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Allan Schwartz, Ph.D.Allan Schwartz, Ph.D.
Dr. Schwartz's Weblog

Isolated Mothers and the Challenges of Newborns

Allan N. Schwartz, LCSW, Ph.D. Updated: Aug 12th 2008

 Do you remember learning how being a Mom meant all good things including happiness? Remember believing that marriage means "happily ever after?" Well, guess what? Experience, common sense and, now, research, shows that these are myths for most mothers of newborn babies.

A new report published by Carol Sakala, director of an organization called Childbirth Connection, found that, across the United States, mothers struggle with chronic emotional and physical problems after giving birth to newborns. To make matters worse, their husbands or partners provide little or no support. These mothers find themselves under pressure to return to work as soon as possible after giving birth.

This report authored by Carol Sakala is entitled "New Mothers Speak Out, National Survey Results Highlight Women's Post Partum Experiences."

Some of the findings reported in the report were that:

1. After six months, 43% of mothers still felt stressed,
2. 40% had problems controlling their weight,
3. 34% had trouble sleeping,
4. 26% had no sexual desire,
5. 24% suffered from chronic backaches
6. 44% said that their physical and emotional condition interfered with taking care of their baby.
7. 73% said that they provided most of the child care while their husbands or partners provided little or no support,
8. 20% reported that their husbands or partners provided no affection, emotional or practical support.

Actually, the list goes on and the overall picture is extremely dismal.

Sakala states that employers need to provide more time for maternity leave that is paid and that husbands and families need to do a lot more in the way of care and help in handling the baby.

My comments:

As a father I well remember how difficult it is to raise babies. I believe it was Hillary Clinton who once said that "It takes a village to raise a child." I also remember how many politicians were derisive towards Mrs. Clinton for having made that statement. However, she was correct. Babies, those tiny and helpless creatures are demanding and exhausting.

I suspect that many husbands would protest that they cannot help their wives because they are away at work all day. I remember having a number of patients in marriage therapy who made that protest when their wives complained about the lack of help.

By the way, money was actually not the issue for some of the couples I treated. Rather, for some of the marriages I am referring to, the husbands had a denigrating attitude towards their wives and the job of caring for an infant. More than a few of these men were convinced that they worked harder than their wives and, therefore, saw no reason why they should help when they got home.

I clearly remember doing my share of changing diapers, bottle feeding and rocking the infants to sleep. These things are not a job reserved for the mother alone.

Rather than blaming husbands or partners, I want to appeal to all fathers to rise to the occasion and do all they can to provide infant and young child care. In fact, the job does not stop when infancy ends but continues all through life. Parenting is not a part time job and is not reserved to only one parent.

I apologize if my tone is "lecturing" but I believe the issue is extremely important.

Let me leave the reader with this little bit of information. Some study done quite a few years ago found that fathers who are engaged in changing diapers and providing infant care do not sexually abuse their children during any stage of their lives. That is something to think about. I have treated more than a few individuals and families victimized by child sexual abuse.

I encourage your comments, observations and opinions.

Allan N. Schwartz, LCSW, PhD

Allan Schwartz, LCSW, Ph.D.

Readers who live in the Boulder, Colorado metro area, or in Southwest Florida may contact Dr. Schwartz for face-to-face consultation. He is also available for psychotherapy through Skype video for those who are not in Florida or Colorado. He can be reached via email at dransphd@aol.com for details.

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