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Challenge: Open Discussion

Do today's parents need a village?

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So much of the advice parents get on life after baby has to do with maintaining sex and intimacy between the couple, or how to raise healthy, happy kids. There’s also been more attention, finally, on mothers’ (and increasingly fathers’) postpartum depression. And there has been much discussion about parental leave in the U.S., which is essential but will only help parents for a few months at most — what happens after that?

Do parents need a village?

Because after parental leave ends comes the hardest part, and we don’t have any good solutions to our changing world of dual-working families. All we hear is about moms leaning in or opting out — or just resigning themselves to being overwhelmed — in their quest for that ever-elusive work-life balance (which more dads are struggling with, too). And make no mistake — this a discussion typically among middle- to upper-middle educated women. Poorer women and single/divorced/widowed moms do not have those options; they just have the overwhelm. And when I was divorced in my 40s with two children young children and working full time again, I didn’t have any choices, either. (Thankfully, we had 50-50 physical custody and when my kids were with their dad I had blessed time to myself.)

Something is terribly wrong.

Fathers are much more hands-on than ever before, and many are stay-at-home dads. Yet the bulk of caregiving, including emotional caregiving, is still done by women — whether by moms or paid help — and we pay the price for it. Plus, many of us are in the sandwich generation, trying to care for our children and our aging parents, often unsuccessfully. Despite the essential role caregiving plays in society, it is not given the status it deserves. Until it is, I’m convinced women will never reach equality.

So I have been looking at the problems of modern parenthood and believe that we just may need to reevaluate what we’re doing. I think parents need a village of people who will help them, and become long-term -- maybe lifetime -- mentors to their kids. I believe children need that, too. I'd love to know what you think.

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