DINK stands for Dual Income No Kids, and yes, it’s as amazing as it sounds.
Both of you are working full time jobs, the money is flowing in, you can buy a house, and fill it with furniture you don’t have to assemble yourself (although half of my house is still from IKEA). You can travel, you can buy concert tickets, you can go out to dinner three times a week. You can go to bed whenever you want, and wake up whenever you want. You have so much free time, which leads to so much sex, which eventually leads to…. a baby. And then the honeymoon is well and truly over.
Planned or not, the transition from DINK to having children can be a rocky one. But it’s made a little easier if you took advantage of that time pre-bundle of joy.
Recently having exited the DINK period of my marriage with the birth of our first child, I want to look back and offer some tips for how to get the most out of those years with your partner. And yes, one of the tips is having lots of sex (with protection).
- Be smart with your money
Saving money during the DINK years is crucial. Set something aside from each paycheck. How you go about this is up to you. My husband and I know what works best for us but I’ll save that advice for another day. Your goal during these years should be to not have to live paycheck to paycheck, and to slowly build up those savings accounts. Don’t deprive yourself though. It is a balancing act, and there might be some trial and error in figuring out how to split up your income but once you find a way that works for you, I promise it will make life much easier.
- Travel as much as possible.
I know I just said you need to save money, but part of that saving is to set money aside for things like travel. So, as often as you can afford, get on a plane or hop in the car and go somewhere! Bounce around Europe, see the Grand Canyon, fly to Hawaii, hike Machu Picchu. You won’t regret spending your money on those experiences. Once baby comes, there’s no such thing as a relaxing trip to the beach. This can and should be done while you’re single too! Never miss an opportunity to see the world.
- Talk to your spouse. Talk to your spouse a lot.
There will still be time to talk after kids are part of the picture, but this is more so referring to your topics of conversation. Make sure you’re on the same page in regards to raising kids, religion, in-laws, how to celebrate the holidays, etc. There’s a lot of ground to cover and it’s usually better to have long conversations over coffee on a quiet Saturday morning as opposed to yelling over a screaming baby while a toddler is hanging off of your husband’s leg.
- Find “Couple Friends”
I can’t stress enough how much easier life is when you have friends that are in the same stage of life as you. When you get married, your single friends will still be your friends, but they might start to drift away as time goes on. Single people typically want to go out to meet other single people. You’ll notice the longer you’re married, the less you have in common with your still-single friends. It’s sad, but it’s also a part of growing up. This isn’t true for everyone, and it’s very possible to stay close with your single friends after you get married. It just takes a little more work. And I’m not really talking about your best friend that is more like a sister to you. Those friendships can usually survive anything.
Having so-called “couple friends” can make or break your DINK years. You’ll want to hang out with people who understand life as a married couple, because things are different when you get married. The added bonus to couple friends during the DINK years, is that it’s very possible that they’ll start a family around the same time you do. And having friends with kids the same age as yours makes life much more fun.
- Get the house in order
Been putting off re-doing that downstairs bathroom? Waiting until the “right time” to paint the guest room? Let me tell you, folks, the right time to knock down a kitchen wall and put in an island is not when you’re 9 months pregnant or have a 3 week old. Trust me, I’ve been there. Make a list of all of the projects, big and small, you want to have completed in your home before kids. Save up for them, and cross them off the list one by one. Be financially responsible and don’t take on something you can’t afford, but if you have a long term plan and save your money wisely, you might just be able to refinish that basement before baby arrives.
- Have a lot of sex.
I probably don’t need to be too forceful with this one, but it’s absolutely worth mentioning. There will never be another period in life where you have this much time, energy, or privacy. Take full advantage of it. Your sex life is completely rebuilt from the ground up after pregnancy, so lay a solid foundation now. Just be careful, if you’re not ready for kids yet, make sure you’re using protection. There’s nothing quite like an unplanned pregnancy when you have a vacation already booked for next summer.
- Adopt a pet
Unless you hate animals and are therefore a human with no soul (I’m kidding, I know there are other reasons for not wanting animals in the house), I highly recommend adopting a pet as a newly married couple. A month or so after we moved into our home, we adopted Louie, a gray tabby cat. He made our house a home. Not long after, we adopted another cat, Donny. Pets are fun, and they help you practice just a small fraction of the responsibility that is required when you have kids. And you can annoy all of your friends by posting way too many pictures of them on social media – which you will also do when you have kids, so this is a good way to ease your loved ones into that. They can decide from your pet-ownership if they will need to block you as soon as you get pregnant.
- Get healthy!
Just do it. Take care of your body. Getting healthy is so important pre-kids. I’m not even talking about losing weight. I was at a great weight before I got pregnant, I liked how I looked, but I wasn’t in shape. I wasn’t eating right, nor was I exercising. Big mistake. Once you get pregnant, you can’t start a new workout routine, and you can’t diet. Only gaining the recommended amount of weight (25-35 lbs.) during pregnancy is tough if you can’t do much physically, and it’s harder to get to the gym or make healthy, balanced meals once there are kids in the picture. It’s not impossible, obviously, but it is more challenging. So get yourself to a good place physically before you decide to start trying for a baby. Make it a team effort, and get your spouse involved! You’ll thank yourself later when you’re three months postpartum and already feeling back to your old self.
- Mend any familial rifts
Family is tricky and in-laws can be even trickier. Even if you’ve been blessed with a wonderful, loving group of people surrounding you, my guess is that there are a few things that could use some work. The sooner you deal with any family issues, the better. Once you have children, your relationship with your family and your spouse’s family changes. If you don’t address something that’s bothering you pre-kids, it could just get worse post-kids. Letting things fester underneath the surface is a recipe for disaster. Sit down and talk things out. Or, if your life is fairly simple when it comes to family, at least talk about how the Holidays will go as far as splitting time between families, or how often you’ll be expected to join them on family vacations or for Sunday dinners, etc. etc. Get a game plan in place so that when your parents become grandparents, they’re not blindsided and hurt when you decide to spend Christmas Day with your in-laws.
- Enjoy each other
Last but not least, if anything it’s most important to enjoy this time. Use all of these tips as ways to grow closer to your partner. Not to be a downer, but divorce is common in the years following the birth of the first child, and not without reason. It gets hard. Your marriage is no longer something that just exists and thrives on its own. It takes work. It takes time. It takes a determined effort on both parts. Cultivating a deep love and friendship during these years will help you immensely. Have fun together now, and the fun is much more likely to continue throughout the rest of your marriage.