Kristen Bell and Dax Shepard on getting to be 'besties' again as their daughters get older
Welcome to So Mini Ways, Yahoo Life's parenting series on the joys and challenges of child rearing.
Kristen Bell and Dax Shepard are partners in love, parenting and, yep, diapers. While the pair is best known for their film and TV roles and Armchair Expert Umbrella podcasting empire, their affordable, plant-based Hello Bello diaper line — since expanded to include dozens of other family-friendly products — has made them major players in the parenting essential industry. Just last month, they opened the first Hello Bello diaper factory, in Waco, Texas, a vibrant and playful space that Waco royalty Chip and Joanna Gaines and their Magnolia design team had a hand in creating.
Speaking from their colorful new factory, the couple spoke to Yahoo Life about diving into the baby product space and their own life as parents to two daughters: Lincoln, 8, and Delta, 6.
"I have learned a lot from Dax," Bell says of her husband's self-described "soft but firm" parenting style. "I don't want to admit that, but I am a nurturer by nature. Instinctually, I am able to take care of their needs when they're crying or when there's a bad emotion, but setting boundaries is much, much harder for me."
By contrast, she describes Shepard as someone who has "strong boundaries" but can explain them gently and "peacefully." She notes that they have discussed how she can better stick to her own boundaries — "not because I need to be a harder parent, but because it's actually better for the child to have a little bit of rules and regulations."
"I don't have an opinion on how lenient or not lenient I would want Kristen to be," Shepard adds. "I just want her to be consistent in whatever that is. So if you can sleep in our bed some nights, what night is it? Is it Wednesdays and Fridays? I just think it's the anxiety of the kids trying to figure out when this privilege can be cashed in and when it can't."
"And he was a hundred percent correct because when I started doing that, they immediately got better," Bell notes. "The reality is I can be talked in or out of anything."
Though they joke that they're usually "lodging a lot of complaints" when they're at home, the actors, married since 2013, have a lot of high praise for each other. Shepard singles out Bell's ability to stay on top of their daughters' schoolwork and admin, admitting, "I can't handle it." She points to his affectionate relationship with their girls.
"He is always affectionate with them," she says. "They are either wrestling or draped all over each other. There's not a time when the girls aren't on the couch where they don't have their head on his shoulder or they're playing with his fingers. They just feel that there is open and available, both physical and emotional connection available from their dad. And that's something that means a ton to me, especially when I think about [how] maybe you choose a partner that's like your dad. And to have someone who wrestles with you and can get crazy, but then can also pat your hair as you're falling asleep and is always asking for hugs... it's just nice to see."
There is one parenting issue that did flare up recently: After taking pains to bring their kids with them on work trips, they got "an earful" from 8-year-old Lincoln.
"She came and said, 'This is over. I am done with this. I didn't sign up for your lifestyle to be all over the place. I want to be in school and I want to be at my appointments and I'm done — that's it,'" Shepard says. "And I said, 'OK, that'll be the last trip.'"
Adds Bell, "We were secretly really proud of how she was able to communicate that. And also, we felt awful. We were like, 'Oh man, I thought they liked these trips... But they don't. They want to do their thing. [What's key] now is really recognizing, at all times, their autonomy. I have no ownership over them. I'm simply here to support them and make sure that they have shelter and food and water. And beyond that, I can only do the best that I can do. And if they say they don't want to come on our work trips any more than that, that has to be respected."
Lincoln's objection to work trips has given the couple the opportunity to have more kids-free time together, something they're enjoying more and more as their girls become more independent.
"The last year or so, they can get up and get themselves breakfast," Shepard says. "So that's time we can lay in bed together. We hadn't had that in whatever — six, seven years. And there's all these little windows again where we're like, 'Oh right, we're going to be able to be besties and think about each other's needs, as equally to the kids.' And that seems encouraging."
Bell agrees that having "me time" — or "we time" with a partner — can be crucial for a parent.
"You're not failing if you take some time for yourself," she says. "That was always really hard for me because I'm habitually at a place where I'm like, Well, what can I do to fix this and fix this? And I want to make sure everybody's happy. And I realized, Oh, not only am I not making anybody happy by being this overwhelmed, I'm not happy myself. In the beginning that made me feel very guilty, that I wanted an hour away from my baby or my child, or I'm excited that I get to have 24 hours with just my husband. And that doesn't mean you're a bad mom. It just means you're putting on your mask before you put it on anyone else."
And while Shepard jokes that kids "bring in no money" to offset the exorbitant costs associated with child-rearing, Delta and Lincoln can at least claim credit for inspiring their parents' booming Hello Bello venture, now the only independent diaper company in the U.S. manufacturing its own diapers from start to finish. As a mom, Bell was committed to using organic ingredients, an "expensive endeavor" that her husband acknowledges they could afford and have access to because of their status. But, he adds, it "didn't seem fair that we could have all this stuff" while it remained out of reach for other parents.
"The goal that we wanted was to positively affect the parents' lives and have no one have to choose between their baby or their budget," Bell says of partnering with Walmart. "It was twofold: It was having premium ingredients and a price point that people could afford, and to be honest, accessibility."
After starting with a modest 10 products, Hello Bello has since launched more than 100 items, with plans to introduce the brand to the U.K. and Europe in 2022.
"It's a real honor to be behind the scenes in something that's really taking that effect," says Bell.
—Video produced by Olivia Schneider.
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