How to *really* connect with your family when life is busier than ever

If you find that you've started to lose touch with your partner or your children, it may be time for a little connection reset.

How to *really* connect with your family when life is busier than ever

No mom is an island. Despite the fact that we are surrounded by children all day, mom-ing can be a lonely task.

In the busyness of our daily lives, it's easy to take our children for granted—running out of the house with only a cursory wave or kiss or picking up our children from school without getting off the phone. The same can happen with partners. We start off feeling like Prince Harry and Meghan, but now it's closer to Al and Peggy Bundy. Those former deep soul-gazing conversations have been replaced by tag teaming diaper blowouts and catching up on work and television after the kiddos go to bed.

It is incredibly normal for our relationships to take the back burner in our hectic lives. But, a loving relationship supports your mental health, reduces your risk of heart disease, and even lengthens your life span. So the investment into your relationships is totally worth it.

If you find that you've started to lose touch with your partner or your children, it may be time for a little connection reset. So I have a challenge for you: For the next week, let's try to be extravagant with our love.

If it sounds impossible between this meeting or that school pickup, try these hacks to make it happen.

1. Center yourself before you greet your family.

We bring home a lot of baggage that distracts us long after we walk in the door. Before you welcome your family, do a mini–mindfulness exercise:

  • Identify an object (ideally something natural, such as a flower or tree).
  • Set your phone timer for one minute, and simply look at the object, pretending it's the first time you see it.
  • Really think about the object. If it's a flower, what color is it? Are all the petals the same color? Do any look discolored or uneven? Can you smell it? Is it moving in the wind?

Focusing your attention on something neutral helps you turn your attention away from frustrations so that you can turn it to your loved ones.

2. Greet your family like you haven't seen them in ages.

In The Mayo Clinic Guide to Stress-Free Living, Dr. Amit Sood asks, "Can you greet your loved ones at the end of each day as if you're seeing them for the first time after 10 days?" Just try it. Something so simple can make all of the difference.

3. Compliment them.

Tell your children and partner that you love them and are proud of their hard work. Explain why you're grateful for them, or tell them that you respect their good behavior and support. Be as specific as possible, as frequently as you can.

4. Do a weekly 'board meeting' with your partner.

A good girlfriend started doing this with her husband every Sunday at a time when they were feeling disconnected. After the kiddos are in bed, they each share six things they're thankful for. They then go over the calendar for the week, and end with six dreams that they each have for what's ahead.

No judgments allowed, just free space to share their wishes and goals. She told me "it created intimacy for us after nine years of marriage that we didn't even realize we were craving."

5. Learn how to say yes when it's inconvenient.

Your partner tries to embrace you, but you brush them off while you're doing dishes. Or your child wants to play, but you're busy sending an email.

Dr. Richard Kannwischer, head pastor at Peachtree Presbyterian Church, taught what researcher John Gottman calls "bids for connection:" Tiny, subtle invitations to engage. To meet a bid, you must respond on the requestor's timeline, not yours. Which means it's not always convenient.

Say 'yes' if you can stop what you're doing. But if you can't, thoughtful response will still nurture the relationship. Instead of a distracted, "I'm busy," try, "I love playing with you, and I wish I could right now. I have to finish one thing. Can we promise to play in 30 minutes?" This sets the expectations up without brushing off loved ones.

These may seem like small practices, but I promise they can make a world of difference. So get out there and have an extravegant love-filled week, mama.

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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.


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!


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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Every week, we stock the Motherly Shop with innovative and fresh products from brands we feel good about. We want to be certain you don't miss anything, so to keep you in the loop, we're providing a cheat sheet.

So, what's new this week?

Earth Mama: Effective, natural herbal care for mamas and babies

Founded and grown in her own garage in 2002, Earth Mama started as an operation of one, creating salves, tinctures, teas and soaps with homegrown herbs. With a deep desire to bring the healing powers of nature that have been relied on for thousands of years to as many mamas as possible, Melinda Olson's formulas quickly grew into Earth Mama Organics. Since then, the brand has remained committed to manufacturing clean, safe and effective herbal solutions for the entire journey of motherhood, including pregnancy, breastfeeding and baby care, and even the loss of a baby.

Bravado Designs: Soothing sounds for a good night's sleep

With 28 years of serving pregnant and postpartum mamas under their belt, Bravado Designs is a true authority on the needs of changing bodies. It's true that we have them to thank for rescuing us from the uncomfortable and frumpy designs our own moms had to live with. Launched in Canada by two young mamas, they designed the first prototypes with extra leopard print fabric certain that a better bra was possible. Throughout the years they've maintained their commitment to ethical manufacturing while creating long-lasting products that truly work.

The Sill: Instagram-ready potted plants

We've long admired this female-founded brand and the brilliant mind behind it, Eliza Blank. (She even joined Motherly co-founder Liz Tenety on and episode of The Motherly Podcast!) The mission behind the business was simple: To make the process of bringing plants into your home as easy as possible, and as wonderful as the plant themselves. With their in-house, exclusively designed minimalist planters, the end result makes plant parenthood just a few clicks away.

Not sure where to start? Here's what we're adding to our cart:

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A fascinating study explains why.

When your baby is crying, it feels nearly instinctual to stand up to rock, sway and soothe them. That's because standing up to calm babies is instinctual—driven by centuries of positive feedback from calmed babies, researchers have found.

"Infants under 6 months of age carried by a walking mother immediately stopped voluntary movement and crying and exhibited a rapid heart rate decrease, compared with holding by a sitting mother," say authors of a 2013 study published in Current Biology.

Even more striking: This coordinated set of actions—the mother standing and the baby calming—is observed in other mammal species, too. Using pharmacologic and genetic interventions with mice, the authors say, "We identified strikingly similar responses in mouse pups as defined by immobility and diminished ultrasonic vocalizations and heart rate."

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