February 14th has rolled around again with its requisite supply of red roses, boxes of candy and chocolate covered strawberries. It’s inevitable, given all the hoopla, that our thoughts turn to romantic love. Given these reminders, it’s my fervent hope that all the young moms and dads out there will carve out at least a smidgen of time today to gaze into each other’s eyes and rediscover the warm feelings that brought them together in the first place.
Why should such rediscovery and reconnecting be necessary? After all, moms and dads share a home on a daily basis, hopefully sleep in the same bed, and both love the same children. Ah….children. There’s the rub! No matter how much joy they bring, the truth is that the years when young children are at home are the hardest years for a marriage to survive. This has always been true but is especially the case these days when so many women work, when schedules have to be juggled, when economic difficulties loom large, and when the simple event of a child coming down with a fever can throw the whole, fragile balancing act into upheaval. It’s all too easy for nerves to become frazzled, for mental “balance sheets” to be tallied as to who’s doing more than his/her fair share, and for time together to be postponed indefinitely.
I started this blog with the suggestion that moms and dads “carve time out for gazing into each other’s eyes.” I didn’t just choose these words for their poetic value. Turns out there is solid research showing the power of this level of face to face contact. When college students of the opposite sex who were total strangers to each other were required to spend 5 minutes gazing into each other’s eyes, they felt much more positive about each other than couples who had not. In fact, some of those couples even ended up getting married later!
The eyes really are the window to the soul—and when both members of a couple trust the other enough to open up that window, the result is a sense of mutual connection that can help deflect the “slings and arrows of outrageous fortune”—and even the trials and tribulations of raising children!
Happy Valentine’s Day!!
Linda Acredolo, Ph.D.
Co-Founder, the Baby Signs Program
Professor Emeritus, UC Davis