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Health & Parenting

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Keeping the Honeymoon Alive

Having a child shouldn't mean the end of intimacy.

The Pressure-Cooked Family continued...

Overwhelmed parents constitute a national crisis, says veteran family therapist Braulio Montalvo, co-author with Marla Isaacs and David Abelsohn of The Therapy of Difficult Divorce. "There is so much talk of recent prosperity, but it doesn't drip down to where the support is needed," says Montalvo. "The family in this country is besieged, and it is an inter-institutional problem. We need quality day care for workers with young children and enlightened corporate policy supported by the federal government. People think we are at the top of the world, but we have a lot to learn."

Cowan, too, says the working world makes few concessions to families these days. "These couples need parental leave, flex time, time off when children are ill." But despite the booming economy, parents don't feel they can bargain with employers. And, says Cowan, most parents feel alone in their problems. Single mothers suffer too, of course. "They are tired, often not emotionally available to their children after a long day at work, and many of them worry about leaving their children in substandard day care."

Sarah Davis, who teaches a course in stress management at Santa Fe Community College in New Mexico, knows about women with young children working on a survival level. "It describes most of my class. Several of them even have two jobs, and all of them worry about the kind of day care their children are getting." Davis has seen a healthy camaraderie build as people in her class share and discuss problems. Although it might not remove the obstacles, just being heard eases some of the stress.

The Road to Survival

The Cowans make a case for professionally guided support groups and counseling -- where they say even a little help can make a difference. In the original study, a group of new parents picked at random met with psychologists over a six-month period to discuss issues from raising children to relationships with their own parents. After three years no divorces had occurred in this group, while the families without such support had a 15% divorce rate.

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