/jarring/preserving. We also use our slow cooker a lot and will prepare the next days’ dinner. We do it together, too, or at least keep each other company in the kitchen and chat. We do one project every other night or so…and then we head to the couch and TV, at least feeling SOME sense of accomplishment.

2) You Time. Not necessarily something to do together, but for your own sense of self and relaxation, do something for YOU after the kids go to bed. Take a bubble bath, soak your feet, paint your toenails something fun and glittery. Try out a hairstyle or makeup tutorial you saw online with the goal of mastering the Perfect Messy Topknot and Smoky Eye by your next date night or playgroup. This suggestion goes double on days when you maybe didn’t get into the shower until 3 p.m. and never got out of the yoga pants. (Back rubs and massages are good too!)

3) Exercise. Together, separately, both. I KNOW. BUT FOR REAL. Find a workout DVD you both can dig or download some fitness apps and motivate each other to commit to at least 30 minutes of SOMETHING before the TV glaze slides over you both.

4) Hobbies. Yes, I know you said you don’t have any. No reason that can’t change! I am, for example, the proud new owner of a sewing machine and am teaching myself to sew. Me! The least crafty person I know. (Be prepared for a lot of blog posts about me sewing my fingers to various things.) Learn to knit or embroider so you can at least make decent hostess gifts of tea cozies and towels. Cross-stitch is easy and fun, especially since you can get all kinds of naughty/geeky patterns. Get a home-brew kit and make your own beer. Repaint your bedside tables, read some true crime or history books, research Japanese flower arranging, whatever crazy random thing on Pinterest that you’ve always wished you could do.

5) Indoor date night. Look, I’m a huuuuge believer in the family sit-down dinner, away from devices and screens. But every once in awhile my husband and I treat ourselves to a grown-up dinner, no babysitter required. I make the boys something fun and easy. Jason stops at the store on his way home from work and picks up something for us. A nice cut of fish or meat, bottle of wine, whatever vegetable looks particularly yummy. Boys eat, go to bed a tad on the early side, and we make our dinner and have grown-up conversation and candles and all that crap. It’s lovely and relaxing. And these nights rarely end in front of the TV, if you know what I mean.

Okay readers, your turn! What do the grown-ups in your household do at night, after the kids go to bed? Any activities you recommend to break the exhausted couch-potato cycle? (And try to keep it clean, naughties.)

Published December 23, 2013. Last updated December 23, 2013.
About the Author

Amy Corbett Storch


Amalah is a pseudonym of Amy Corbett Storch. She is the author of the Advice Smackdown and Bounce Back. You can follow Amy’s daily mothering adventures at Ama...

Amalah is a pseudonym of Amy Corbett Storch. She is the author of the Advice Smackdown and Bounce Back. You can follow Amy’s daily mothering adventures at Amalah. Also, it’s pronounced AIM-ah-lah.

If there is a question you would like answered on the Advice Smackdown, please submit it to [email protected].

Amy also documented her second pregnancy (with Ezra) in our wildly popular Weekly Pregnancy Calendar, Zero to Forty.

Amy is mother to rising first-grader Noah, preschooler Ezra, and toddler Ike.

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