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4 ways parents can balance family + couple time

Studies show the amount of fun couples have together is correlated to marital success.

4 ways parents can balance family + couple time

I continue to see a growing trend in my private practice of partners struggling to find the balance between couple time and family time. Some parents become so focused on their children that they neglect their marriage in the process.


While children thrive when they receive lots of love from caregivers, parents need alone time to recharge and focus on their romantic relationship, which brought them together in the first place.

According to psychologist Pat Love, “Each and every day, parents experience the joy of making a child’s life better, more productive and far more meaningful–all while doing the same for themselves.”

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In Fighting for Your Marriage, author Harold J. Markman, Ph.D. says the amount of fun partners have together is a key factor in predicting their overall marital happiness.

Markman explains, “When we interview couples planning marriage, we learn that most of them have tons of fun early in the relationship. But, for too many, fun fizzles out as time goes by.”

Sydney and Kevin, both in their late-30s, are raising two sons aged 10 and 12. They were on the brink of divorce because they had drifted apart. Both work full-time, are drained by the demands of parenting and had fallen into the trap of neglecting their relationship.

Kevin reflected, “Sydney wants to spend most of her evenings and weekends as a family, but I don’t get home from work until 8 p.m. most nights. By the time Friday night rolls around, I just want to go out to dinner with Syd. I see it as a priority to play with the boys on weekends, but I need time to recover from work and I want to spend more quality time with her.”

Sydney responded, “I didn’t realize you felt that way. I feel really torn. I don’t want to leave the kids with a babysitter on Friday nights because they’re in school and afterschool care all week.”

During couples therapy, Sydney and Kevin started questioning their priorities and how they spend time outside of work. Fortunately, they are dedicated to each other and determined to create couple time so they can avoid seeing their marriage crumble.

They decided to rotate every other Friday between a dinner date night out and a pizza and movie night in with the kids. This plan allowed all family members to get their needs met.

Dr. John Gottman’s research shows accepting your partner’s influence means considering their needs without placing blame or making judgments. After our second session, Sydney was able to accept Kevin’s influence and realized that having time alone with him every other Friday night could benefit the entire family. Sydney noticed that she was feeling closer to Kevin and that her sons actually enjoyed having a babysitter when their parents went out.

Here are four ways to balance your time as a couple and time as a family.

1. Schedule alone time with your partner

Couples who schedule alone time together are able to physically turn toward each other more often because there are fewer distractions.

Dr. John Gottman discovered that couples who divorced an average of six years after their wedding turned toward each other 33 percent of the time in his lab, while the couples who were together after six years turned toward each other 86 percent of the time. That’s a big difference.

2. Build your connection in small moments

As Sydney began spending more time with Kevin, I suggested that they practice expressing more interest in each other. Therapist Bob Navarra suggests couples ask questions about their day-to-day life in order to learn more about each other’s world.

Over time, this led to deeper levels of both emotional and sexual connection between Sydney and Kevin and strengthened their marriage.

3. Spend quality time together as a family

Be sure to plan special events and some vacation time with all family members, when possible, on a regular basis so everyone feels nurtured. Remember to ask your children what spending quality time as a family means to them. You may be surprised by their answers.

4. Let your kids know that you value your role as a partner and parent

By doing this, you serve as a positive role model for healthy family relationships and you show your children your partnership is sacred.

When I met with Sydney and Kevin six months after our first session for a follow-up, they were going strong and embraced the notion that Kevin’s bid for attention, affection and support saved them from dissolving their marriage. Fortunately, Sydney was wise enough to pay attention!

You don’t have to choose between being a good parent and a good partner. Working together to find the right balance will pay off in the long run for you, your marriage and your family.

Article by Terry Gaspard, MSW, LICSW

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14 outdoor toys your kids will want to play with beyond summer

They transition seamlessly for indoor play.

With Labor day weekend in the rearview and back-to-school in full swing, most parents are fresh out of boxes to check on their "Fun Concierge" hit list. It's also the point of diminishing returns on investing in summer-only toys. So with that in mind, we've rounded up some of our favorite toys that are not only built to last but will easily make the transition from outdoor to indoor play. Even better, they're Montessori-friendly and largely open-ended so your kids can get a ton of use out of them.

From sunny backyard afternoons to rainy mornings stuck inside, these toys are sure to keep little ones engaged and entertained.

Meadow ring toss game

Plan Toys meadow ring toss game

Besides offering a fantastic opportunity to hone focus, coordination, determination and taking turns, lawn games are just plain fun. Set them up close together for the littles and spread them out when Mom and Dad get in on the action. With their low profile and rope rings, they're great for indoors as well.

$30

Balance board

Plan Toys balance board

Balance boards are a fabulous way to get the wiggles out. This one comes with a rope attachment, making it suitable for even the youngest wigglers. From practicing their balance and building core strength to working on skills that translate to skateboarding and snowboarding, it's a year-round physical activity that's easy to bring inside and use between Zoom classes, too!

$75

Detective set

Plan Toys detective setDetective Set

This set has everything your little detective needs to solve whatever mystery they might encounter: an eye glasses, walkie-talkie, camera, a red lens, a periscope and a bag. Neighborhood watch? Watch out.

$40

Wooden doll stroller

Janod wooden doll strollerWooden Doll Stroller

Take their charges on a stroll around the block with this classic doll stroller. With the same versatility they're used to in their own ride, this heirloom quality carriage allows their doll or stuffy to face them or face the world.

$120

Sand play set

Plan Toys sand set

Whether you're hitting the beach or the backyard sandbox, this adorable wooden sand set is ready for action. Each scoop has an embossed pattern that's perfect for sand stamping. They're also totally suitable for water play in the wild or the bathtub.

$30

Water play set

Plan Toys water play set

Filled with sand or water, this tabletop sized activity set keeps little ones busy, quiet and happy. (A mama's ideal trifecta 😉). It's big enough to satisfy their play needs but not so big it's going to flood your floors if you bring the fun inside on a rainy day.

$100

Mini golf set

Plan Toys mini golf set

Fore! This mini golf set is lawn and living room ready. Set up a backyard competition or incorporate into homeschooling brain breaks that shift focus and build concentration.

$40

Vintage scooter balance bike

Janod retro scooter balance bike

Pedals are so 2010. Balance bikes are the way to go for learning to ride a bike while skipping the training wheels stage altogether. This impossibly cool retro scooter-style is built to cruise the neighborhood or open indoor space as they're learning.

$121

Wooden rocking pegasus

plan toys wooden rocking pegasus

Your little will be ready to take flight on this fun pegasus. It gently rocks back and forth, but doesn't skimp on safety—its winged saddle, footrests and backrest ensure kids won't fall off whether they're rocking inside or outside.

$100

Croquet set

Plan Toys croquet set

The cutest croquet set we've ever seen! With adorable animal face wooden balls and a canvas bag for easy clean up, it's also crafted to stick around awhile. Round after round, it's great for teaching kiddos math and problem-solving skills as well.

$45

Wooden digital camera

fathers factory wooden digital camera

Kids get the chance to assemble the camera on their own then can adventure anywhere to capture the best moments. With two detachable magnetic lenses, four built-in filters and video recorder, your little photographer can tap into their creativity from summertime to the holidays.

$179

Wooden bulldozer toy

plan toys wooden bulldozer toy

Whether they're digging up sand in the backyad or picking up toys inside, kids can get as creative as they want picking up and moving things around. Even better? Its wooden structure means it's not an eye sore to look at wherever your digger drops it.

$100

Pull-along hippo

janod toys pull along hippo toy

There's just something so fun about a classic pull-along toy and we love that they seamlessly transition between indoor and outdoor play. Crafted from solid cherry and beechwood, it's tough enough to endure outdoor spaces your toddler takes it on.

$33

Baby forest fox ride-on

janod toys baby fox ride on

Toddlers will love zooming around on this fox ride-on, and it's a great transition toy into traditional balance bikes. If you take it for a driveway adventure, simply use a damp cloth to wipe down the wheels before bringing back inside.

$88

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There is rightfully a lot of emphasis on preparing for the arrival of a new baby. The clothes! The nursery furniture! The gear! But, the thing about a baby registry is, well, your kids will keep on growing. Before you know it, they'll have new needs—and you'll probably have to foot the bill for the products yourself.

Thankfully, you don't have to break the bank when shopping for toddler products. Here are our favorite high-quality, budget-friendly finds to help with everything from meal time to bath time for the toddler set.

Comforts Fruit Crisps Variety Pack

Comforts fruit snacks

If there is one thing to know about toddlers, it is this: They love snacks. Keeping a variety on hand is easy when the pack already comes that way! Plus, we sure do appreciate that freeze-dried fruit is a healthier alternative to fruit snacks.

Comforts Electrolyte Drink

Comforts electrolyte drink

Between running (or toddling!) around all day and potentially developing a pickier palate, many toddlers can use a bit of extra help with replenishing their electrolytes—especially after they've experienced a tummy bug. We suggest keeping an electrolyte drink on hand.

Comforts Training Pants

Comforts training pants

When the time comes to start potty training, it sure helps to have some training pants on hand. If they didn't make it to the potty in time, these can help them learn their body's cues.

Comforts Nite Pants

comforts nite pants

Even when your toddler gets the hang of using the toilet during the day, nighttime training typically takes several months longer than day-time training. In the meantime, nite pants will still help them feel like the growing, big kid they are.

Comforts Baby Lotion

comforts baby lotion

Running, jumping, playing in sand, splashing in water—the daily life of a toddler can definitely irritate their skin! Help put a protective barrier between their delicate skin and the things they come into contact with every day with nourishing lotion.

Another great tip? Shopping the Comforts line on Comfortsforbaby.com to find premium baby products for a fraction of competitors' prices—and follow along on social media to see product releases and news at @comfortsforbaby.

This article was sponsored by The Kroger Co. Thank you for supporting the brands that support Motherly and mamas.

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