The couple revealed their top children’s books while promoting Lightlife’s plant-based burger. They have two daughters, 6-year-old Lincoln and 4-year-old Delta.
One story that both Shepard and Bell love reading to their kids is “Quackenstein Hatches a Family” by Sudipta Bardhan-Quallen.
“It’s by one of my favorite writers and has a bunch of fun pictures and large words!” Bell told HuffPost.
“It’s about a bird who adopts an egg at the zoo and thinks he’s gonna have a chick, but it turns out to be a platypus,” Shepard said. “He’s scared of it for a while, and then he falls in love with it. And the platypus calls him ‘Dad.’ It’s so cute. We’ve probably read that more than any other book.”
“Dear Girl” by Amy Krouse Rosenthal and Paris Rosenthal is also a family hit. Bell said she loves how the book “promotes empowerment and self-esteem about being who you are.”
Shepard added that he also loves Shel Silverstein’s classic “The Giving Tree.”
“I don’t know why because it’s so heartbreaking,” the actor said. “Every time I read it I ask, ‘Why do we read this book? It’s so brutal.’ And yet, it’s a childhood favorite of mine, and I’m now passing on this masochistic book to my kids.”
Lately, however, bedtime stories have been a bit more grueling in the Bell-Shepard household.
“We’re in a lull of books because the 6-year-old now has to practice reading,” Shepard said. “So now we’ve moved on to books that she can read, and they’re terrible. Basically, each girl gets one book a night before bed, so we read one that’s really boring ― and then we’ll break out ‘Quackenstein’ or some other book we love.”
The pair also opened up about sharing the parenting load and the philosophies that have informed their marriage. Shepard said his approach “stems from a selfish place” of wanting to have a say in parenting conversations.
“I try to tell new dads, ’You’re only entitled to an opinion at the same percentage of work you put in. So if you’re doing 10% of everything, don’t expect to have a 50-50 weighted opinion in the debate ― and there are daily debates on what you should do as a parent,” Shepard said. “You have to earn that. You have to have the capital to have that vote. I knew I wouldn’t be able to sit at the table when we’re making these decisions if I was participating at a fraction of what she was.”
Bell agreed, noting that, “If worse comes to worst, you can always remind your partner, ‘That kid is 50% yours. So I’ll do 50% of it, but that other 50% is yours.’”
While she is admittedly a tad biased, Bell said she has also found two episodes of her husband’s podcast, “Armchair Expert,” to be helpful. One features Belgian author and psychotherapist Esther Perel, who shares her thoughts on how to make marriage work. The other episode includes a conversation with American psychological researcher John Gottman about his findings on relationships. The main message: Communication is key.
“There have been times when both my husband and I have needed to say to one another, ‘I need you to pick up some slack around here.’ And because there’s an underlying trust in our partnership, we’ve handled it really well,” Bell said. “I’ve had to say, ‘I need you to make more lunches,’ and he can say ‘OK, loud and clear.’ It’s often after some tense words, don’t get me wrong. We get defensive toward each other, but those are just irrelevant triggers. The outcome is that we’re listening to each other because we know we’re in this together.”
The “Good Place” star added that she feels lucky she and Shepard are able to laugh together easily and even find it helpful to make fun of each other a little bit.
“Harboring resentment doesn’t help. If I feel like I’m working and also doing all the kid stuff, I just need to take a deep breath and talk to him about it,” Bell said. “That can be embarrassing for some people to say, ‘I need help.’ But if you’re in a marriage, you can’t pretend like you don’t need help.”