Keeping the Honeymoon Alive
Having a child shouldn't mean the end of intimacy.
The Pressure-Cooked Family continued...
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%
Carolyn Cowan says it's important for stressed parents to know they are not
alone. "Most people don't know that. The tendency is to blame their
partner: 'You're not here enough, and I'm doing more.' " She urges parents
to keep in touch with each other as best they can despite the obstacles.
"Our results make it clear that mothers and fathers in satisfying adult
relationships are more effective with their children. Don't let the marriage go
onto the back burner, make time for it, time to connect with your partner.
Don't get so distant that you're living in separate worlds, not appreciating
the stress in each other's lives."
Some couples find it helpful to find 10 minutes a day for an uninterrupted
conversation just to check in. This may mean setting the alarm 10 minutes early
or stepping out onto the porch to talk, or grabbing a few minutes after a
toddler drops off to sleep at night. If time permits, an evening out together
can be a wonderful way to reconnect. And if you need professional help, by all
means get it. "Do it for your children," says Cowan. "You will reap
Jeanie Puleston Fleming writes frequently for The New York Times and