Real talk, mamas: After having a baby, it may feel like your relationship with your partner is different. You both have a new little one to care for, and all of the new responsibilities on your plate zap away every second of your day. Finding time to be together, kiddo-free, can seem so hard.
But setting aside “us” time can be done—according to Jessica Alba. In a new interview with Redbook, the celebrity mom shares her secret to staying connected to husband Cash Warren, with whom she shares three children: 6-year-old Haven, 9-year-old Honor and newborn Hayes.
Alba, who’s Redbook’s April cover star, tells the magazine: “I always try to get home from work for bath time and to cuddle the kids before bed. After that, Cash and I have dinner together and talk about our days. I need ‘us’ time all the time.”
The benefits to enjoying life with your partner, sans children, are plentiful. Relationships require love and attention, but when you’re working towards a shared goal—such as making more time for "us” time—you create a stronger bond. Spending those moments together, without your kids, also allows you to stay in touch with your desires, wants and identities outside of parenthood.
Unfortunately, though, not many parents get the opportunity to relax with each other like Alba and Warren do at the dinner table. According to a new survey by organic baby food brand Plum Organics, 41% of parents can’t remember when they last had “us” time with their mate. The survey also found that most parents had gone, on average, two months without kid-free quality time.
You read that correctly: Two months.
Of course, it doesn’t have to take that long. It’s definitely not easy to carve out “us” time, but we can totally make it happen with more frequency.
As Alba says in her Redbook interview: “You have to be structured about carving out time for yourself and your relationship.”
If you don’t know how or where you’ll find that “us” time in a busy day, here’s a few ways to start:
Get your phone out of the bedroom (or at least out of your bed)
Looking at your phone while talking to your partner is linked to lower relationship satisfaction, while going to bed at the same time as your partner is associated with less conflict and more conversation. As tempting as it can be to stay up scrolling through Instagram or watching Netflix, it’s worth it to shut down the screens and get tucked in with your partner. Bedtime can be a great “us” time.
Sync up your workouts
If you’re both trying to squeeze fitness into busy schedules, trying a new workout together is a great way to combine “us” time with sweat time. A 2000 study found trying “new and novel” physical activity with a partner leaves people feeling more satisfied with their relationships and even more in love.
Sit down for dinner together
When our kids are little dinner time is about making sure more food makes it into little mouths than onto the floor. There’s not always a lot of time for grown-up conversation between cutting up broccoli, catching falling forks and cleaning up spilled milk. As important as it is to have meals as a family, research suggests taking a page out of Alba’s book to have a late dinner just for mom and dad has its benefits, too. A 2015 study suggests conversation over a meal has more relationship building benefits than other kinds of talks, and helps partners perceive each other as being more agreeable.
Whether you’re working out together in the morning before the kids get up, or enjoying a relaxing dinner after they go to bed, making time to connect with your partner without the kids is associated with increased happiness, and that can make us better as partners and parents.
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