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    Going Nuts?

    Going Nuts? Go Out Instead

    Getting Out the Door (or at Least Behind One) continued...

    Katherine Oberholtzer found that a co-op was particularly useful to her as a new parent reluctant to leave her first baby. "We knew the other couples had already been through it and they weren't going to panic or give up," she says. They stopped when it became a burden to sit for families with much older kids and different house rules.

    If you lose your gumption because your child is wailing at the front window as you pull out of the driveway, take heart. As long as you have a nurturing, attentive sitter, the little one will probably stop crying before you turn the corner.

    And think about how you're helping to lay the foundation for your child's own healthy relationships later on. "When parents value each other, are happy to see each other and keep each other's needs in focus, their children learn the importance of marital closeness," says Judith Siegel, a social worker and author of "What Children Learn From Their Parents' Marriage" (HarperCollins, 2000). Give yourself time alone with your spouse or your partner -- and give your kids valuable lessons in intimacy.

    My Time Is Your Time

    The Oberholtzers of Evanston, Ill., have a standing date on Wednesday mornings. James takes time from his law practice, Katherine -- a marriage and family therapist -- doesn't schedule appointments, and the two hit a yoga class, then do lunch.

    "We're firm believers that parents should get out at least once a week," says Katherine, who has three children, ages 11, 7 and 3. "When we haven't been able to do that, we feel it."

    To find a good babysitter for your trysts:

    • Ask family and friends.
    • Call a university's early childhood education department.
    • Check with the instructor of a local baby-sitting or teen first-aid course.
    • Ask teachers, coaches and others who work with teens, such as members of the clergy or the career counseling department at a high school.

    Since a good sitter is hard to find and keep, be prepared to pay top dollar ($5 to $7 per hour for a teen-ager and $7 or more per hour for a college student) and treat them with respect: Return home on time, pay anyway if you have to cancel at the last minute and spend time teaching them what you expect.

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