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The ‘Golden Rule’ that keeps romance alive for new parents

Tuning in and turning towards each other creates a sense of connection and emotional intimacy. 

The ‘Golden Rule’ that keeps romance alive for new parents

By: April Eldemire, LMFT

Research by Dr. John Gottman shows that small actions practiced daily is the biggest predictor for keeping romance, intimacy, and connection alive during the transition to parenthood.


Going the extra mile means everything with a new baby in the mix.

As life with a little one begins, parents often find themselves sleep deprived, overwhelmed with a laundry list of to-do’s and the feeling that there’s never enough time in the day to do it all.

New parents often believe that in order to meet the demanding needs of the baby, they have to sacrifice the needs of the relationship. There is a sense that “I can either be close to my spouse or my baby, but I can’t do both.” This leads to resentment and isolation.

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But Bringing Baby Home research has shown that couples can be engaged parents and protect their relationship without sacrificing the bond with their child.

With just a little effort, couples can maintain emotional closeness by following the “golden rule” of relationships—small things often.

Tuning in and turning towards each other, especially in moments of heightened stress, creates a sense of connection and emotional intimacy. Practicing simple gestures to preserve the relationship makes for a more manageable transition to parenthood.

If you’re a new parent or expecting a little one, consider incorporating the following strategies into your relationship so that you’re not just staying afloat, but fully thriving as your family grows.

1. Turn towards bids for connection

Requests for connection happen between partners all the time. Sometimes they are extremely subtle, such as a touch on the hand, or very straightforward as in, “Take a look at this for me. What do you think?” Dr. Gottman’s research in his Love Lab has shown that successful couples respond to bids more frequently than distressed couples do. If partners bids are consistently ignored or disregarded, they form a negative view of the relationship and distance themselves from their partner.

Happy couples, however, are more aware of what to look for and make the conscientious choice to turn towards, rather than turn away, from requests for affection, emotional support, and sex. Responding to bids is important because in small, everyday moments, you’re creating the building blocks that maintain the foundation of the relationship.

Here are some examples of bids—

A bid for conversation

“I’m worried that the baby might not be getting enough nutrients.”

A bid for sex

“You look so sexy in that outfit.”

A bid for affection

“Will you hold me?”

A bid for attention

“Can we talk?”

A bid for humor

“Have you heard this joke yet?”

2. Express fondness and admiration

Dr. Gottman encourages couples to “catch your partner doing something right.” Research shows that if couples are in the habit of viewing their relationship from a negative perspective, they miss half of the positive things their partner does.

It’s important for couples to find ways to praise each other for their positive traits. You can do this by creating a “culture of appreciation.” You can appreciate their parenting style or how they help with the baby while still making time for the other things they do to keep things running smoothly. Remember to share them with your partner. They yearn to hear it.

“You were so great with the baby last night. It really made me smile.”

“You’re an awesome dad. You’re so calm and patient with the baby.”

“Thanks for making dinner tonight. I know you have your hands full.”

“Even with no sleep, you’re still gorgeous. How did I get so lucky?”

“Thanks for keeping things together when I can’t. I really count on you!”

3. Make partings and reunions a routine part of your day

Don’t neglect each other as you rush out the door. Spend a few minutes to develop an atmosphere of love as you part for the day, and again once you return. Here are some examples of rituals of connection—

—Send your sweetie off with a to-go cup of coffee for the day.

—Kiss each other goodbye for six seconds and wish them well.

—Wake up early and take care of the baby while the other gets some much-needed rest.

—Leave a quick note to say how much they mean to you.

—Make the bed before you go.

—Say goodbye with affection and words of encouragement.

—Greet each other with a “6 second kiss.”

—Put your phone away and genuinely listen to your partner’s day. Express empathy and understanding.

—Help with dinner.

—Clean up the dishes.

—Take over the night routine like bathing, singing, dancing or reading to your little one.

4. Have a daily stress-reducing conversation

Conflict is inevitable in all relationships and tends to spike after a baby is born. Work stress, new financial strains, and balancing the added responsibilities of being parents can create strain on the relationship. The Bringing Baby Home research found that having a daily conversation that includes understanding, support and affection helps manage the external stressors separate from the relationship.

—Stay mindful and present while showing genuine interest in what your partner has to say.

—Seek understanding before giving advice. “That sounds overwhelming. I’d be at my wits end too. I can totally understand how you feel.”

—Offer support. “I really wish your boss would lay off on you.”

—Show affection. “Come here. I bet you could use a hug.”

—Help aid in problem solving. “Do you want my advice? Let’s worth through this together.”

5. Never stop dating your partner

One of the greatest gifts you can give your baby is a strong relationship between the two of you. Date nights provide an opportunity to stay connected, increase intimacy, and balance life as a team.

—Plan monthly date nights.

—Keep mutual hobbies sacred.

—Make “date-night in” a regular part of your week.

—Watch a comedy together. Laughter and humor raise endorphins and lighten the mood.

Parenthood is tough, especially in the beginning. If you’re feeling overwhelmed, remember that the best gift you can give your baby is a strong relationship between the two of you. Don’t forget how important it is to spend time together, lift each other up, show you care, and nurture the relationship by practicing the golden rule of doing the small things often.

This article was originally published at The Gottman Institute.

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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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Motherly editors’ 7 favorite hacks for organizing their diaper bags

Make frantically fishing around for a diaper a thing of the past!

As any parent knows, the term "diaper bag" only scratches the surface. In reality, this catchall holds so much more: a change of clothes, bottles, snacks, wipes and probably about a dozen more essential items.

Which makes finding the exact item you need, when you need it (read: A diaper when you're in public with a blowout on your hands) kind of tricky.

That's why organization is the name of the game when it comes to outings with your littles. We pooled the Motherly team of editors to learn some favorite hacks for organizing diaper bags. Here are our top tips.

1. Divide and conquer with small bags

Here's a tip we heard more than a few times: Use smaller storage bags to organize your stuff. Not only is this helpful for keeping related items together, but it can also help keep things from floating around in the expanse of the larger diaper bag. These bags don't have to be anything particularly fancy: an unused toiletry bag, pencil case or even plastic baggies will work.

2. Have an emergency changing kit

When you're dealing with a diaper blowout situation, it's not the time to go searching for a pack of wipes. Instead, assemble an emergency changing kit ahead of time by bundling a change of baby clothes, a fresh diaper, plenty of wipes and hand sanitizer in a bag you can quickly grab. We're partial to pop-top wipes that don't dry out or get dirty inside the diaper bag.

3. Simplify bottle prep

Organization isn't just being able to find what you need, but also having what you need. For formula-feeding on the go, keep an extra bottle with the formula you need measured out along with water to mix it up. You never know when your outing will take longer than expected—especially with a baby in the mix!

4. Get resealable snacks

When getting out with toddlers and older kids, snacks are the key to success. Still, it isn't fun to constantly dig crumbs out of the bottom of your diaper bag. Our editors love pouches with resealable caps and snacks that come in their own sealable containers. Travel-sized snacks like freeze-dried fruit crisps or meal-ready pouches can get an unfair reputation for being more expensive, but that isn't the case with the budget-friendly Comforts line.

5. Keep a carabiner on your keychain

You'll think a lot about what your child needs for an outing, but you can't forget this must-have: your keys. Add a carabiner to your keychain so you can hook them onto a loop inside your diaper bag. Trust us when we say it's a much better option than dumping out the bag's contents on your front step to find your house key!

6. Bundle your essentials

If your diaper bag doubles as your purse (and we bet it does) you're going to want easy access to your essentials, too. Dedicate a smaller storage bag of your diaper bag to items like your phone, wallet and lip balm. Then, when you're ready to transfer your items to a real purse, you don't have to look for them individually.

7. Keep wipes in an outer compartment

Baby wipes aren't just for diaper changes: They're also great for cleaning up messy faces, wiping off smudges, touching up your makeup and more. Since you'll be reaching for them time and time again, keep a container of sensitive baby wipes in an easily accessible outer compartment of your bag.

Another great tip? Shop the Comforts line on www.comfortsforbaby.com to find premium baby products for a fraction of competitors' prices. Or, follow @comfortsforbaby for more information!

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

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