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    Dad Going Nuts? Go Out Instead.

    Getting Out the Door (or at Least <I>Behind</I> One) continued...

    As most parents will attest, leaving your baby for the first time is always the hardest, so ease into it with a quick getaway, like dessert at a coffeehouse or a walk in the park.

    "Don't try to go for dinner and a movie if you're going to be a basket case by the time the entrée arrives," says Douglas, "and if you're paranoid, call from the restaurant. Who cares if they think you're obsessive? You're allowed. You're a parent."

    If you can't get out, get creative. Some couples wait until the baby's down for a three- or four-hour stretch, then order a nice meal, dim the lights, and ignore the phone and other household distractions. There isn't anything magical about Saturday nights, either -- take the time whenever you can.

    My Time Is Your Time

    The Oberholtzers of Evanston, Ill., have a standing date on Wednesday mornings. James takes time off from his law practice; Katherine -- a marriage and family therapist -- doesn't schedule appointments. Typically, 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, a mother of three. "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 teenager 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.

    Together Again

    Family co-ops -- groups that trade baby-sitting services on a non-cash basis -- can be helpful, too, particularly since many new parents are tight on cash. But Douglas says to make sure you understand the arrangements (for instance, decide upfront if it'll be hour for hour), and that your child-rearing philosophies and personalities are in sync.

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